01/25/2010

Andrew HawkesHighway Drug Interdiction
with Andrew Hawkes

Cops committing crimes: You get what you pay for

We are held to a higher standard — shouldn't we hire new officers that meet that higher standard?

Society holds us to a “higher standard” and yet the newspaper headlines go on and on about cops committing crimes and becoming part of the criminal element. You say you don’t know what I’m talking about?  Well, as I look at numerous headlines involving law enforcement officers and agencies across the country, I see two topics repeatedly coming to the forefront. First, we have story after story about cops committing crimes — from dealing drugs, to committing burglaries and armed robberies, to on duty sexual assaults in squad cars.

Then we have things like:

Sheriff jailed for dope sale, soliciting murder 
• Cop sends nudes photos to teen 
Off-duty officer commits robberies
Drunk cops play "Twister" in uniform...

Then, if it isn’t enough to read how the criminal element is steadily creeping into our profession, we get told that department after department is lowering their hiring standards, with headlines like:

PD to eliminate entrance exams
Past marijuana usage OK for new recruits
• Bad credit? No problem...

Okay maybe not that last one, but seriously, what the hell is going on? Am I the only one who wants to raise the question as to whether or not these issues correlate?

Here’s one headline I’d add to the mix:

• You get what you pay for

That old cliché is ringing loud and clear here, but I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about integrity. If we are continually held to a higher standard, shouldn't we work to hire new officers that meet that higher standard?

Sure, we will never be able to stop every bad apple from slipping through and finding their way into our ranks, but I don’t think we should be holding the door open for them to step right on in.

Sure, sometimes it’s tough to find solid recruits, but I think we need to require more than a high school diploma and a driver’s license. The argument about lowering the standards because we cannot get any good qualified candidates because law enforcement doesn’t pay is a bunch of hogwash. Are we underpaid? You’re damn right we are. But here’s the thing: Would I have become a cop for free? You bet I would.

I wanted to become a police officer, and I didn’t care how much I made.

I believe the desire to become a police officer coupled with the passion to do the job no matter what, up to and including laying your life on the line, is the intangible trait that we must focus on in the hiring process.

It’s up to the city councils and the county commissioners’ court to set our salary, and we always hope they will take care of us, but even if they don’t, it’s our duty as individual cops — and the collective duty of police agencies — to go the extra mile to find the best recruits that we can.

When I started in law enforcement it was common knowledge that police officers in Mexico were corrupt. More and more, I see headlines about corrupt police officers right here in the homeland. Let’s take back our profession before it gets out of hand and we get the same bad reputation as afflicts other cops across the globe.

Americans are the trendsetters globally, and it’s our responsibility to keep our badges shiny and polished, not dirty and tarnished.

Who’s with me?

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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