The right thing to do…
I grew up in Chicago as an only child, with parents a little older than average for my age. I had my parents’ full attention. They taught me right from wrong. I went to a small Catholic grade school where the nuns and lay teachers further enforced right and wrong.
Having been born in 1956 I was a product of the electric babysitter known as the TV. That wooden cabinet sat in a small room and housed a 13-channel black and white Admiral TV set full of tubes and with a strange coiled-antenna atop the case.
Since there were only three networks and WGN, my choices were limited. I grew up watching John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart in the movies and on ‘Sky King’ on Saturday mornings. They enforced that a man has to do what a man has to do. They stressed that a man has to do what is right.
My father was a Chicago Police Sergeant when I was born and promoted to Lieutenant when I was 8 years old. He taught me the history of Chicago, the USA, and the world. He and I explored every museum in the city. He taught me respect for laws and tradition.
More important he taught me a moral code of honor to live by. He taught me that at times it was more important to do the right thing even if it wasn’t popular. Even if it wasn’t in accordance with the rules. If you knew it was right morally, then there at times you did what you needed to do. Just as importantly he taught me that there may be a price to pay for your actions.
In school and later in the police academy, I remember being taught the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. That struck a chord with me. I felt that as long as you lived by and enforced the spirit of the law you were morally doing the right thing. I remember once asking my FTO how he knew just what law to charge an arrestee with. I remember him telling me that I was a good person looking to do the right thing. If I felt we needed to arrest someone we would, and then figure out the charge in the station with the criminal code open in front of us.
I was fortunate to work with several excellent partners. They shared the same moral code. It seemed the people I worked with in all my assignments had the same moral code. I don’t remember anyone ever leaving roll call looking to shoot a minority. I can’t ever recall anyone setting out to beat someone up because they had a fight with the wife or girlfriend.
The officers I knew only got into shootings when they felt it was a do or die situation. They knew someone would die if they didn’t shoot the offender. Getting into a brawl was something you tried to avoid. Sure, you got physical if the situation required it, but we all learned quickly that even if you win the fight your pants will get torn or your shirt pocket ripped off. Back when I was a P.O. those could set you back $50 each. Break a bone or need stitchesand you were on the medical and unable to work your side jobs. When you have a family to support you considerall that.
The more senior officers learned how verbally handle most situations. They set an example most young coppers looked to emulate. You knew if the situation warranted it, the cost of uniforms or loss of side jobs was forgotten. When the guys with fifteen years on the street got into a tussle you knew there had been no other way. When they shot someone, you knew there had been no other option. I never once saw an officer who did the morally correct thing feel bad about their actions.
You also knew that if you followed your moral code of honor you were safe. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
One of those people who should help maintain that moral code just dropped charges against an actor who had been charged with a felony after he faked being the victim of a hate crime. A Grand Jury had indicted the B-level actor after an excellent investigation that found ample evidence to convict the publicity seeking actor. The Cook County State’s Attorney chose to dismiss all charges with no new evidence. Within hours, allegations of the State’s Attorney’swrongdoingwere all over the media and internet.
Here is a person who should present herself and her office as an example of high moral standards. Instead,she’s apparently sold out to her political party and used her office to garner a tighter relationship with those who donate to her campaign. Where is her moral honor? Did she ever have any?
I’m afraid that this elected official is a sad example of a typical public official, at least here, in what we lovingly call Crook County. Of course, our elected officials are a reflection of our community. If we elect officials with no code of honor what does that say of our community? Is it any wonder that a police officer finds no respect on the street? Is it any wonder a crowd of people surround a couple of officers and take an arrestee away from them?
Until our elected officials are held to a higher standard and stop selling their soul to the highest bidder none of this will change. Until then keep your standards high. You know the right thing to do.
Stay safe everyone, run low and zigzag.
Robert Weisskopf (ret. Lt. CPD)
Note: You can find all of Robert Weisskopf’s previous articles from Law Enforcement Today at https://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/author/robertw332/