Many officers affix a favorite photo to the visor of the patrol car at the beginning of each shift to remind themselves that they will do everything in their power to insure that they will survive the shift and return home to that family. There are many potential dangers officers have to be mentally and physically be prepared to resist. These dangers include criminals, ambushers, domestic abusers and the Four Horsemen. “What do you mean, the Four Horsemen?” you ask.
The Four Horsemen
According to Dr. Neal Trautman, there are four compelling forces that bring police careers to an abrupt end as surely as high velocity ammunition. They are anger, lust, greed and peer pressure. Officers need to be prepared to protect themselves against these looming dangers and the havoc they can create on a career and a family. Although not as devastating as the biblical horsemen, Pestilence, War, famine and death, officers succumbing to anger, lust, greed and peer pressure have discovered that they may lead them to a career apocalypse.
A career in law enforcement affords every officer countless opportunities to become legitimately angry over the things that are done and said to them. Most civilians could never tolerate the onslaught of verbal and physical abuse police officers are subjected to on a daily basis, but they expect a stoic professional response from their police officers.
You can look at this two ways. You can say it is unfair, or you can appreciate the confidence the public has in you. Regardless, there is truth in the words of the late Eldon Mueller, “The man who angers you conquers you.”
The police professional can expect to be verbally and physically assaulted in every manner imaginable. Officers need to prepare themselves to act out of necessity rather than anger. This can be done through physical skill training and mental conditioning. To overreact would not only jeopardize a police professional’s career, but there is a fine line between criminal battery and justifiable use of force. Officers can’t allow suspects to goad them into crossing that line.
In March 2010, Sgt. Scott Krause was convicted of punching a handcuffed prisoner repeatedly for kicking the window of the squad car and demanding to be taken to the bathroom. Krause lost his job and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. This man angered Sergeant Krause and sadly, conquered him.
Police officers are not tempted as often as rock stars, but when and if poor decisions are made, officers can ruin their marriages, careers, and lives for a few moments of pleasure. To paraphrase a wise officer has policeone.com poster, referring in so many words to lust, “The badge will get ‘it,’ but then ‘it’ will get your badge.”
There are some extreme examples where officers in the past have entered law enforcement already possessing dark criminal desires. Former Officer Marcus Huffman in August of 2010 was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a female in a police department substation. He had picked her up after he stopped to assist her because she was extremely intoxicated and on foot.
Throughout a career an officer will be entrusted with countless millions worth of merchandise, cash and every material temptation imaginable, during investigations, vehicle contacts and open doors. To their credit most officers never violate the trust placed on them by their communities. There are those that have violated that trust.
For example, in April 2010 Officer Ronald Jackson was sentenced to 18 months in prison for Theft. He stopped a female carrying a large quantity of brand new high tech equipment stolen from Best Buy. The female was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Jackson and his back-up, Officer Christian Brezil split the stolen merchandize and there was no mention of it in their report.
Jackson’s career is over and the former police officer is facing a prison term.
The good news is most officers are honorable and courageous police officers, who share their sense of righteousness. However, what if you had witnessed the actions of Krause, Jackson, Brezil, and Huffman? What if these officers were your friends? What if they reminded you of the bond you share and asked you to remain silent?
Would you be prepared to take action which would lead to their firing and criminal prosecution, or succumb to peer pressure? No matter how heinous the crime, it is not an easy arrest to make when the suspect wears the same uniform as you do.
The Path of Honor
Retired Detective Frank Serpico of the New York Police Department once said, “Police work is an honorable career, if you do it honor.”
The path of honor is not always the easy path to follow — there will be many opportunities in a career to take a detour from this path. If you ever find yourself tempted to leave this path, remember the smiling faces of your family in the worn picture on the visor of your squad. Act as if they are watching you and strive to make them proud.
A police officer seeking to hold true to their principals and high values must remember, when tempted to succumb to anger, lust, greed, or peer pressure that they can sell their honor for a penny. Once it is lost, however, it can’t be bought back for a billion dollars.
Looking back after the completion of an honorable career in law enforcement is a source of unspeakable satisfaction. Guard your honor with your life and your life with your honor.