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April 20, 2006
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Mailbag roundup: Dating, tattoos and off-duty comedy

For the past month a poll on the P1 homepage has asked officers what they thought about intradepartmental dating after the Tampa police department banned the practice.

Related story: Tampa police policy bans intradepartment dating

The results of the survey showed that most officers believe it should be allowed as long as it didn't interfere with the activities of the department:

Tampa PD policy prohibits dating between officers.

Should intradepartmental dating be prohibited?

Yes 23 percent
No 39 percent
Only if the relationship causes problems for the agency 37 percent
Total number of responses 1150

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As usual, P1 members had plenty of say on the topic. Here are a couple of the responses we received:

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Deputy Mike Bailey with the Muscatiner (IA) SO:

My wife and I both work for the same agency. Our total employees for the department total approximately 70, sworn and civilian. I am a sworn employee and she is a civilian, but she is a sworn "civil" deputy who can serve papers. I work in the detective division.

I started with the department in December 2001, and when an opening came up in our Civil Division, my then fiancé applied for it. Before the Sheriff hired her, he told me that I could never be her supervisor and that there were certain rules that would have to be followed. We both accepted those rules and follow them to this day.

We both find that working for the same department, but in different divisions, allows us to communicate better, because she better understands what I am talking about in certain cases, and she speaks "the lingo." I think that in certain cases inter-departmental relationships can be good for the couple.

Lt. Alan Quercia with the East Brunswick (NJ) PD:

My department has had 3 married couples in my career. They are not allowed to work together, which has forced senior officers off their shifts to accomadate them. [The couples] are given special arrangements for childcare while the rest of us pay for sitters or give up a second salary and have our spouses stay home. It causes resentment, and I see it everyday in the ranks.

Along with these responses, those for previous polls continue to pour in. We wanted to highlight a few of those responses and thank all of our readers for sharing their opinions with us.

Without you, this site wouldn't be possible.

Lindsay Gebhart, P1 News Editor

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In February P1 had a poll on the homepage that asked readers: Should officers be allowed to openly display tattoos on duty? Some depts. say no. What do you think?

Yes 19 percent
No 37 percent
Depends on the tattoo 43 percent
Total number of responses 1941

The following are a couple of responses we received on the topic:

Officer Justin Brooks with the Mesa (AZ) PD:

I'll go with "depends on tattoo."  My agency recently made a policy that tattoo's on arms and legs should be covered. (We have uniform shorts here in central AZ).  Obviously existing tats are grandfathered.  As expected, that rule made some of the officers sporting tats a bit annoyed.  How do you enforce "new tattoo's?" 

My take is this: Is a nude woman on one's forearm going to give the public a good image?  No it will not. 

If someone has a military tattoo that's not vulgar or crude - then that's okay.  I say do it case by case.  If someone has one that is just not proper then they should take steps to cover it up.  Let's face it, like it or not the scum we deal with are 97.9 percent of the time sporting tats of all kinds, usually prison sleeves.  We as police officer's must hold the higher standard regardless of trends, styles and fads.     

Lt. Dave Hinman with the Glendale (WI) PD:

Our Captain noticed tattoos on an officer working in the city he lived.  The Captain was offended by what he saw and tried to force those feelings of disgust on officers in our department.  Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.  I did a quick study of tattoo policies for various branches of the military and presented my case of "What's good for the military, should be good for us."  While a new tattoo policy was put into effect, it is much more lenient than what the Captain wanted. 

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On February 15 we posted a story about a New Jersey sergeant who was suspended without pay from his job in internal affairs after a CD of his controversial comedy routine was sent to his station. We then posed this question:
 
Should this sergeant's off-color, off-duty behavior be grounds for suspension and possible termination? Are his rights to free speech being violated? Or should officers be held to a higher standard--on-duty and off--when it comes to participating in activities that are very likely going to be considered offensive?

Read the original mailbag or the full story

Here are a few more responses from our readers:

R. Bahr of Arizona:

When people are exposed to horrific circumstances, eventually they use humor to cope with it. I give you an example of the space shuttle disaster  in the '80s- "Why doesn't NASA have coke machines? Because they can't get 7-up! That was a pretty popular joke during that time. It was the way the public could get past the shocking aspect of the events that occurred, and somehow verbalize in a positive aspect (humor) to overcome its severity.

Is it distasteful? 10 min after ...Yes! 10 days? maybe... 6 months... Hey, i have a better one for you.....

Did you hear the joke about Fedder? He got Diced!

Officer James McDecitt with the Philidelphia (PA) PD:

Here we go again. You're a cop 24 hours a day, but they don't want to pay you 24 hours a day. If that department wants to discipline the sergant for his off-duty, comical comments while not functioning as an officer of that department, the department is the real joke.

Roger Pinson, Chief of Compliance for the Nevada Transportation Services Authority in Las Vegas:

It is my opinion that this incident reeks of hypocrisy.  The same administrators who are condeming Feder's conduct no doubt turn a blind eye to the officers on their department who regularly get falling down drunk at bars, night clubs or even their own homes.  I don't drink, but I've been to plenty of squad parties or even department functions where my fellow officers drink to their heart's content and nothing is said.  I personally find their lack of discipline disgusting, however that is my opinion only, and I don't try to impose it on anyone else.  As long as they show up to work sober and ready to serve the public, I don't care what they do off duty as long as they're not breaking the law.

Sgt. Robert Smith with the Tallahassee (FL) PD:

If we decide that this "off duty work" is acceptable and that police officers should not be held to a higher standard then we must apply this to other areas as well.

1) Would it bother us if our local church minister subscribed to Playboy or Penthouse?
2) If the above employment is OK , then would it be suitable for one of our officers to own and operate a liquor store off duty?
3) How about if our child's teacher had a part time job as a stripper?
 
[These are] just a few examples of why I think certain people (including cops) assume a MUCH greater responsibility for their influence of others and the way their profession as a whole is perceived.  If you don't want the public (and private) scrutiny then choose another line of work!

Courthouse security officer Bob Douglas with the Sherman (TX) District Court:

I've been in Law Enforcement for 23 years, and I learned many years ago that cops live in glass houses and are expected to behave themselves as the "brass" wants them to behave. It's a double standard world for cops. We can take a bullet for a civilian and still not expect to collect a reward on a warrant because "it's our job." Damn, where's the line at?






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