In a profession like ours, it seems there are certain things that do not need to be said. There are certain expectations of conduct that should be displayed, regardless of whether we are on or off duty. It seems lately there have been numerous examples nationwide of police officers conducting themselves in a way that brings discredit to our profession and us as individual officers. Phoenix is no exception. In recent months, patterns of conduct have emerged that have led me to question some people’s motivations on becoming a police officer.
Throughout my career, instances of police misconduct have surfaced. We are a profession of human beings interacting with other human beings. Every profession, ours included, contains a small percentage of folks who enter their careers with less-than-honorable intentions. I like to believe that with the extensive hiring practices we have in place, our profession has less opportunity to have certain folks successfully complete the hiring process and begin working among us.
I would encourage all of us to remember why we became police officers and to hold ourselves to a standard of conduct, on and off duty.
The problem is when someone with whom we work commits acts of serious misconduct, especially allegations that rise to the level of violations of moral turpitude, it becomes the lead story and front-page news. The public does not expect the police officers who serve their communities to be capable of such depravity. When these cases come to light, we are all painted with the same broad brush. As much as I despise that, I can understand it. Lately, it seems that we are constantly playing defense because another example of serious misconduct arises.
Police departments nationwide are struggling to hire and retain officers. The pool of candidates seems to be dwindling. The unfortunate consequence to this is having to lower the standards to the baseline of what the certifying agencies set (in our case, AZPOST). When I was hired, the standards of the Phoenix Police Department were much higher than those set by the Arizona Law Enforcement Officer Advisory Council (ALEOAC), now AZPOST. Phoenix P.D. prided itself on having set higher standards, which in turn led to only the most qualified applicants being hired. I believe we, as an organization, still hire only the most qualified to serve as Phoenix police officers. What is becoming more regular is the ability for some of these candidates to conceal their checkered, sketchy behavior. The obvious background investigations cannot determine what is actually in a person’s heart.
Moving forward, I am concerned that the goal of hiring the most qualified is giving way to the goal of hiring a set number. When you set your sights on a number, sometimes the quality is compromised. As in most scenarios, quality trumps quantity every time. Eliminating some of the more basic testing processes does not help with the quality column. I would encourage not only our Department, but departments from around the country, to get back on track with the full range of testing processes so that we can continue to hire the most qualified to reduce the instances of being painted with a broad brush.
I would encourage all of us to remember why we became police officers and to hold ourselves to a standard of conduct, on and off duty, so we don’t become the reason an entire profession is painted with a broad brush. Constantly guard your words and actions.