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.
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