Departmental “Representation”, Where Is The Line?
It’s been portrayed in films and possibly observed firsthand by some reading this article.
An officer walks into a party or event, while not in uniform, and is introduced as “this is John, he’s a cop”.
In no other professions as it seems does this occurrence happen.
We are not told about Jim the banker or Sally the teacher unless it’s directly brought up. If these people can be disassociated with their employer when they are not actively working, why are officers not afford the same courteousness?
Officers are said to deal with stress daily, but what is not observed is the stress that is endured when they are not at work. This author is not talking about normal traffic and house hold stress that everyone deals with, no what is being talked about here is the stress of always being “switched on”.
This phrase is in refence to the constant state of awareness that officers are in be it they choose to be or not. But there is another stressor that is not seen that weighs heavy on every officers’ shoulders and that’s the fear of “making the department look bad”.
It seems that society will judge someone in a public service role harsher than others and in today’s social media age, try and get them fired for something that is deemed “wrong” by made up standards, this is an issue that plagues many officers without even knowing it.
Point in case, when speaking recently with a Detective of an unnamed agency, he stated that “officers should not be sexually promiscuous because it reflects badly on the department”.
At what point did those who sign up to be police officer give away all freedoms up to and including freedom of speech and or sexual activities?
It’s been seen in the recent years that officers are being chastised for speaking out against something they don’t agree with solely because they are officers. This is largely happening on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Society seems to believe that an officer is an officer 24/7 and while this may be in relation to crime prevention etc. this should not hold true in any other aspect. Unless a person is specifically stating “as an officer for the department of X, I believe” then said officer should not be punished for his/her believes and or activities.
This author is currently doing a research project set to be published later this year on the affects of stress and coping methods in law enforcement and what departments can possibly do to better assist officers whom are suffering from stress.
One of the things that should be looked at is loosening the reigns of officers when they are not actually working. Let people be people when not in uniform, now some may say that they must be held accountable 24/7 etc.
But given the chance, the majority of those who are law enforcement officers would still obey the law even when not being scrutinized outside of work.
By allowing people who work in law enforcement to “switch off” when they are not at work and not fear repercussions for something they say or do be it in person or online, that are within the limits of the law, this author believes that we as a society will see a shift in the current downward spiral that is law enforcement.
Giving these officers back their individualism and freedoms to make choices of speech and other action, again that are legal, may lead to assisting in stopping the mass exodus of officers.
The solution is simple, officers are people who are doing a job, nothing more, nothing less.
Departments need to realize this and back off when said officer is not working, if something happens that is not directly related to the department, then the department should not interfere.
Again, by allowing officers to be able to voice their opinions on something political or controversial outside of work as they see fit and not as an official representative of the department, the levels of stress observed may be alleviated even in the slightest, but that is still better than what we are currently seeing.
Guest post by Brandon Sheard
Bio: With over 13+ years of working within the criminal justice system, my expertise is rather large and varied ranging from a Detention Officer in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a Parole Officer primarily dealing with high risk sex offenders to my current position as a Federal Police Officer.
I’ve not only amassed a wealth of experience with hands-on practical’s, but I’ve also reached the peak of educational achievements in the form of degrees starting with my AS and BS in Criminal Justice to my Master’s in Administration of Criminal Justice and Security culminating with my Ph.D. in Criminal Justice / Justice Administration.