“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The demons

Going to try to write this without airing too much dirty laundry.

Unfortunately, we had another officer get caught up in an alcohol-related incident over the weekend. Hate to say it, but I'm not surprised given his history.

The bad part is, between current & retired officers, we are looking far from good in this area lately - a fact that the local press and various commenters have been enjoying immensely.

I happened to be working the other night when he was brought into the jail, dealing with one of my own DWI arrests. Even then you could see the realization of the hole he'd dug in his eyes. Given my presence & some other knowledge of the situation, and some of my history in the department instructing such subjects - combined with the fact that cops will gossip in a way to make a quilting bee take notes - I've been approached by a number of peers and others for various thoughts and discussions over the past few days.

One of the burdens you take up with putting on the badge is the fact that forever after you will be held to a different standard than the rest of the community. None of the drunks I've arrested this year had their pictures, names and occupations plastered in the paper or on the television, just because of their arrest. None of the fatal accidents I worked or helped with did the profession of mom or dad matter in what was reported, examined, testified to, or any other part of the case. But, if you are a cop, or a retired/former cop, that will be brought up in the news, in the testimony, in the civil lawsuit and everything else. We are "supposed to know better." We are the people who see this shit every day, who work in the mud and filth, and who somehow must magically emerge clean each and every time, never falling prey to the temptations, weaknesses, or failures of the rest of the world. Every single day in my jurisdiction and others people are arrested for things which will boggle the mind, or have histories you couldn't imagine - but it all fades to the back page when someone on the job makes a mistake.

Is it fair? Of course not.

Is it going to change? Absolutely not.

And if you can't handle it, find another job. This is part of the cost - the knowledge that the public, the courts, and your peers will hold you to a different standard than a citizen for the rest of your life.

Yes, in some ways it works to our benefit - I won't be a hypocrite and lie about that. Most cops won't write another cop for speeding or simple traffic stuff - "professional courtesy" is alive and well. They'll talk all kinds of crap about someone they don't like inside the station, but if outsiders are around that thin blue line becomes a solid wall. People I don't even like, and wouldn't say hi to in the hallway I will drive Code 3 across the county to help in a fight because they wear a badge.

But the cost is high.

Late on your bills at your job? That's your business. Here - it's something IA can start digging into, because now you're a "risk of bribery or corruption."

Have a family member who got popped for drugs, or stealing stuff or whatever? Who cares - we all have "those" relatives. Except for a cop - who has to be careful who he associates with in case it sends the wrong message.

Went out partying last night at the new bar in town? Glad you had fun. I can't go, because Internal Affairs and Organized Crime is watching the place due to rumored drug involvement amongst 1% of the clients.

Screw up and get arrested for something? In most cases you burn a few days of vacation, maybe even a few without pay, and life goes on - you have a story and something to bitch about, but you're still working, taking care of your family and all that. If you're a cop, the simple fact of the arrest alone means you are probably out of a job before the court case even is resolved.

Don't get me wrong - I am not excusing the officer for his behavior. He made his mistakes, and has zero excuses. This is more just a brain dump on the issues we face.

Twenty-some years ago, as I entered my first "special" unit I remember one of the senior members talking to all of us new guys. Part of the discussion lay in the fact that three things will kill your career - alcohol, women (at that time - for now we can say sexual relations and cover the gamut,) or money. Over the years I can say that has proven 100% true - and that far and above the winner is alcohol. It leads to more mistakes, lapses in judgment and just plain dumb decisions than anything else I have seen. I have watched people go from being a "golden boy" to a pariah based on one night's events; even worse I've had to go to funerals for those who didn't survive their choices.

I'm far from a hypocrite - heaven knows I enjoyed my beer back when I partook regularly. But I was very fortunate in not putting myself in those situations ever which had those long term consequences. And fortunately I learned some important lessons before making and serious mistakes. Unfortunately, far too many can't say the same. The demons which plague us all to one form or another managed to sink their teeth at the right times and forever after the effects will resonate in countless lives.

I guess I have a couple of points with this. For the world in general - keep in mind that we are human too behind these badges. We stumble, we slip, we fail at times. That doesn't change the inherent goodness of what we do, and try not to tarnish the whole with the mistakes of the few. For those who wear the badge - think about the demons in your own lives, and the consequences of your actions. Don't be the next news story just because you think you're above it all.

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