FEATURED IN TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Last month in Cop Road Rage on the Information Highway we looked at some of the profanity infused ranting, insulting and venting cops are doing on public Internet forums.
Here are some reminder forkfuls of that mud pie:
“We should blow up the whole city and start over. The bystanders are not even people -- lups of s@#t.” [The commenter cared enough to come back and correct his spelling to “lumps of s@#t.”]
“Act like a POS, get treated and talked to like a POS.”
“I've got an idea. Since most beefs arise from traffic stops, how about we stop making them? Let people kill each other with their unsafe driving.”
“Good job, keep locking up them dirty s-bags, i.e. anarchists, subversives, counter-culturists, communists, socialists, dopers, whackos, convicts, hookers, deviants and thugs. Did I miss anyone?” [Commenting on Occupy protestors.]
Now we’re going to look at whether such profanity:
- Violates the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics;
- Violates the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor; and
- Is conduct for which an officer could be fired.
You Can Put Lipstick on a Pig, but It’s Still a Pig
Putting lipstick on a pig is a cosmetic attempt to make something look more attractive. The Code of Ethics is lipstick on a pig if it’s violated openly, routinely and with impunity.
Different states and law enforcement agencies may have their own police Code of Ethics. We’re going to look at the one adopted by the IACP. The link I’ve provided to this Code takes you to a website that looks for police misconduct. Although many cops clearly aren’t weighing whether their public Internet comments violate the code, the public is watching.
I encourage every reader – cops and citizens alike – to revisit the Code.
The Code begins, “As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to … respect the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality, and justice.”
From their public comments on the Internet, it’s clear many officers need to be reminded of what "respect" means: “To hold in esteem or honor; to show regard or consideration for.”
It’s an action word in the Code; a way of living and being. It includes all persons and doesn’t exclude citizens who file complaints arising out of traffic stops, people who hold political or sexual orientations with which the officer disagrees, people the officer thinks badly of, or bystanders who do not aid an officer involved in a violent confrontation.
The next paragraph of the Code requires, “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.”
"Unsullied" means “untarnished, pure.” This part of the Code recognizes that officers are expected to meet this standard off duty in their private lives. Becoming a law enforcement officer is a voluntary decision to embrace a higher standard of conduct 24/7. Again, it’s a way of living and being – not just a 40-hour a week job.
“Courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule” does not permit ranting profanities and calls to blow up an entire city.
Officers have numerous means of restraining others – handcuffs, OC spray, ASP batons, Tasers, firearms and specially equipped patrol cars. When it comes to themselves, officers are expected to exercise self-restraint, that is, restraint willingly imposed on oneself by oneself.
The last paragraph of the Code demands, “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 [.]”
The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics doesn’t just govern use of force. It’s a code for ethical behavior that goes to the heart of a person’s character who chooses to be a police officer.
Public comment by officers spewing profane derogatory comments about whole cities or segments of the citizenry based on their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or political views, and their prolific kin on the Internet, violate the Code’s requirements of:
- A fundamental duty of respect for the rights of all persons;
- Conducting oneself in an untarnished and pure manner OFF and ON duty;
- Courageous calm in the face of scorn or ridicule; and
Officers are entitled to wear the badge only so long as they remain true in their professional and personal lives to the Code of Ethics. When officers identify themselves as police officers and then publicly spew profane insults, intolerances, calls to bomb entire cities and to let citizens kill themselves on the highways – they speak through their badges. Such public talk tarnishes the badge and officers who tarnish the badge should lose the right to wear it.