With all this talk about the TPD and a grand jury investigation, I have been looking at what can possibly change the thoughts about my job. I know that most people are concerned that this situation is broader than most think. Some are concerned about this thin blue line and the fact that no one is reporting this horrible activity.
It is difficult to provide information about this thin blue line. People have seen movies and other TV shows and they have made up their minds that this is the culture of ever police agency in the US. I have been there for 25 years and I have seen the opposite of this movie and TV mentality of the thin blue line. I have seen on several occasions where officers have been reported for actions, investigated and disciplined for their activity. I have also seen some intervention where officers have stepped in, talked to the officer involved, discussed their actions and determined a solution (in the form of positive discipline). I have seen these two activities time and time again over my 25 year career. I guess what really frustrates me is that most citizens don’t see this and they definitely don’t hear about it.
I can actually say that I work with three who have done just what I have spoken about. These are not courageous people, they are just ordinary people doing an extraordinary job at policing not only themselves, but others. One is actually a marine. So when I read several articles about the “ethical warrior”, I immediately thought about these incidents where these three officers have stepped up and talked. Obviously they are not the only ones, but I work with these people on a daily basis. I am around them constantly and see their work on a daily basis.
This thin blue line exists in people’s perception of police officers. What most don’t consider is the fact that there are over 800 individuals working at this agency that is spread out over 183.5 square miles. This agency is divided up by divisions, shifts and squads. We don’t see every one a daily basis like an 8-5 job. We are spread out all over town. We work 24 hours a day. there are several divisions (RID, GID, MVD, SOD, SID, TD, HQ, IT, DET and Animal control). In SOD, they are divided up between K-9, Air Support, bomb dogs, motorcycles, and SOT. So their offices are not even together which makes them isolated. So you might see the difficulty in this policing oneself.
The United States Marine Corps has a program called the ‘Ethical Warrior’. This concept can be present in some of the police officers. But we should make is a current policy driven program. It should start with the bottom and move its way to the top. The program has a moral compass that can be applied in three stages.
First is to calibrate the moral compass. In order to calibrate this compass, one must understand their roles in the community. Our first role is to be the protector of the citizens of this community. This includes all even police officers (which might confuse some people about this thin blue line stuff even more). This protector of life also include the criminal element. We must look at this as we are humans, therefore we respect one another. Even though some are committing illegal acts, each human life does have value and that value should be respected.
Another component about valuing and respecting humans, it provides for conflict resolution. If you show and give, you are more likely to get that ‘buy in’ when it comes to problem solving. If we continually de-humanize people, that can and possibly will lead to problems which could result in escalated complaints, problems and issues that are often called Post Traumatic Stress syndrome.
Second, by applying your own ethical values you will build a foundation that will lead you to be seen as a ‘ethical warrior’. By stopping illegal activity, you are performing in your ethical standard. Not allowing innocent people to be harmed or victimized sets a standard that values life, liberty and justice. Many officers will say, “I am merely doing my job….” but in reality, they are ethical warriors performing amazing and spectacular tasks to save humanity.
Everyone of us can take this to the next step. We can improve on our ethical behavior and become more enhance our effectiveness, not only with ourselves, but we can project this behavior onto others. We can all show consistent respect and give every human the value that they deserve. When we are nice, we give everyone a different perspective of the law enforcement officer. But we still must maintain our guard, but we can effectively balance the two.
Now the third step is going to be the hardest one to accomplish. It is hard because unlike the two previous steps, we have control of them, because they are our actions. But step three involves others. Other officers, command staff members, civilian employees and even the chief. Leading by example is the most difficult. But if you work under the preconceived notion that all are ethical, you may strive to improve your agencies ethical behavior.
Leadership by example is probably the most important concept. But leading by action is not the only way to accomplish this goal. You must develop a vocabulary, conversations, and actions that will allow others to see your ‘ethical warrior’. Not allowing yourself to sit on the sidelines, you must develop an attitude that presents officers safety, a moral compass and integrity that is above and beyond the moral for most law enforcement officers. You must stand out, so you will be noticed. Once you are noticed then you have the opportunity to inspire others to perform with such standards.
Now this may seem a little naive or altruistic, but it is very possible to perform as an ethical warrior. I believe that this is quite possible, because the Marines have been doing for many years. I believe that it’s about time it becomes our standard.
I would like to add a book to your reading list. I think that everyone should read this book. “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner.