Realizing that we wouldn't play his game brought out this guy's more compliant side. When it was all said and done, my partner turned to me and said, "Let's get our story straight. You saw him take a swing at me, didn't you? That's why I had to put my hands on him." My reply was a simple, "Sure did."
Every cop has a multitude of experiences just like these. They come in waves. Sometimes, determining the right course of action is absolutely, positively, crystal clear. Other times, not so much. The ethical dilemma can be as murky as the water in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill.
Cops don't have the luxury of time like most jobs. We cannot take time to ponder the potential outcomes of various approaches. We must make decisions in a split second, in situations that are rapidly evolving and with the urgency of being embattled while trying to save our own life or the life of another.
Where Is The Line?
Each of us makes these decisions frequently. They nearly become intuitive and are often driven by instinct. Sometimes, lying is OK. No one gets hurt. No one goes to jail. None of the Ten Commandments were violated.
Imagine this situation: You accompany your wife on a clothes shopping trip. She emerges from the fitting room at her favorite store wearing a new dress. You can discern from her facial expression and mood that she has already decided that she wants to buy it. As she twirls in front of the mirror, she asks you, "Does this outfit make me look fat?"
You offer an absolutely truthful answer. "No, your butt makes you look fat. The dress has nothing to do with it."
Telling the God's honest truth is not always the best choice.
I remember one morning when my wife grilled me about my activities on the previous evening. I insisted that I had been in class at school. She was suspicious, but I maintained my position and told her that she could call my partner to corroborate my story. It was then that she laid it on me, "Why would I call him? You guys lie for one another all the time." I'd been had. (It didn't help when she found the receipt from Hooters in my pocket, either.)
Oh well. No harm, no foul.
End of Part One
It the next segment, I will discuss institutionally-driven lying. "Any means to the end," frequently seems to be the message from those above us on the food chain.
As I researched this topic, I discussed it with a clinical psychologist. I learned, with some surprise, that some folks do not have a moral compass. It never occurs to them to measure their actions against an ethical yardstick. They just go through life in a state of constant oblivion about core values. Instead, they operate based on what they have been taught to do with no understanding of why a certain behavior is appropriate.
That information was a profound surprise to me.
The reality is that the line moves based on the situation and all of the surrounding circumstances. An action that is right today could well be wrong tomorrow. If you are not paying close attention, over time, you can find yourself up to your neck in fecal matter - losing your career, your integrity, your honor and your respectability.
For some, the small first lie can put a cop on a slippery slope to ruination. It is important that I constantly evaluate where my actions place me on that ethical yardstick. I have come to trust my gut instincts. I work hard to discern God's will when I feel uncertain. I endeavor to stay plugged into the values that I was taught as a child.
I am far from perfect and I often fall short. I judge that other people are often much better than I am. Yet, I keep trying and striving to meet the goals that I have set for myself as well as rising to the expectations of those who depend on and respect me. To quote my Dad, "Just do your best. No one can ask more."
The goal remains to save just ONE life - literally or figuratively. Yours may be the ONE.