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Professional Courtesy

How Much Is Too Much?

Most of us have been pushing our beat car around town when some yahoo screams by at the speed of heat. You feel the familiar adrenaline rush, hit the lights and you’re off to the races. You stop the car, schlep up to the offending vehicle and are met with a piece of tin looking eerily similar to the one on your chest.

You just stopped a fellow cop/firefighter/EMSer.

If you’re anything like me you get that “Dammit, dude! You’re mucking up my chi!” feeling. You may grumble and grouse, but eventually, you tell the offending brother-in-arms to “knock that silly crap off” and you get back in your patrol car and await the next violator.

Let’s up the ante. It’s not merely an infraction, but a collision. It’s not simply a fellow cop, but the chief or the mayor. And worse? They’re at fault. Now what? Do they get a pass because of their position?

I’m not one to play the political game. While that may be why I’m still wearing motor boots after 14 years, I find it interesting how quickly the powers-that-be drop the “we’re held to a higher standard” line when their officers perhaps utter one of George Carlin’s Seven Words in front of a citizen (Google it, I’ll wait …).

However, there seems to be quite the proclivity for that particular tune to change if those same powers land themselves in a jackpot.

Deeper Poo

Now matters get worse. The crash is alcohol-related (cue dramatic music). Do we break out the big-ass push broom and football stadium-sized carpet and get to sweeping? What are you risking if you do? What happens if our good friends in the media get wind of the incident? Think they’ll understand the command-level officer at fault in a DUI crash being dusted off and sent home? Don’t think that won’t land you in your own brand of hell? Just how dark and smelly is it where you’ve buried your head?

If we are indeed all held to that “higher standard,” then it should cross all lines and know no boundaries. What’s good for the goose is most assuredly good for the gander. Remember the days when line officers would follow their superiors to hell and back because those superiors represented something? Remember when they led by example instead of entitlement?

Make A Decision

Something else to consider: you may very well be saving their lives if you hook them for deuce. A number of years ago, I made a decision I will never make again. It was late at night and I was working graveyard. I passed by a lonely street and saw a car running, sitting still in the roadway, with its lights on. I drove on. I returned 20 minutes later and the car was still there. The lights were still on. It hadn’t moved.

With Spidey senses all a-tingle, I pulled in behind the car. The driver was passed out cold. Waves of the scent of alcoholic beverages cascaded from the slightly open window. The car was in drive, but the driver’s foot was on the brake. I roused the driver. Turns out he was a cop from a neighboring jurisdiction. He was nowhere near where he thought he was. He was also armed. He was a salty dog and had been on the job for nearly the better part of my entire time on Earth. Against my better judgment, I called him a cab and told him to pick up the car the next day. He was all kinds of appreciative.
I drove by 30 minutes later and the car was gone.

Do I know for certain he came to get it and risked killing someone? No. Do I strongly suspect it? Absolutely. I risked my job, my house and possibly my family because he was a fellow cop. How could I have lived with myself if he’d crashed and killed himself or, worse yet, an innocent citizen, because I had let him go?

I can’t answer for you what you should do. You’re an adult. Make a decision. What would I do now given the same set of circumstances? Hey, we’re in the accountability game. If you can’t take responsibility for your actions, perhaps you’re in the wrong vocation.
By Jason Hoschouer

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  1. Lt (Ret) Nick DeMarco says:

    I found the article on Professional Courtesy by Jason Hoschouer to be interesting, but I would like to add a few comments, based on my 30+ years in Law Enforcement:
    1) When someone you stop presents a badge, check it out thoroughly…Is it just a badge or does it also include an ID card? Ask for the card and compare it to the badge…Does the badge and ID match(badge from one agency and ID from another)? Does the name on the ID match the Drivers License / registration info? Lots of people carrying phony public safety ID & badges out there, for various reasons.
    2) Don’t get yourself into deep stuff by letting a drunk go because he requested professional courtesy…. Just like Jason experienced, that drunk can always tell the cab driver to go around the block and then get back behind the wheel after you have cleared the scene. And after he/she kills somebody, it will bite you on the butt when it comes to light that you had them stopped but let them go…. Better to call your supervisor and let them make the decision.. Even if the drunk is from an another agency, you can always request one of their duty supervisors to come to the scene and then the problem is out of your hands…

  2. I am in agreement with the Lt. Many many years ago we would take the offending guy home and also have another Officer take his vehicle home. We would also let his division commander know about this incident and it would be handled internally. Back then that was probably more of a punishment than just arresting him for DUI. Now that is not possible. You HAVE to make the arrest, especially if there is an accident or involving others and it does not matter who they are. While we may be upset that he may actually lose his job and we be called names for reporting this you have to understand that ‘they’ are the one’s that showed you tons of disrespect by even putting you in that situation! I am NOT going to lose my career as a LEO because they decided to go out and drink and drive! Professional courtesy is when they do not ever put you in that position.

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