One of the news stories in the world of sports this week is the report that NFL players are unwilling to cooperate with the league regarding allegations of performance enhancing drug (PED) use as reported in Al-Jazeera. Four players have been given a deadline of August 26 to comply with demands to be interviewed, or face discipline. Thus far, they have balked, and some reporters are further encouraging them to do so.
I should note the original source of the PED allegation has recanted his claim. But that is not the purpose of this article. I simply want to say, “Welcome to our world.”
Peace officers are legally compelled to submit to the interview process under the threat of termination due to insubordination. I know the process well as I conducted Internal Affair investigations at my agency in Orange County, California for years. I do not want to convolute this article with legalities and case law, but trust me, they are present at both the state and federal level. A peace officer cannot refuse the administrative interview process if he or she wishes to remain employed; even when the allegation involves the elements of a crime.
The scope of the interview is limited to the internal investigation unless they waive their Fifth Amendment rights, but they are compelled to comply or face punishment up to, and including termination.
The purpose of this piece is to highlight the hypocrisy related to public demands. Since the individual recanted his allegation of PED use by NFL players, I think most people believe the league should shelve the inquiry. I am not disagreeing with them, yet we are not privy to the confidential details so I really cannot come to an informed conclusion.
Nevertheless, public agencies field serious allegations of misconduct involving officers every day that are without merit. They are made by vengeful and vexatious people looking to draw a pound of flesh out of cops. And we are legally required to handle the ire of each one with legitimacy.
Compelling an officer to submit to an interview when the allegations are so overwhelmingly filled with deception and lies is quite stressful for the employee. It is also a time consuming process, and one that sucked the joy of police work out of me, even though I believe in pursuing dirty cops and corruption aggressively. The problem is most peace officers do not tarnish the badge, and the majority of these investigations are unfounded.
While I believe the NFL has an obligation in due diligence, I simply wondered if the same reporters advocating non-compliance on the part of football players would be as supportive of cops in the same position? Of course not, what was I thinking?
Jim McNeff worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the United States Air Force 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 Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) course, Leadership in Police Organizations.
Jim authored The Spirit behind Badge 145 (WestBow Press, 2013) and Justice Revealed (CrossLink Publishing, 2016). He is married and has three adult children and three grandchildren. You can contact him at[email protected] or view his website www.badge145.com.