I have been married to my beautiful wife, Sara Jane, since 1970. We survived a 30-year career in law enforcement and have wonderful grandkids. But not all police families have been as lucky. I wrote a book about cops and ethics titled “Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence” where I talk about the pitfalls and traps that await everyone going into law enforcement.
Based on my experience in law enforcement and drawing on the basic message of my book I teach cops to intervene when they see another officer doing something illegal or unethical. I don’t ask them to be “rats” and I understand completely when they tell me that sometimes intervening will cost them more than they, or their family, are willing to pay. I get that. I’ve been there too.
I also know that telling cops to intervene because it will save their job and keep them out of prison is an easy sell, but it is also pretty sterile. I want to produce a documentary of families of cops who have done time and/or lost their jobs because of conduct they regret or because they failed to intervene in the misconduct of other cops.
I want to use the videos to sell the idea that misconduct is not just about the cop; it is about his/her family. In my classes I ask cops to take a loyalty oath to each other that reads like this:
I promise that I will always have the courage to stand by you and for you.
I promise that I will never allow, through action or inaction, any act that dishonors you, your family, or the badge.
I ask only that you do the same for me.
It is a powerful oath when taken in front of other officers. I believe that it can be even more powerful if it is taken in front of and with family. In lieu of having family present at the training I believe that video interviews of the damage done to good families by the ethical lapses that we are all subject to will strengthen the training immeasurably and save careers and families.
Ethics training is not popular in police circles and when I hear officers say that they don’t intervene in the misconduct of other officers I ask these questions:
Tell me what you are going to say to that officer’s spouse and family when they lose their job or go to prison, or worse, for doing something you could have and should have stopped?
Are you going to tell them you were afraid to intervene?
Are you going to tell that officer’s children you were not responsible for their mom or dad’s conduct?
Are you going to deny your responsibility for their survival?
If you or someone you know is willing to be interviewed on camera as part of this important project, please contact me.
Michael W Quinn
International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau, LLP
4829 Vincent Ave So, #1
Minneapolis, MN 55410