This past week one of the most televised news stories, most discussed news reports, and most blogged about "news" events, was the traffic stop of an NFL player for running a red light. Like everyone else who has commented, for good or bad, on the incident, I have my opinion too. Unlike some of those who have commented, I've actually spent a career in law enforcement. Unlike some others, I refuse to pass judgment based on edited video clips and reporter OPINION - because I wasn't there; didn't see, hear and experience everything that officer did; and I don't have HIS life experiences to develop my decisions based on. In an effort to be objective there is one BIG point I believe needs to be made and then a collection of questions that should be asked. In some cases I will offer my opinion on what the answer is or should be. The Critical Point: If there hadn't been a player from the NFL driving that car, this never would have been national news. If that driver had been Joe Average Citizen, the mainstream media would never have picked it up and made such a big deal out of it. That irks me. The piling on of uninformed criticism that this officer has endured would not have occurred if this ONE person hadn't been an NFL player. I think it is unacceptable beyond expression that people all across this great country of ours have criticized a man who puts his life on the line for the community he serves every day in support of a man who gets paid far too much to play a GAME. That said, what are the questions that are pertinent and require answers? First and foremost in my mind: Did the officer do anything that violated any of his General Orders? If so, then proper remedial action needs to be taken. If not, then it needs to be announced: everything he did was in compliance with the agency's General Orders. The next question would also be about departmental controls. Did the officer violate any standing Standard Operating Procedures? If so, then proper remedial action needs to be taken. If not, then it needs to be announced. The last semi-objective question is: did the officer act unprofessionally? Yes, this is semi-objective. If you put twenty cops in a room and showed them the WHOLE video taped incident and asked them if the officer acted professionally or not, you'd likely get four or five different variations of "Yes" and "No". IF the officer acted unprofessionally then his actions fall back into the realm of his agency's guidance, disciplinary policies, etc. Beyond the objective "measurable" performance of the officer is the human factor performance. Was the officer too lenient? Did he show too much compassion? Did he not show enough? Was he unreasonable once he learned the circumstances at the hospital? I know officers who believe that showing any compassion at all compromises professionalism and shows weakness. I know other officers who believe that the very nature of police work is compassionate since we sacrifice so much so often to help total strangers. Truth be told, whatever compassion we carry around with us - as a part of who we are - is going to be displayed to some extent when we work. We can no more turn it off than we can the love for our families or our need for food. But that level of compassion is different for virtually every cop - so no two cops are going to agree on what the right amount of "understanding" is to show. Law limits it. In some states officers have discretion over whether or not they arrest for most misdemeanor crimes. Some crimes have mandatory arrest conditions (domestic violence is like this every where I know of). The amount of discretion an officer exercises is directly based on two things: the circumstances as he perceives them and his level of compassion in that given situation. To the incident at hand: I think it could have been handled differently based on what I've seen in the heavily edited and editorialized video clips. By the same token, I don't feel that the driver's violations of traffic law were justified by the family emergency. Is that cold to say? Maybe. Think about it though: if having a family member in the hospital - dying or otherwise - is an excuse to break the law, then why have the laws in the first place? I believe I would have approached this much as the officer did - and I can understand why the officer's adrenaline would have been pumping after this chase that finally ended in a parking lot with the driver and passengers jumping out of the car. Yeah... dangerous moment. It would not have been pleasant. BUT, once I had ascertained that there actually WAS a dying family member in the hospital, I would have asked the driver to give me his driver's license and then go tend ot his family business. That way I'd have had time to calm down; think about the whole situation start to finish; perhaps consult with a more senior or experience officer on his opinion about it. I'm sure there was a way compassion and enforcement could have mixed to perform my duties without having generated such a blast of criticism nationwide. But again... I still say this never would have been news if it had been Joe Citizen. Don't delude yourself: that cop is "under the gun" because the driver was an NFL player. Anybody else and the incident never would have been heard about outside Dallas. What do you think?