Now that you know you'll not be entering a
profession filled with perfect truth seekers -- as if
any such profession exists -- you can put integrity
at the very top of your list of goals. Since you're
not perfect, you will make mistakes. However, as
long as your mistakes are made in good faith, and
you acknowledge and correct those mistakes, facts
and truth will serve you well throughout your career.
Police departments have many rules and regulations
which are violated by police officers with regularity.
While many are ignored by everybody and go
unenforced, you may find yourself accused of a
violation of which you are guilty, but since you're
maintaining a high level of integrity, it's going to be
one of the minor violations. You'll be aggravated
since your violation is one of those regularly violated
by many. Oh, well...that's just the way it goes
sometimes. You'll take the punishment and learn
from the mistake.
Even though you maintain the highest levels of
integrity and professionalism, there will come a
time(s) when you'll be falsely accused of
something. The first false allegation may come
early in your career or late in your career, but it, or
they, will come. Never forget that you'll be
operating among the lowest forms of humanity, and
the liars are the lowest of them all.
The most serious allegations usually involve money,
drugs, sex, and lies, or some combination thereof.
Get use to this right now...there is no such thing as
a presumption of innocence for a police officer.
When you're subjected to a false allegation(s), you
must be prepared to prove your innocence. Your
best defense against the inevitable will be your
reputation for truthfulness. From the beginning,
you must never do, or say, anything that could
reflect negatively on your credibility.
Police officers are just like anyone else when it
comes to being people. People often say things in
jest, or they agree with others just to be polite.
You should remember that just as you're --
technically -- on duty 24 hours a day, your
statements and your perceived views on anything
are under scrutiny 24 hours a day.
Once upon a time, there were two young police
officers who made a bet on which one would be the
first to shoot a bad guy. No one took their banter
seriously, because both young men were decent
human beings. Their youth and inexperience
prevented them from realizing that their recently
chosen profession made a deadly force
circumstance a real possibility.
That stupid bet was only mentioned a couple of
times and forgotten...or so one might believe.
Months later on a cold winter night, one of the
officers responded to a call where he was
confronted by an elderly man holding a double
barrel 12 gauge shotgun. The officer drew his
revolver and ordered the man to drop the gun.
No one would ever know why the old guy failed to
obey a uniformed police officer pointing a gun at
him. As the man began to raise the shotgun to his
shoulder, the officer screamed his order again. The
man failed to respond, and the officer fired his
revolver. There seemed to be no effect, and as the
man continued to point the shotgun at the officer,
the officer fired again, and again; until, his six shot
revolver was empty.
Incredibly, the man still stood, and he was still
pointing the shotgun. Can you even begin to
imagine how that police officer felt at that moment?
One indication might be the final condition of the
officer's heavy winter uniform coat. Every button
on the coat was ripped away in the officer's
desperate effort to reach his ammunition pouch to
reload his revolver.
Before the officer could reload one bullet, the old
man collapsed. All six rounds fired by the officer
had struck the man, and the wounds were fatal.
This incident spread tragedy all around. One man
was dead, and one man was traumatized. It turned
out the shotgun was not loaded, and no reason
was ever determined why the man acted as he did.
As tragic as the circumstances were, the officer was
justified in his use of deadly force; until, someone
mentioned the bet from months earlier.
Yea...cops. That revelation put the department's
investigators and the prosecutor into high gear.
After months of investigation failed to make the
evidence fit a desired outcome, the officer's ordeal
ended...or, did it?
While the officer was reinstated, his career was
effectively ended, and he knew it. He would
eventually resign and move on to parts unknown.
One can only hope that his hard learned lesson in
semantics would serve him well in the future.
While the use of deadly force often goes well
beyond mere justification, it is statistically low on
your list of perils. As long as you're not a thief,
into drugs, or a liar, you won't be that susceptible
regarding those allegations. However, if you're a
man, you'll always be susceptible to allegations of
sexual misconduct. If you ever become the victim
of a false allegation of sexual misconduct, you'll find
that simply being a man creates the presumption of
guilt. There need not be a credible accuser or any
other type of evidence to ignite the perverse
imaginations of investigators and prosecutors.
