Pretty much all cops start out as “good cops“. The vast majority start out wanting to make positive contributions in our communities.
We want to make life safer and a bit easier for our families, friends, and neighbors. We want to “get the bad guys”, help bring some measure of peace and justice into a difficult world. We want to make a difference.
The news stories that we see on TV or read about in the papers seldom feature the everyday good cop.
About the only time that these good officers get into the media, and thus into your consciousness, is when one of us dies in the line of duty. This happened recently here in Philadelphia with the murders of officers Gary Skerski in spring of 2006 and Chuck Cassidy just last week. Each of these officers was a pillar in their communities. Each laid down his life facing off with one of the bad guys.
Unfortunately for the everyday working cop, the majority of the time that we make the local or national headlines is when one of us goes bad. When for one reason or another, we become that which we promised to fight against. When we ourselves become a burden to the community we serve.
In the news right now is the story of Bernard Kerik (pic), the former New York City police commissioner who was just indicted on a number of federal charges stemming largely from renovations made to his NYC apartment. These renovations were allegedly paid for by a mob-related construction company while he was still an NYC official.
Kerik is fighting the charges, but the investigation is beginning to hurt the Presidential campaign of former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Also in the news is the story of Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson, who has gone from being a “person of interest” to a legitimate suspect in the disappearance of his young fourth wife. And officials are now preparing to exhume the body of his third wife, who died under what now appear to be suspicious circumstances back in 2004.
Locally, Camden police corporal Michael Hearne was indicted back in March. Hearne was arrested in November 2006 for allegedly giving his loaded gun to a friend in order that the friend could rob some drug dealers.
The arrest went down when Hearne went to collect his share of the robbery proceeds while in full uniform. Hearne’s wife was also indicted for money laundering charges stemming from a separate previous robbery scheme.
Good cops go bad for the same reasons as the average citizen. They fall prey to the evils of the seven deadly sins: greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.
Whether taking a bribe, an illegal shortcut, or even in taking someones life, a once-good cop crosses the line that he or she swore to uphold. The subsequent negative publicity then shines a bad light on all officers.
The public needs to trust that it’s police force as a whole, and the individual officers who make it up, are doing everything in their power to keep the peace, stop crime, preserve property, and save lives.
They need to know that we are on their side. They need to know that should we be faced with an apparently difficult, sinful choice while on-duty that we will reject it out of hand.
I believe that the public understands and trusts that the vast majority of police officers and officials are doing a good, honest job every day.
I can personally attest that the public should feel secure in that belief. I have seen that dedication in the thousands of officers with whom I have had the pleasure to work with for almost two decades.
It is up to every officer, from a commissioner like Kerik on down through the ranks to a sergeant like Peterson and a corporal like Hearne to fight against and overcome the temptations that might sometimes arise in doing what can often become a dirty job.
Remember that Jesus said: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions“.