We must continue to honor the social contract between police and citizens: Tom Wetzel and Denise DeBiase

Bizar Male

Guest columnists Tom Wetzel and Denise DeBiase are certified law enforcement executives with close to 60 years of combined police experience.

One of the most important lessons police officers learn involves ethics. It is a critical theme reinforced throughout our careers in various forms of training, encouragement and direction. It is a pillar within our honored profession and guides us in our daily decision-making.

Ethics are described as moral principles that control a person’s behavior. That brings up some thought-provoking questions: What if, from an early age, children are taught that rule-breaking, lying and cheating are acceptable competitive options? What if high-achieving children learn early on that some rules are unfair or unjust and that they can make their own if they want to? What if our secular value system makes rule-breaking a part of daily life?

Many people’s responses to the above questions may surprise you, since the answer for each appears to be “OK” nowadays. But that may elicit some shock from a lot of us, because as a society we are supposed to be governed by rules so that chaos is held at bay.

The questions are an excerpt from a book written by Tony Kern titled “Going Pro.” The book discusses how people can step up their professionalism in every aspect of life.

In the case of police officers, their own professionalism and ethics help determine most outcomes of daily encounters. But a lot also depends on the ethics of the people that officers deal with. It is all tied into our “social contract,” which involves voluntary compliance.

Officers rely upon their ethics to do the right thing at each moment. It is something that we, like everyone, should have learned at an early age: the difference between right and wrong.

As we face challenging times, the rule of law on which our nation is built has never been more important. Our public servant guardians who will continue to risk their personal safety and very lives to keep our neighborhoods safe and enforce our laws will depend on the support of the society that has tasked them to do so.

As Sir Robert Peel, a pioneer of modern policing, once said, “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

“Community welfare and existence” (another way of saying safe communities where people can live and thrive) depend on everyone’s effort to include their support of those who are “paid to give full attention” to that mission.

Those paid guardians who work hard to earn your trust each and every tour of duty deserve that support now more than ever. One vital way to help provide that is through a deep appreciation of the importance of ethical behavior, including reinforcing its value to our children, as well as a continued respect for the rule of law.

Readers are invited to submit Opinion page essays on topics of regional or general interest. Send your 500-word essay for consideration to Ann Norman at [email protected]. Essays must include a brief bio and headshot of the writer. Essays rebutting today’s topics are also welcome.

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