I clicked on one of the on-line law enforcement newsletters I get each day and spotted a headline, “Bodycam Captures Deputy Stealing Cash.” Because the thought of a cop stealing anything while being recorded seemed absurd, I clicked again hoping that the headline was just a false ‘come-on.’
I quickly realized that there was no hype in the headline, unfortunately.
My eyes widened when I saw the dateline: Volusia County Florida. Wait a minute … that’s where I live. I continued reading and learning about Deputy JB of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Running quickly through my mind, I think: I’ve held training classes there; I’ve been on ride-alongs there; I have many friends there. My brothers work there. Then it dawned on me: I’ve been on calls with this guy. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart as the reality of the story sank in.
A short while later, I talked with two very close friends – brothers in arms – who are part of my sounding board. I told them I have the need to write about this and what I am feeling right now. My brother cops knew exactly what and how I was feeling immediately when I told them of the story. Many miles separate us. But, we share the bond of the Thin Blue Line.
What one of us feels, we all feel. Though I’d like to explain how that can be, I am unable. But it’s as real as anything in life ever gets.
The feelings and other thoughts might be comparable to this: Imagine that you have an older brother, who is great at everything. He was the quarterback of the football team, an honor student, the guy all the girls were after, and who had a sparkling personality. Imagine him found out to be a cheat, a liar or a thief. Think how that would make you feel.
That’s a mild version of where we are, as cops when one of our own goes wrong. To my cop readers: you already know where I’m coming from. For others: I hope to share some insight to demonstrate that cops are real people who can be hurt, too.
As I talked with my pals we agreed: we have extremely high expectations regarding honesty and ethics. A person undergoes an intense examination of their past behavior in the hiring process. The majority don’t make it. For the first year, a new cop is on probation and can be terminated for any reason (or no reason) at all.
Once a cop passes the probationary period, there will have been numerous chances to demonstrate his judgement and abilities. It’s the next level of examination: from his peers and co-workers. It comes down to others in the department knowing they can depend on the new guy to have their backs when things go sideways.
Over time, cops learn to cling to one another. I would take a bullet for another cop. They would do the same for me. When cops meet for the first time, there is an immediate bond with nary a word being uttered. Typically, we are comfortable hanging out with each other. We’ve had shared experiences, similar backgrounds coupled with a lifestyle that is quite unlike civilians.
In our conversation last night, we went through a litany of words that describe how we feel when one of our own goes bad. I want to share some of those words with you, now.
We feel VIOLATED much like a person returning home to discover that his house has been ransacked and personal items missing because they were stolen by crooks. Then, there is a sense of BETRAYAL: someone I trusted with my life has gone over to the “bad side.” It would be similar to learning that your spouse has had an affair with your best friend.
Of course, we are DISAPPOINTED in our brother for his grievous error in judgement. We cannot help but be ANGRY. This was not a one-time event or something that happened in a moment of passion. Rather, these actions were calculated and happened numerous times, when the opportunities presented themselves.
I also feel HURT because someone whom I trust has diminished the shine on my badge – today it has been tarnished through no action of mine. I am also EMBARRASSED. As a result of my brother’s actions, today, I cannot hold my head high and take sincere pride in my chosen profession. How can I respond if I must arrest a civilian for a similar transgression? I feel ASHAMED.
This day, I am GRIEVING over the loss of a brother. A cops, on this day we need to be making strides with our communities to regain their trust. I am FRUSTRATED because my progress is being thwarted – through no fault of my own.
Along with my brothers, I have been ROBBED and I am a VICTIM as the result of an act over which I had absolutely no control. For that, there will be those in the community who will TARGET and RIDICULE me and my brothers with the claim that cops cannot be trusted.
THE EMPLOYEE DISCOUNT
There are those in our society who claim that cops cover each other’s mistakes and errors. These people seem to believe that a cop would NEVER receive a traffic ticket for speeding. There is some merit to that. I’ve been stopped for driving ten miles over the limit. I promptly apologized and when the other officer discovered that we both carry a badge, I was cut loose with a warning.
Would a civilian be treated the same? Maybe, maybe not. It would depend on the circumstances at the time.
Can a cop get away with everything? NO. A warning for ten over could be like an employee discount. Will I get the same if I’m twenty-five over and drunk? You can bet your butt that I won’t. I’ll get the same treatment as anyone else – and I should.
There are some things that we simply cannot overlook.
The alleged crimes of Deputy JB are WAY over the line. Every person who carries – or had ever carried – a badge has personally been hurt by this man’s bad deeds.
To be honest, I am much more pissed-off by an errant cop than I am when it’s a civilian. WE are trained to know better. The public expects more of us – and they should. WE are held to a higher standard and we knew that on the way in the door. There are no excuses here. Not this time.
Some cop, somewhere may be disrespected as a result of this deputy’s bad behavior. It could cost a cop his life somewhere because the bad guy is emboldened by the belief that our behavior is no better and no different than his.
This kind of behavior is inexcusable.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this article. You can contact me with questions or input at: Jim@CopBlueblog.com