Originally published Nov. 7, 2015
The dominoes are falling around the reputation of deceased Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz. Was it murder or suicide? Was he a good guy that went bad, or did he spend thirty-years masquerading as a conqueror of evil? Were his exploits worthy of praise or simply to cover-up the trail of allegations that are mounting?
As the facts trickle out, many feel betrayed. “G.I. Joe” has morphed into “G.I. Joke.” Is this a nightmare for the law enforcement community? Did it symbolically cause a professional black eye for each one of us? Did Gliniewicz tarnish the badge that is worn by courageous men and women everywhere?
The most difficult year of my career was uncovering facts that were eerily similar. I had a partner, who was involved in many heroic events; embezzle funds from our police association. When this was discovered, he became suicidal. What was unknown during the subsequent criminal investigation, termination, and court proceedings involving his crime, was that my friend was also robbing banks on the way to work.
Eventually my partner lost his life in a shooting with the FBI. He made incredibly foolish choices trying to overcome weaknesses. There is no way to revisit these circumstances without experiencing pain.
But I learned indelible truths during this experience—certain facts that should encourage those involved in the Gliniewicz investigation.
1. Individuals cannot tarnish the badge, only their reputation. The shield represents us collectively, and the profession is incorruptible, because as a whole, we do not tolerate misconduct or criminal activity from within.
2. Those discovering the unflattering truth during the investigation should be hailed as the ultimate professionals. Investigators disclosing facts that are harmful to the positive image that most of us strive fervently to protect is driven by integrity and character, and for that I applaud them!
3. Cleansing the stain created by corruption will ultimately lead to regaining public trust.
4. The adage, “There is no right way to do the wrong thing,” is heard loud and clear during these events.
Since I didn’t personally know Gliniewicz, I cannot answer many of the rhetorical questions asked at the opening of this article. I know my friend who perished because of his own doing was a good guy who went bad. He created the ugly circumstances that ultimately cost him his life, and forced many into a predicament for which you cannot prepare.
But I was proud of the professionals that I worked with as we traversed the crisis, and I am supportive and pleased with the work being done in Illinois to discern the truth—regardless of the outcome. Law enforcement has competent people, doing incredible work, while maintaining public order and trust—even if it requires painfully disclosing that one of our own was not a hero, but humanly flawed, and Dancing with the Devil.
Jim is the author of The Spirit behind Badge 145. He worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-seven years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations. Jim is married and has three adult children and three grandchildren. You can contact him at [email protected] or view his website www.badge145.com. It is geared toward encouraging officers.