Many things have changed in our world. Common sense now seems impossible to find. Many folks are doing things that just seem plain crazy. Values are twisted. The line between right and wrong has become horribly blurred for some. For others, there is no longer good and bad, but now they are ever-changing and determined relative to the situation.
I say, Horse feathers!
Right will always be right and wrong will always be wrong.
Law Enforcement Confusion of the Day
I am a member of a couple of law enforcement only discussion groups on the internet. Occasionally, someone will post on the topic of professional courtesy, going on to describe an incident where they were issued a ticket, etc. What a hot-button subject! It kicks up more dust than a sandstorm in Baghdad.
Yes, I was taught very early in my academy experience, NEVER BURN A COP, OR A COP'S FAMILY. Generally speaking, that is true. Our minds conjure up thoughts of the Thin Blue Line and the loyalty due every member of The Brotherhood. We often hear phrases about taking care of each other - because no one else will. That is very true, indeed.
Yet, there are situations where we cannot and should not attempt to take care of for a fellow officer. Those go beyond giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
- I have a close friend who is a sheriff's deputy. Some years ago, after allowing himself to become too entangled with the bottle, he was the at-fault driver in a crash where occupants of the other vehicle were injured. He paid the price for that error for a very long time.
- Then, there is the incident where the aspiring cop was involved in an accidental discharge of a weapon. Another person is dead as a result. The aspiring cop agreed to a ten-year prison term rather than risking a guilty verdict at trial with an even longer sentence. His dreams of wearing the uniform have been vaporized.
- I suspect that most of us have worked with someone who overuses alcohol and has been given a get-out-of-jail-free card more than once.
The kind of behavior that is unreasonable and repetitively over-the-line needs to be corrected, and each of us has a stake in it. Correction is probably the best hope of salvaging the life of a wayward cop; it is also important for the good of the order. We want the respect of those we police. We must therefore consistently act respectably.
So, What is this Loyalty Stuff?
We can choose to be loyal to a person, a cause, or a group of people. I am loyal to my wife. I am loyal to the Constitution. I am also loyal to my fellow law enforcement officers who, as shown by their behavior, are loyal to The Brotherhood.
Loyalty is a promise. Loyalty is a pledge of support. Loyalty is an articulation of one's sense of duty.
Cops are loyal to the notion of fighting for right. We are loyal to honesty and to upholding the law. We play by the rules.
In the Police Officer's Oath, we express our loyalty to our fellow man. We pledge that we are ready to put ourselves in harm's way in order to protect the weak. On a lesser scale, this pledge implies that we are willing to inconvenience ourselves to help our fellow man as well.
So how does loyalty play out when dealing with a fellow officer?
Our pledge of loyalty to The Brotherhood embodies a commitment to protect one another with all of our vigor, to the bitter end. It implies that we will trust one another, absent an overriding reason to do otherwise. It compels us to try to understand and help a fellow officer deal with tough situations. It most certainly includes our commitment to never leave a fallen officer behind.
Being loyal is an attitude. Loyalty is a mindset. Being loyal is a philosophical way of life.
When faced with day-to-day situations, like a traffic stop, it may mean a warning rather than a ticket. Such actions must be weighed in comparison to how each of us would handle a similar situation with a civilian. If a warning could be issued to a civilian, a warning will likely be the result if a cop is involved. Our actions must pass the reasonable man test.
This Is What Loyalty Is Not:
Loyalty is does not include turning a blind eye to really bad behavior.
Loyalty does not include condoning (whether expressly or tacitly) a fellow officer's actions when he dishonors his country, his family or the badge.
Loyalty does not include lying. OK, there can be a fine line between putting a positive spin on the facts and stretching that into a lie. I suspect you were taught the difference between right and wrong as a kid. Rely on your instincts. Too often, some grunt cop is caught up in a lie during an IA investigation. It costs him his career. The action in question would have only resulted in discipline; lying brought an untimely end to the career.
Giving a fellow cop a pass when he should have gotten a rap in the back of the head is being disloyal (in this humble writer's opinion). When we commit to care for each other, that commitment includes compassionate correction - or counsel, when the situation calls for it.
Let's get this out of the way right now. Many of us (I'm one) often think and acts as though LOVE is synonymous with sex or romance. Negative. Consider how you feel about your mother, your sister or your daughter. There. Now you've got it. With this issue is out of the way, I will move on.
I learned this many years ago from a very wise man: "LOVE IS A DECISION."