As a police officer, you'll be very disappointed to
learn that your conduct, or alleged misconduct, will
be investigated and judged on a much lower
threshold than that of most criminals. The first
time you're falsely accused of something, you'll gain
an instant appreciation of the Constitution and its
individual safeguards; although, you'll learn that
police investigators and prosecutors have little
regard for those safeguards when it comes to you.
The third form of jeopardy is mild in comparison to
the first two, because it can't send you to jail. Your
department will have a process for an administrative
proceeding. A police department will go to great
lengths in presenting a process that projects an
image of fairness and impartiality. It fact, it's
merely a rubber stamp in most instances with the
outcome predetermined. However, police officers
are acquitted more times than one might think
given such a rigged structure. Frequently, the
credibility of the accuser(s) is so weak, or the
evidence is so weak, contrived, or non-existent that
one would wonder why the hearing process
proceeded at all.
There's a very simple explanation. Since everyone
knows that cops aren't perfect, politicians,
prosecutors, and police management feel compelled
to maintain an unacknowledged termination quota
to project an image of police policing the police.
The only problem is that there's no one to police
those who are determining who fills the quota, and
quotas are, by their very nature, selective and
corrupt to varying degrees.
Many years ago, a young police officer found himself
assigned to sit on a three member departmental
trial board comprised of himself, a lieutenant, and a
command officer. The first trial was pretty easy.
The case was terribly presented, and he and the
lieutenant had no problem finding the accused
officer not guilty. The officer was a bit perplexed
when the command officer voted guilty since he'd
indicated agreement with the not guilty verdict
during deliberation. The command officer's guilty
vote didn't mean anything since the majority vote
determined the accused officer's fate.
The officer's second experience at judging one of
his own wasn't easy at all. While the accused officer
wasn't a bad person, he was simply guilty, and his
bad judgement simply precluded him from
continuing a police career.
The third trial, like the first, was a farce, and the
accused officer was acquitted. However, the officer
noted that this command officer also voted guilty
on all charges like the other had done, and under
the same circumstances.
Then came an order to attend a seminar for trial
board members. The seminar was conducted by
the department's chief legal advisor. The young
officer would never forget the legal advisor's
opening statement, "The only thing you guys have
to remember is that you're here to find people
guilty." The legal advisor went on to brag that the
department had been sued less than any other
police department in the region and surrounding
states. He attributed the department's success to
its high rate of trial board convictions.
As the legal advisor continued on his theme of
guilty, guilty, the young officer wondered when he'd
get into discussing rules of evidence and other
things associated with a legal proceeding. The
officer then made a blunder by raising his hand and
asking a question. His question went unanswered,
and the officer would never again sit on a trial board.
While the officer would never again sit in judgment
during a long and productive career, he never had
to sit on the other side of a trail board either.
In your quest to protect yourself from being falsely
accused, you don't need to become cynical and
paranoid. Are you laughing yet? Seriously, you
don't. You can have trust in people. Just never
trust anyone with important matters. Only a fool
would trust anyone when it comes to one's
There will come a time(s) when you'll be directed to
do or report something you realize is less than
proper or truthful. Many police officers will follow
bad direction from a supervisor by trusting in the
supervisor to support their actions should they ever
come into question. Some of those same officers
are devastated when the supervisor develops
amnesia or simply denies giving the questionable
It's not that hard! You're the master of your
Have you ever stopped to think how you'd feel if
you were falsely accused of a crime? As a police
officer, you'll be taking on the awesome
responsibility of a fact seeker who must always put
truth ahead of everything else. Unfortunately...
you're going to learn that not all police officers take
this responsibility as seriously as they should.
Police officers can be as lazy and incompetent as
anyone else, and, yes...some even lie.
There's another thing you should realize. The
Constitution guarantees that no person will be
subjected to double jeopardy; no person can be
tried twice for the same crime. It's different for a
police officer, for you'll always be subject to triple
jeopardy. You know the first which applies to
everyone. The second is prosecution for civil rights
violations. I know, the Supreme Court says it's not
double jeopardy, but try to convince a police officer
who's been acquitted in a State Court only to be
tried a second time in a Federal Court. Since
prosecutions for civil rights violations are reserved
almost exclusively for police officers, it's okay.
"Even though you maintain the highest levels
of integrity and professionalism, there will
come a time(s) when you'll be falsely accused
of something." ~ Barry M. Baker
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker