The term be safe or stay safe as a closing comment or sign-off has become ubiquitous. Officers use it among themselves, trainers finalize sessions with it and police columnists end their stories with this same line. Looking out for the well-being of fellow officers is one of the requisites of being a police officer.
Wishing one to be safe can also apply to other professions firefighters, truck drivers and pilots as well. There are very few livelihoods where safe is secondary to the profession. Law enforcement, however, is a profession in which being ethical trumps safety. Police officers, by their very nature, are charged with not only putting themselves in harm's way, but also remaining be stalwart and guiding beacons of honesty and integrity the last line of defense against violence, as well and moral decay. Should an officer lose their moral compass, all who witness or learn of their lack of ethics will begin the breakdown of society.
The story has often been told of the Jewish boy who is punished for using the dairy towel to dry the non-dairy dishes. When he questions his father about such an archaic law, the elder explains that the dietary laws have always been in effect, and if you break one law and allow it to go unpunished, all of society begins to break down.
You've probably heard the following phrase in association with American police officers: Our country s last line of defense. This is in reference to physically standing guard against enemies who are intent on committing violence. A truer meaning hasn't been tendered. But seldom espoused is the underlying definition of the American police officer: They stand for the epitome of civilized society. America s very existence depends upon the rigid blue line never wavering in the face of outrageous criminal conduct, civil riots or political trickery run amok. The American police officer maintains balance of benevolence to the community with enforcement of the law, in concert with the Constitution, all the while adhering to highest moral and ethical ideals.
However, when it comes to wishing the best for our guardians of the future, stay ethical might be a better term. Here, the speaker is not only acknowledging that the audience is already ethical, but is encouraging and reminding them to continue to place ethics in the forefront of their world. U.S. police officers are the envy of the world, and it s not because they re safe. It s due to their professionalism, a qualification that generates, exudes and is based on a high ethical and moral standard.
Ethics is defined as a set or system of moral values and principles that are based on honesty and integrity and have been accepted as professional standards. To a cop, that means no lying, cheating, stealing no exceptions, no excuses.
It's surely every LEO s daily practice to live safely, to protect and serve, to stand beside and back-up fellow officers and to always do the right thing. Safety is mostly a matter of practicing rules of common sense. There s little temptation to violate safety procedures.Remember: Temptations abound to subvert those of power to commit lapses in discretion for the gains of favor.
Police officers are in the business of ethical behavior. This is their stock-in-trade, forte, signature, persona, identification and what differentiates us from other professions. When one police officer violates this trust, this code of honesty, all are tarnished. Adherence to, or practice of, any voids of integrity are counter to the code of ethics that's part of each officer's sworn duty his existence for being.
Law enforcement trainers find it most difficult to teach common sense, likewise ethical behavior. LEO instructors can and should set the moral example while on the lookout for those badge-wearers who might be subject to temptations.
Next time you sign-off with a fellow officer, consider acknowledging the exclusivity that this LEO is an honest, trustworthy person and that you wish them to remain so.
Chuck Klein is a former police officer, retired licensed private investigator and author ofInstinct Combat Shooting, Defensive Handgunning for Police, Lines of Defense, Police Ideology and the Constitutionand other firearm and police related books. He may be reached through his Web site www.chuckklein.com.