Love is an action. Love is a verb. Love causes me to put the needs of another person ahead of my own.
These next words come from a cop with great insight and wisdom: We (referring to cops) often scrap and fight. Often, we don't even like one another. Yet, we love each other so deeply that any one of us would give his life for a brother cop without a moment's hesitation. Amen.
Love can only be directed at a person. Love shows itself in an ongoing display of compassion and concern for one another. Love is the action that is based upon the philosophical commitment to be loyal.
Recently, I called a buddy with whom I went through the academy. In response to my first inquiry about how he was doing, he replied: "just so-so." I knew something was wrong right out-of-the-chute. I turned out that one of the senior guys he works with had just committed suicide. The guy's wife told him she wanted a divorce. He went off the deep-end and was gone within a few hours.
Though busy with my own stuff, I gave my pal what he needed: a quiet ear (or two). Oh, how I wanted to talk. I wanted to interrupt and try to fix it. But, with great effort, I held my tongue. He needed someone to LISTEN. I provided it.
I recently completed training about 60 cops in a rural Michigan county on the subject of improving officer safety in conjunction with using technology. I told some very personal stories that were self-revealing during the class. I shared a letter from a 13 year old girl to her fallen Dad - it was left at The Wall during Police Week.
At the end of the class, a few of these tough cops were in tears. Two hugged me as they left the room.
Giving your partner a pat on the back for a job well done will not diminish the shine on your own star. If anything, your gloss will be greater than before. There will be two winners out of the experience.
Make the decision to love. Let your partner pick the lunch spot. When you know he is facing a big project at home on your days off, offer to help. When you finish a shift, pick out something that he did particularly well and compliment him on it.
The message is simple: It is the little stuff that counts. The big events will probably take care of themselves. Show your love through your actions every day. It costs nothing, yet means the world to those who receive it.
Can you remember when one of the guys on your crew was in a financial squeeze? Maybe it was nothing terribly serious, but having enough money for lunch might have been difficult. Suppose, just suppose that somehow that officer discovered a forgotten $20 bill in his jacket pocket or inside his clipboard? He does not ever need to know where it came from.
Knowing how to love also means knowing when to back off. Nobody wants to be lectured or be brow-beaten. Say your peace. Offer to help. Advise that you will always be there if/when he is ready. Sometimes, that is the best you can do.
I remember many times that I was loved by my brothers. About 6 years ago, my wife had surgery to remove cancer. In advance, the doctors said it was caught early, would likely be easy to remove completely. At the end of the surgery, the doctor stunned me: he said it was terminal. In the years that followed, my wife beat the odds. At the time, I felt overwhelmed.
My daughter was in college in Illinois. The one-way drive was about 8 hours. I called my best friend and explained that we needed my daughter at home and asked for ideas. He said: "Consider it done." He and one of my other good friends were on the road in less than an hour, delivering my daughter to our home the next morning.
THAT my brothers, is love.
Love is listening attentively when you would rather be talking.
Love is sharing what you know, i.e. teaching, a fellow cop without bragging that you are better and making him feel inferior. I have been given help of immeasurable value on the range and in DT training. In return, I give help in areas of fitness and the use of technology.
Love is sharing a burden. Love means being there when one of your brothers needs you. Love is providing a shoulder, two ears and support when you may be all that they have.
Love is the action that comes from loyalty. Love is the decision that puts the needs and feelings of someone else ahead of your own.
If you want to be loved, you must first love others.
As I was writing this piece today, the tragic news came by email: Four cops were gunned down in Parkland, WA. They were in a coffee shop. They were using their computers, reportedly to catch up on paperwork.
Love is the gut-wrenching ache that pours over your entire being when you learn of the horrific loss of one of our own. Four of them being slaughtered simultaneously is beyond comprehension. Love is the yearning, burning desire to do something to make the situation better. We cops FIX things. That is our job. But, we cannot fix this.
Loyalty is a promise. It is a commitment. It is a state of mind. It represents what we aspire to be in times that are both good and bad.
Love is how we act on our loyalty. Love is a decision. Love requires action to be complete.
We are now in the holiday season for 2009. It is a time when much of the world is engaged with a spirit of good will.
This might be a good time to reflect on where you are, on loyalty and love. Is it your intention to be loyal? Are your actions of love supporting your intent?
If not, this may be a good time to reassess. There is much good about you. While we live in a world of snakes (both on the street and in the station); they cannot and will not overcome Loyalty and Love if you are resolute enough.
Peace be with you through the holidays. Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.