Things to Remember

Over the course of 30+ years in law enforcement, I have come to realize these things to always remember about your public service as a law enforcement officer.  In the spirit of encouragement, here they are:

Hold fast to your values.  Learn and know your non-negotiable values and follow them.

This is a vocation, not a job.  You are working for something bigger than yourselves, align with that.  You will spend yourself to serve the larger good.

Here, there, everywhere…you are a cop.  Guard your career jealously.  Integrity means that the way you act at work is not different from the way you act away from work.

Your attitude is your future.  You are here because of who you are.  Every time you leave a room, you leave something behind.

Average is never good enough.  It is not enough to maintain our mission. Advance it!  It’s okay to think differently.

Safeguard unity.  Communicate in person whenever possible.  Food brings unity, gather around the table for it, bless it and share it often.

Never stop being a student.  Read and study.  Understand what you do and who you do it for.  Improve intellectually every day.

Keep perspective.  Public perception will try to have you believe 90 percent of the people hate you.  Don’t be a victim of it.  Truth is, 90 percent of the community supports your noble work.

This work is fun.  You will get to do, see, and hear things the average person cannot fathom.  Respect the privilege of your ringside seat to the greatest show on earth, the human condition.

Love always wins.  Above all, continue to love one another.  Loving your friends is easy; I pray the Lord gives you the disciplined heart to love the unlovable.

The Way to Unethical Behavior is Paved with Rationalizations

In making tough decisions, don’t be distracted by rationalizations. Here are some of the most common:

If It’s Necessary It’s Ethical
This rationalization is based on the false assumption that necessity breeds propriety. This type of reasoning often leads to ends-justify-the-means reasoning and treating tasks or goals as moral imperatives.

The False Necessity Trap
As Nietsche put it, “necessity is an interpretation, not a fact.” We tend to fall into the “false necessity trap” because we overestimate the cost of doing the right thing and underestimate the cost of failing to do so.

If It’s Legal and Permissible, It’s Proper
This substitutes legal requirements (which establish minimal standards of behavior) for personal moral judgment. This alternative does not embrace the full range of ethical obligations, especially for those involved in upholding the public trust. Ethical people often choose to do less than what is maximally allowable and more than what is minimally acceptable.

I Was Just Doing It for You
This is the primary justification for committing “little white lies” or withholding important information in personal or professional relationships, such as performance reviews. This rationalization pits the values of honesty and respect against the value of caring. An individual deserves the truth because he has a moral right to make decisions about his or her own life based on accurate information. This rationalization overestimates other people’s desire to be “protected” form the truth, when in fact most people would rather have unpleasant information than be deluded into believing falsehoods. Consider the perspective of people lied to: if they discovered the lie, would they thank you for being considerate or feel betrayed, patronized, or manipulated?

I’m Just Fighting Fire With Fire
This is based on the false assumption that deceit, lying, promise-breaking, etc. are justified if they are the same sort of behavior engaged in by those with whom you are dealing.

It Doesn’t Hurt Anyone
Used to excuse misconduct, this rationalization is based on the false assumption that one can violate ethical principles so long as there is no clear and immediate harm to others. It treats ethical obligations simply as factors to be considered in decision making rather than as ground rules. Problem areas: Asking for or giving special favors to family, friends, or public officials, disclosing non-public information to benefit others, using one’s position for personal advantages.

Everyone’s Doing It
This is a false, “safety in numbers” rationale fed by the tendency to uncritically adopt cultural, organizational, or occupational behavior systems as if they were ethical norms just because they are norms.

It’s Okay If I Don’t Gain Personally
This justifies improper conduct done for others or for institutional purposes on the false assumption that personal gain is the only test of impropriety. A related, but more narrow excuse, is that only behavior resulting in improper financial gain warrants ethical criticism.

I’ve Got It Coming
People who feel they are overworked or underpaid rationalize that minor “perks” or acceptance of favors, discounts, or gratuities are nothing more than fair compensation for services rendered. This is also used to excuse abuse of sick time, insurance claims, overtime, personal phone calls, photocopying, etc.

I Can Still Be Objective
This is a particularly dangerous rationalization, for if one truly loses objectivity, one has also lost the ability to perceive this handicap. It is fairly easy to underestimate the subtle ways in which gratitude, friendship, anticipation of future favors and the like affect judgment. Ask yourself. Does the person providing you with the benefit believe that it will in no way affect your judgment? Would the benefit still be provided if you were in no position to help the provider in any way?

From: Making Ethical Decisions, 1995 Ed.

Does Low Pay Breed Corruption?

I recently responded to a statement from a Kenyan that came about in the Policeone forum.  The original post stated this, “global salary scale for police. in my view it would help curb corruption if police were paid well or got some of the incentives soldiers enjoy.. in Kenya for example they are not taxed.”

I posted my thoughts:

I am skeptical that a global wage scale would have an effect on curbing corruption. I base my skepticism on a couple factors. Primarily, Corruption is not a matter of economics, it is a matter of the heart. In the United States for example, we have a diverse police pay economy. Officers in certain areas make much more than officers in other areas, but corruption happens at a similar rate generally speaking. It isn’t about how much money you have, it’s about how much money you want. As long as public servants, including police have a poverty mindset, i.e. a mindset that tells you, “What I have is never enough,” we will have corruption. It does not matter how much money one makes, they are either satisfied or they are not.

Corruption (and anti-corruption) is global. You can find corruption throughout the globe in both wealthy and poor countries. You can also find poor countries and poor public service workers globally who are not corrupt. These people seem to rise above the corruption and either not engage or decide that enough is enough and break the cycle of corruption. This is my experience in Eastern Africa. I have met some wonderful police there who have made a very unpopular decision there to live within their means and stop taking bribes.

If we do want to claim an economic bent to corruption, the economic principles are basic, you get paid what you are worth, or, you get paid to the best of your employer’s ability. I am keenly aware that there are underpaid police in all corners of he world. This is not always because of the skill of the workers. In some cases there simply is not enough money to pay public servants. We do this job for so many reasons and compensation is just one of them. Who in the U.S. has not taken a 0% or fractional raise in the last few years? In these conditions, you better know why you got into this work, or you will find yourself wanting more. Globally, you better know why you got into this work, because it involves so much more than pay.

Finally, to curb corruption, focus n what you do have, not what you do not have. My friend in Kenya said it best:

“Gitahi Kanyeki TO THE POLICE OFFICERS——SURELY EVEN IF OUR SALARIES ARE LITTLE, what would those people who are living in 30/= per-day say we have shelters,we have water,some of us dont walk to our places of work,some we have free electricity,50/% fifty percent of our life in a day we are in uniform and government shoes and socks,… sweaters and jacket.-we save on clothing.DOES IT MEAN that we should make sure we have to milk members of the public their little 100/=to justify that we get little salary.please my fellow police officers let us stop this madness you are just cursing yourselves you will be given money meant to buy coffin just imagine what it means to you”