Cop recruits are taught the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics in the academy and are reminded of it often throughout their careers.
The oath is a commitment to America, the public, to themselves and it is a covenant with God. Read it here:
Law Enforcement Code of Ethics
As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality, and justice.
I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.
I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice, or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.
I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession … law enforcement.
In my very early years, I recall my mother saying that there are ‘special’ people in this world: teachers, preachers and cops. They are, “a cut above” the rest of us, she would say. Her opinion was based upon the example these folks set with their conduct.
Their life’s calling centered on others: helping them learn what they would need to succeed, introducing and nurturing their relationship with God and protecting them from those who might do them harm.
“Police officers are your friend. You can count on them if you ever need help – no matter the situation,” she would say. In the very early days of life, I learned with clarity that if ever Mom and Dad weren’t nearby, I should find a policeman who was certain to stand in on their behalf.
The sixties began a time of social unrest. There were protests against the Vietnam War and many other institutions of the “establishment.”
Sadly, violence came to be part of the protest experience. History lists groups like: the Weathermen, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Black Panthers and more. These people were anarchists. They endeavored to harm – even kill police officers for just doing their jobs.
These people objected to our nation’s laws and the decisions of its elected officials.
As we know, there are many ways for citizens to address their grievances with government and effect change:
- Public hearings and meetings.
- Peaceful public demonstrations.
- Petitions raised by the public which can result in the overturn of laws, call special elections and a host of other actions.
- Individuals can (and should) run for public office so they have a direct voice in governmental decisions.
- Even something as simple as writing a letter to the editor can bring about change.
These anarchists didn’t choose any of these paths. It seemed then – as it does now – that those who eschew the established paths for objection and change actually only desire to end our form of governance and the social order it enables. They can be described as:
- Enemy combatants carrying out acts of war
Poorly intended as they are, it seems they have brought a sad change to the American social landscape.
In today’s world, a cop is no longer elevated in the minds of many of the citizens as being a “cut above.” How sad. A cop’s word and his actions are too often suspect.
The cop is assumed to be a liar or at-fault and must prove his own innocence in nearly any situation where some loudmouth screeches an accusation which has absolutely no basis in fact. This degradation of their reputation has permeated many areas of life today.
We have arrived at a point in time where a cop’s word is no longer gold. NOW, we insist on video from body cameras, in-car cameras and even video from the cell phones of civilians to corroborate a cop’s word before it is accepted as truth.
How sad, indeed.
LET’S SURVEY THE ENVIRONMENT
The selection process to become a cop is rigorous – to say the least. Staying on the job is no walk in the park, either. It’s been said, “If being a cop isn’t in your heart, chances are you won’t be a good one.” Amen.
EVERYTHING you do and say is subject to the scrutiny of a Monday-morning quarterback, from the use-of-force to how you wiped your backside the last time. And, without warning, the cop must be able to justify his actions at every turn.
The institution of law enforcement is designed to cause cops to make the right, best, most accurate, valid and legally defendable decision EVERY time. Do cops ALWAYS succeed at this exercise? Nope.
Do we ALWAYS try? Most always. (I learned long ago to avoid the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ because their use will probably get me in trouble.)
There are 800,000 cops across the U.S. That crew has MILLIONS of citizen contacts every day. How many of them go badly? How many do you hear about? Damn few.
And when you do, it’s almost certain to be blown out of proportion by the media. Too often, the incident was triggered by an asshole looking to milk the system for personal gain. (Think of the recent incident on United Airlines where a convicted felon/doctor broke the law and was the ‘victim’ of cops who simply took him to task.) We all pay for those shenanigans.
Too often, these scabs on society are coddled by the “do gooders” who are willing to sacrifice the common good, the common behavior standards, sacrifice God’s laws on their behalf and skewer our protectors (the cops) in the process.
I think it’s high time for American citizens to take an oath of their own on behalf of law enforcement officers everywhere and the social order which they protect. Let’s try this on for size.
CITIZEN’S OATH TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
I recognize and understand that police officers everywhere are doing the jobs we want them to do. They are resolving matters which I cannot handle and lack the training to master.
I understand that every police officer is risking his own safety and well-being in order to protect me and all Americans.
By default, a cop’s word and assurance of truth is preeminent. Police officers are assumed to be honorable and well-intentioned. Any claim to the contrary requires exceptional evidence.
In return for the protection from harm that they provide us, we citizens promise our: support for their employment, emotional support, spiritual support and a community of camaraderie to surround them.
In summary, electronic records – be the video, audio or both – may be nice but they are not necessary to determine the truthfulness of a police officer.
As citizens, we should ASSUME their honesty, dedication and integrity at every turn.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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