Fighting the good fight with moral clarity

You can sell your honor for a penny or a punch, but once it’s gone, you can’t buy it back for a million bucks


A number of years ago in Anytown USA, officers began picking up their gear to hit the street after the third shift sergeant finished giving lineup. In closing, the sergeant cautioned his officers, “Be careful out there.”

The youngest of the officers — full of peas and vinegar and bubbling with enthusiasm — added, “Now let’s go out and kick some ass and take some names!” 

The rest of the officers stopped in their tracks. They knew their sergeant well enough to realize he would not let the statement stand. They were right.

A Teaching Moment
“Let’s sit back down a second and get the proper mind set here,” the sergeant said. Everyone stopped and sat back down in the nearest chair. 

The puzzled young officer looked around, saw that his original seat was now taken, so he awkwardly sought out an empty seat. As he sat down he noticed that everyone was looking at him. 

All he could say was, “What?!”

The old sergeant allowed for a moment of silence and then declared, “I appreciate your energy as well as your enthusiasm, but we are not here to kick some ass and take some names, whatever that means. That’s what thugs do, and we are definitely not thugs. We are the good guys and good gals.” 

The sergeant paused and continued, “We may have to use some level of force to accomplish what needs to be done, but the force we use is going to be trained, reasonable, and justified. We are the good guys and good gals. Sometimes we must fight, and when we fight we must fight the good fight!”

There was another moment of silence, and the Sergeant stood up and headed for the door. As he exited he said, “That will be all, ladies and gentlemen. Now let’s do some good out there.”

This particular sergeant was a defensive tactics instructor who was a firm believer in being properly prepared for the confrontations that inevitably lie ahead on the street. To him, this involved preparing in every way — physically, legally, mentally, tactically, and even emotionally for those struggles.  

The sergeant would often say in his training, “There is more than one way to lose a fight on the street. When you deviate from being a protector and become a prosecutor, you may win the physical battle, but you will lose everything that is most important to you in the long run — not the least of which being your honor. 

“You can sell your honor for a penny or a punch,” he’d say. “But once it’s gone, you can’t buy it back for a million bucks.”

Our Moral Clarity
This sergeant was not a soft-touch social worker. He believed there is a passionate intensity that can be easily conjured, when an officer involved in a struggle waged that struggle while in possession of moral clarity. 

Have you ever worked with an officer who had a reputation for allowing his mouth to write checks his assets couldn’t cash? How did you feel when you arrived to assist this officer as he was rolling around on the ground with someone? 

Of course you assisted the officer in trouble, but maybe you were also asking yourself at the time, “What has this joker got us into now?” 

Isn’t immediately giving 110 percent much easier when there is no doubt about that officer’s moral clarity? 

The old shift sergeant was absolutely certain that decisiveness accompanies moral clarity. He believed officers would fight better when they had read about, understood, practiced, bathed in, lived in, and ultimately were wrapped in moral clarity because:

1.) They trusted the judgment of their fellow officers.
2.) They understood and could apply the rules of force practically.
3.) They shared winning physical skills with their partners.
4.) They had the backing of their agency when they were in the right.
5.) They understood they were protectors, not prosecutors.
6.) They understood they were engaged in a righteous struggle.

If that old sergeant were reading this, he would surely say, “Lt. Dan, respectfully sir, you talk too much. Just tell them to be careful out there and never let it be forgotten you are one of the good guys and good gals, and to remain so you must always fight the good fight.”

About the author

Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

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