Friday, July 3, 2009

Higher Standard

There is a current news story of a high-ranking sheriff’s officer who lied about using drugs. What did happen was that in his college years he used cocaine once. Many years later as part of applying for a job and certification for law enforcement he did not disclose this itty-bitty error in judgment. He got the job, and all was well. Recently he applied for another job in law enforcement. He was required to undergo a lie detector test. It turned out that he was then confronted with having lied before about drug usage. Now he faces dismissal because of the lie, not because of the one time drug usage.

People commenting on this news article sound off all over the spectrum. Many are vitriolic because of their hatred of the police. These same people don’t seem to care of right or wrong, the purpose of the situation, or the law that is to be applied in general, rather than in exceptional cases.

The fact is that people in law enforcement are, and should be held to a high standard. It is not because they are exceptional, even though they are, but it is because the rest of us tend to maintain a low standard that excuses wrong behavior. It should not be that way, but it is. That is why we need people of high standards in law enforcement. We break the law, they enforce it.

The whole thing is a moral dilemma. If this man had been honest about his momentary lapse of judgment in his younger days, he would not have been hired to a job that he had done well for many years. Yet, by lying about anything puts him in a category of an unreliable witness in the court of law, which he must, on occasion, attend as part of his duties. Do we want to dismiss an otherwise worthy dedicated, and useful person because he did one thing of questionable nature? Who are we to judge in this case?

I participated in passing around one joint of marijuana while I was in college. Once! Years later I faced the lie detector test, just as this person, before given a position in law enforcement. I struggled with the problem. After all, it was a trivial usage of one drug, and it was a long time ago. I decided to tell the truth regardless of the potential consequences. The day before my scheduled lie detector test the policy that required testing was changed, so I did not have to take the test that time. I got the job. Knowing myself I can attest that I am no better or worse for having smoked part of that one joint decades ago. I had not done it again, neither was I tempted to do so. But it is totally irrelevant to my decisions on enforcing the law later. Yet, some college-educated know-nothing policy-making bureaucrat would have prevented me from applying myself to do some good years later.

I am used to being held to a higher standard than even our illustrious leaders in Congress and the Presidency are. I very much resent these people getting away with lying and unethical behavior. I also resent their expectation of respect due to their position. I duly respect their office, but not always the person. On the other side, I have complete respect for law enforcement and military officers. These people are not elected. They don't have to compromise their principles in order to serve us. They have worked, and continue to work hard to earn their position. In most instances, we trust them with our lives. Whereas, I would not trust a congressman with my lunch.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

They are held to a higher standard because they have more power than the average citizen. They are allowed to detain people, not obey the speed limit carry a concealed weapon, and give instruction to an average citizen which the citizen must obey. There's nothing unfair about it. either(imo).