I remember the criminal law instructor from my academy. He said,
"From now on, if any one of you screw-up, the headline for the story will start with the word COP. COP beats wife. COP accused of sexual battery. And the list goes on. The media will announce to the world that a cop has gone bad.
They eat that stuff up.
It makes the rest of us look bad - so DON'T DO IT!"
I will always remember that class, that instructor and the message that was etched into my mind.
Last week, I was stopped cold when I read these words in an email from one of my very best friends. He works for an agency of about 1,000 sworn in a Midwestern state.
I was involved in the arrest of one of our own today for online enticement. It will be all over the news tonight.
I'm so disgusted I could spit.
It used to be a rarity to hear about a cop getting pinched. Maybe DUI and even that was scandalous. Then guys started slapping their wives and getting locked up for DV. Then drugs and embezzlement and forcing prostitutes to perform oral sex on duty/in uniform. Now predatory acts of pedophilia on 14 year old girls.
So they interview the understandably upset neighbors (who have kids) and it's like, "We pay our police to protect us and our kids... and now our police are among those trying to rape our children - and the Police Union wants a pay raise?"
And how can you blame Joe Taxpayer for his sentiments?
If I can find work outside the PD, I think I'm done. This used to be such an honorable profession; one I was immensely proud to be associated with; these days, I'm reluctant to tell people I meet what I do.
Coupled with the rash of media coverage locally, I began to wonder: are things in coppery really changing for the worse? I decided some research was in order. I just used Google - nothing anymore sophisticated than that. I'll confine my findings to just the last three months - and then, only to the really serious stuff. Here's what has happened in our community in just the last 90 days (as I type this):
- Tax evasion and fraud
- Stealing evidence (drugs)
- Burglarize a bank
- Selling cocaine
- Uttering, theft, identity theft and criminal misconduct
Remember: this is just the fairly bad stuff. It doesn't include the multiple counts of DUI, domestic violence, and various forms of assault.
I talked with experienced cops across the country about their perception and possible cause(s) of the problem. I also talked with some experienced warriors in the U.S. Marines. The consensus:
The moral standards of American society have measurably slipped in recent years. Too many kids aren't being raised by attentive parents, but rather by MTV. The values taught by dad in the woodshed have been skipped for the youngest generation - and a large segment of the one before that. A smaller percentage than ever of new cops are coming from the military.
This generation of police officers doesn't come aboard with the same discipline, with an understanding of chain of command, with a commitment to fellow officers, and in some cases, they even lack a clear ability to judge right from wrong. The world has changed, indeed. No organization remains unaffected - even the Marines.
Today's society is largely disconnected. We wander about with iPods or cell phones glued to our heads. Just getting through to someone is now more difficult than ever. Then there is the fear of offending while remaining politically correct, lest we offend the likes of someone we're trying to help.
Two man cars? Many agencies today don't have any. Each man works by himself, in isolation until he meets up with another on a scene somewhere.
SCENARIO: We sense that one of our brothers is having a problem. But because of that distance, we are often afraid to say anything, like your partner would have in days gone by.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
We have a driving need to re-connect with one another. Each of us has a stake in the quality of life of our brothers and sisters in arms. Make no mistake about that. You might ask, "How will I get the nerve and motivation to get off the dime?"