Police Interview Newsletter
Right vs. Wrong for New Police Officers

Right vs. Wrong for New Police Officers
Volume 5, Issue 4
July-August, 2006

     In his excellent article, The New Police Officer-Integrity and Temptation, Dr. Edwin J. Delattre challenges new police recruits to decide early on in their careers to avoid the temptation of bending the rules and/or compromising their personal integrity.

     Dr. Delattre lectures at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and has authored two books: Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing and Education and the Public Trust.

     In This issue of "Police Newsletter", I present some excerpts from Dr. Delattre's "Integrity and Temptation" article which appeared on the National Executive Institute Associates web site, and can be read in it's entirety at http://www.neiassociates.org/integrity.htm.

     The following three quotations from Dr. Delattre's article cogently describe some of the challenges and temptations for the new officer, and the dynamics by which he or she might be corrupted by bad cops within the department:

     "Whenever a person enter a new walk of life, such as policing, there is a natural desire to fit in, to be accepted, to overcome the signs of being a newcomer and an outsider. The new police officer needs to learn early that the desire to fit in and be accepted can lead to trouble if the department and its members have bad habits-if the department tolerates or even fosters corruption, brutality, incompetence, bigotry, acceptance of gratuities and other wrongful conduct" (p.1).

     "Every newcomer has a personal history and brings individual hopes, ambitions, purposes, and ideals to the new job. These may or may not suit the line of work the person is entering. Every walk of life also calls upon the newcomer to change in some ways. The principal challenge of all careers is to preserve what is best in ourselves and to change in ways that better us-but in policing, and all other lines of work, there can be, and often are, temptations to forsake our best selves and to change for the worse." (p.1)

     "Cops who are dishonest, brutal to suspects, foul-mouthed and prejudiced in dealing with the public, and otherwise unworthy of the badge want other police to behave as they do. Bad cops do not fear detection by other bad cops, but they are afraid of good cops. So they can and do put pressure on newcomers to share bribes, coop (sleep on duty in secret places), drink on the job, use or deal drugs, accept sexual favors from prostitutes, knowingly use too much force, file false reports, commit perjury, and otherwise betray honorable and trustworthy police as well as the public" (p.2).

     In his article, Dr. Delattre goes on to describe the very unfair position in which new recruits sometimes find themselves. After having been trained in the academy on departmental standards, policies, and job expectations, new officers may encounter veteran officers on the street (even their FTOs) who basically tell them to "Forget what you've learned in the academy; we do things differently out here in the real world." This discrepancy in what the new officer is hearing can obviously generate tremendous conflict and confusion.

So, What Should the New Officer Do?

     Delattre offers this very wise counsel to the new law enforcement officer - "Some ways of behaving are always wrong, no matter who says otherwise. Some ways of behaving are always right, no matter who says otherwise."

     Delattre proposes the following guidelines to officers to assist them in discerning "right and wrong" as they conduct their lives on and off duty. The following bold text material is quoted directly from the author's article (p.3-4).

Delattre's List of Right and Wrong Behaviors

     It is always wrong for a police officer to accept money or other goods and services in exchange for favors of any kind. The only honest dollar is the officer's salary, and everything else can be compromising. It does not matter whether other police, mayors, judges, and lawmakers accept gifts of value and extort bribes; doing so is still always wrong.

     It is always wrong deliberately to use more force than is necessary, whether to apprehend or subdue a suspect, quiet a situation, or for any other purpose. It is always wrong for police to beat people up in order to "punish" them, to rough up suspects in custody or in handcuffs, and to use the badge as an excuse to assault others.

     It is always wrong to falsify or plant evidence against anyone, to file false reports or to commit perjury. It does not matter whether the purpose of falsification is to protect police who have behaved wrongly or to secure conviction of suspects. Falsification, frame-ups, and perjury are always wrong.

     It is always wrong to prejudge others because of color, gender, ethnic background, nationality, or any other fact of birth. People deserve to be treated as individuals, not as mere members of groups they happen to belong to by birth. It is always wrong to use denigrating words to refer to the gender, color, or origins of others. It is always wrong to enforce the law differently with people who differ only in color, gender, economic condition, and the like.

     It is always wrong to give illegal substances or prescription drugs to informants (or anyone else). It is always wrong to skim money or drugs from drug busts, even with the intention of harming drug dealers.

     It is always wrong to bring a hangover to work or to use alcohol on the job or to consume illegal substances of any kind at any time.

     It is always wrong to commit acts that put pressure on a partner or other police to lie or cover up wrongdoing. True friends never call upon another to betray the badge and honorable service by lying or looking the other way because of a misguided sense of loyalty. A cop who expects another cop to lie for the sake of friendship or loyalty is always wrong.

     It is always wrong to fail to back up a partner or other officers in a dangerous situation or to place another officer or member of the public in a needlessly dangerous situation.

     If you are a new recruit, I strongly encourage you to take Dr. Delattre's message to heart. Commit yourself to following the right course of action before you are ever placed in those situations, which will tempt you and challenge your integrity as a police officer. Please take time to read the full article at http://www.neiassociates.org/integrity.htm.

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