In my last blog post, I said that part of the reason I wrote my book, Code 33, was to shed some positive light on law enforcement as a response to much of the criticism that has been seen on the news in the past few years. In my book, I write that unless the person passing judgement is actually present during some of those critical and sometimes tragic events, they should step back and let the agencies and the courts seek the appropriate action.
However, with the expanding use of body cameras on law enforcement officers and the widespread use by the general public of smart phones with cameras, the agencies and the courts can get a close-up view of events officers become engaged in. Since that technology was not available during the time I served, I’m not sure how I would personally feel about wearing a body cam if I were a cop today. Also, I have not talked with any cops today about how they feel about their department’s requirements on wearing body cams.
From one perspective, I would assume that a cop who is wearing a body cam with the camera and audio activated, would be able to show to the world, if necessary, that his/her actions were justified if a situation went badly. From a different viewpoint, I would hope that if that same officer found him/herself in a dangerous situation, they would not take their focus off the situation at hand and wonder if the world is going to judge their action because it’s being recorded. That one second distraction could cost the officer’s life.
I know first-hand that good cops with good intentions make mistakes. But cops as a whole, from my opinion and experience, do not start each workday thinking, whose life can I screw-up today? To mitigate potential tragic events, law enforcement agencies have the major responsibility of thoroughly screening their applicants before swearing them in and putting a gun on their hip. There are too many cop want-a-bees out there that are poorly educated or they are bullies, trigger happy power hungry, and full of themselves. I would hope that in today’s world, law enforcement leadership is taking the right steps to keep potential trouble makers out of their ranks.
My step-son is a cop. I remember hearing the Sheriff of Alameda County California address all the police academy graduates and the friends and family members who came to see the graduation exercises. The sheriff looked out at all the people in the audience then pointed to the graduates and said something like; “See those new officers. They are better than you! Most people do not have to go through the rigorous screening process that they have had to undergo to get a job. That coupled with the training they have received at this academy makes them the best our society offers.”
Some might say that the sheriff was exaggerating. But I look at my step-son today and I have to agree with the sheriff. If all those graduates are as good as my step-son, I would not be one to disagree with that sheriff. My step-son is a wonderful family man. He and his wife, a school teacher, are raising two great kids, he is rising in the ranks and he has earned an MBA. Not every cop needs a master’s degree, but an advanced education sure helps.