The author of this report has been asked to conduct two interviews of police officers with six basic questions being the crux of both interviews. To protect the anonymity of the officers as well as a way to get the most honest and complete answers, the identity of the officers as well as the departments they have or do work for will not be identified in any way, shape or form. The answers garnered were insightful, honest and illuminating. The perspective they offer is perhaps not nearly as known as it should be given the reporting going on as it relates to the incidents in Ferguson and other places where cops have been shot or allegedly unarmed and/or innocent people on the street have endured the same. While there are two sides to each story, both the police and the people have the right to have their voice heard and hopefully understood.
Before getting into what was said in response to the questions, the questions will first be listed in the order in which they were asked. The first question was why ethics and characters are so important when entering a career in law enforcement. The second question asks the respondent whether they feel police are more or less ethical than they were a decade ago. The third question asks why police officers are often involved in misconduct. The fourth question is whether the respondent feels there is enough training pertaining to ethics and such during the police academy training and, if not, why this might be the case. Fifth, it is asked whether ethics should an ongoing training action item or not. Sixth, and finally, it was asked of the two respondents whether the education and/or training in ethics would reduce further incidents of police corruption. An non-explicit goal of the six questions above that was also covered was to cover four contemporary ethical issues that police face in the modern age.
The first respondent offered very specific and detailed answers to the questions offered. Regarding the first question, the respondent said that ethics was a very important trait for current and prospective police officers to be concerned with. The officer said that to carry out the responsibilities of a police officer, "turning the other cheek" and letting ethical matters slide is something that should not be condoned or allowed for. The officer stressed that irrespective of the subject of a crime, whether it be victim or perpetrator, there has to be an impartial following of the law regardless of what presumptions or preferences might otherwise come up. For example, a woman that is attractive should not be given a slide on a ticket or a crime such as theft if someone less "pretty" would get booked and/or charged. The same should hold true for friends and acquaintances, in the view of the officer. This also means that even when one's greed or interest is piqued, the good thing should still be done. The first officer used the example of a drug bust where a large amount of unmarked money is found. The entire sum of money discovered needs to be accounted for accurately and inventoried no matter how tempting it might be to pocket some of it. The first officers said that anyone taking the oath of a police officer should do so seriously and should not allow themselves to be tempted by doing the wrong thing even when getting away with it is almost a given. Indeed, a drug dealer or career criminal is not going to hold a lot of weight in a "he said/he said" proposition. However, internal affairs bureaus more than believe the "where there's smoke, there's fire" mantra and they will always keep an eye out for a pattern of allegations no matter how unsubstantiated any single accusation might seem to be.
As for the second question, the officer said that officers of today are indeed more ethical than they were ten years ago. However, the officer says the level of violence and strife has also risen so the rise in ethics has been a matter of necessity. It is almost daily occurrence to see an officer shot at, actually shot or even killed in the line of duty. The first officer says that, for example, the Ferguson officers are in an impossible position as they are vilified even though at least three cops have been shot or shot at since Michael Brown died, Michael Brown was verifiably someone who was wanted for strong-arm robbery and the forensics of the scene, at least it would seem, directly contradict some of the witness statements and common sense. Despite this, the officer who shot Brown is facing a grand jury. The officer says that if indeed the cop shot Brown unnecessarily then he should face discipline and/or charges. However, both the peaceful residents and the cops are in a terrible position. The officer did point to clear-cut cases of brutality or excess such as the shooting of unarmed man Amadou Diallo in New York some years ago or the beating of Rodney King that sparked a race riot in Los Angeles when the officers were acquitted despite a video clip that was nothing less than a smoking gun. However, the officer also pointed out that the body cameras that people are demanding are going to create many more issues for perpetrators rather than the cops as the former are the ones that are actively hostile towards the police for no good reason and/or are engaged in criminal behavior of some sort. The officer says the true test would be to have the cameras be non-obvious so the public do not see them.
Regarding the third question, the officer said that misconduct seems to come mostly from greed or self-preservation. Indeed, Darren Evans (the cop who shot Michael Brown) may or may not have known that Michael Brown was unarmed but if he did grab for Evans' gun (which is what is alleged), then Evans obviously had to react quickly yet violently and the consequences of that choice are still reverberating no matter how right or wrong the choice might have been. The officer says that there are other situations that put a cop behind the proverbial eight ball from an ethical standpoint. For example, if a cop makes a meager yet manageable salary and they have a sick kid that is not covered sufficiently (if at all) by insurance, they might be more prone to take money under the table such as money from drug dealing busts or bribes. This is obviously different from raw greed but it is obviously still wrong. However, it is not hard to see what motivations and emotions are in play in such a situation. Not all motives are inherently evil, said the officer, but it still is not right. As for the fourth question, the officer said that ethical training is indeed sufficient at the academy. The rub is that there has to be a very careful selection of officers initially and the officers that pass the academy, the fresh ones in particular, need to be trained by good officers, need to be held accountable by their training officers partners and need to understand that malfeasance of any kind will not be ignored or permitted. This response dovetails with the fifth question whereby the first officer says that ethics should indeed be an ongoing training initiative. It is not something that should be done in the academy and then forgotten about and it should also not be something that internal affairs or police leadership uses to beat the officers over the head. Of course, some ethics situations are obvious but some are lesser as one should examine the ethical issues of taking free coffee or food at restaurants or favoring the areas of friends and family when doing patrols when this is at odds with the assigned beats the cops are supposed to be looking after. The first officer's general point is that there should not be incessant ethics training or any sort of undercurrent that makes officers feel that they are perpetual suspects that will eventually be subject to a "gotcha" that is truly not malicious or evil. That being said, it should indeed made clear per the officer that it is always on the minds of management and the public and thus should also be on the mind of the officers on the street.
Finally, the officer spoke to the sixth question by saying that continued education does indeed reduce corruption as people are less likely to offend if they know it will not be tolerated and/or that people in power as well as regular officers are all on the lookout for colleagues that are doing something (or not doing something) that could bring controversy or disgrace to the department. As noted before, the first officer said that it should not be beat into the heads of the cops but there absolutely needs to…