“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

Friday, September 10, 2010

Note for the cops

So, sitting in court yesterday waiting to do some traffic stuff I was chatting with my attorney for a bit (who was there on separate stuff). It seems that a number of our newer officers are developing quite a bad reputation for questionable stops, being rather lose with the facts in their testimony, and in general just calling into question their integrity and behavior as officers. During said conversation we witnessed one such, and I can certainly say from his testimony that if I had been a defense attorney I would have had questions.

Folks - your integrity is the only thing you really keep on this job & it will follow you always. You can do a lot of things and make plenty of mistakes, but should you lie about it (or just do enough to call it into question) then you are done. Just like cops talk, so do lawyers and judges, as well as the public. What you do, how you do it, and how you speak of it when called to do so are constantly under scrutiny.

I have worked hard over the years to develop my reputation with the courts and my community as an officer who can be relied on to share the facts of an event - for good or bad. To be honest, even when I make a mistake. Sure, it has cost me some cases here or there - things where there was enough for an arrest, but other elements kept a reasonable doubt for a conviction, or where being honest about the statements of all involved led to dismissals. But I've also had numerous cases where a "he said/she said" was decided in my favor because the judges knew my reputation. Defense attorneys who will ask me about DUI cases before the fact, knowing I will tell them the good and bad both, and often saving us all the effort and shame of a trial by pleading a case. Use of force complaints where I was able to not worry, because I knew my report was accurate and trusted Internal Affairs.

There is no case we do worth throwing that all away. I don't care if it's a red light ticket, a drunk, a ton of coke, or a homicide - nothing is worth lying or hiding the facts. We make mistakes, we forget things, there are plenty of other human errors which occur. Everyone knows this - sure, sometimes it is on something serious, but if you are honest when it occurs you will get a lot more mileage than trying to play lose with the facts. Because in doing so, you may win the one moment, but when it comes out (and it will sooner or later, never fear) your reputation will forever after be tarnished with every citizen, officer and judicial official you meet. Is the moment worth any of that?

Don't be the officer who paints us all with that brush of shame.


Momma Fargo said...

Great post and great words. Sad you even have to say them. We have the same problem.

Captain Tightpants said...

Thanks Momma Fargo - that means a lot coming from you. I appreciate it.

suz said...

Words to live by. "Reputation" is one of many consequences kids aren't taught these days, but lots of youngsters are smart enough to figure it out later, hopefully not too late. If you have the authority to beat them over the head with this concept, PLEASE DO IT! You've got your work cut out for you.