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A history of whistleblowers that made a difference

With all of the media exposure that comes with whistleblower activities of today, it can be easy to forget that speaking out can make a real difference. Many people choose to look at whistleblowers in a more negative light instead of for the good works they have done. We have seen that this viewpoint affects the willingness of those who witness wrongdoing to blow the whistle.

We would like to remind our neighbors in Detroit that many whistleblowers of the past made a huge impact on the policies and laws of today. We hope that this reminder will encourage those who have witnessed unlawful and unethical acts to take a stand.

Frank Serpico: The New York City police force of the 1960s and 70s was riddled with corruption. Serpico, a detective, spoke out many times about this corruption. Although his battle was long and difficult, it finally yielded positive results when Mayor John V. Lindsay initiated a massive investigation into police corruption.

Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven: During the Revolutionary War, these two naval officers witnessed the torture and abuse of British POWs by at least one high-ranking officer. After reporting these behaviors, the two men were expelled from the navy and even became the subject of a libel suit. However, Congress took the side of the whistleblowers and thus the first whistleblower protection law went into effect on July 30, 1778.

A. Ernest Fitzgerald: We have all heard tales about the government paying exorbitant prices for ordinary items like toilet seats and hammers. Unfortunately, these stories are grounded in reality. Fitzgerald exposed cost overruns incurred on the Lockheed C-5 aircraft program when he testified before the Joint Economic Committee. He was fired by the Nixon administration, but his tireless work resulted in the Civil Reform Act of 1978, which paved the way for the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.

No act of wrongdoing is too small or too large to stand against. While speaking out can be a frightening prospect, whistleblowers are guaranteed protection under the law. However, you must seek out this protection as early as possible and an attorney is your first line of defense. Read our website if you want to learn more.

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