We'll try again .... Actually, I provided a range of oaths because they vary from state to state. The Colorado oath, for instance, is fairly basic. The ISP oath asserts that the cadet should adopt "unimpeachable behavior". The Florida code of ethics goes so far as to explicitly state that the officer will keep private life unsullied, while the oath of office declares that the he or she will perform their duties fearlessly. These ideas pertain to the public myth about the police. This kind of service is what motivates such statements as included in the topic post, the proposition that "all cops are to be respected". In another topic you're familiar with, one of our fellows asserted that being a cop was a mitigating factor in assessing culpability because it "generally shows what kind of character you are when you are willing to risk your life for others". Where do these ideas come from? Whence comes this public myth? What you're looking past in favor of your obsession is a simple concept. The myth arises from unfair expectation on the part of the people. A simple concept, indeed, but one that seems to be wrong. It would appear that the people do have the right to expect certain extraordinary standards of the police. And many people perceive that many police departments fail to meet those standards. But what are those standards? Is the public myth fair in its assignations? If not, from what should the standards be derived? Should we build the standards solely around the oath? What about the authority placed in the hands of the police, both collectively and individually? Should police officers be entitled to extraordinary protection under the law? (This would make them "above the law" in relation to the U.S. Constitution.) It's not a matter of what one officer does wrong. What is important is that, in the case of the WTO '99 deputy, the Sheriff's department cannot reassure the people that such behavior will not occur again. In the case of SPD officers beating a man in a wheelchair and planting evidence, the Chief of Police made it clear through his behavior that his officers ought to have carte blanche to do what they wish. These are things that the people ought to be worried about. The people need not let the actions of one officer stain an entire department when the department is willing to do the staining for them. Literally, riot police can run amuck in Seattle, and there's nothing to be done about it. The Chief of Police has made it clear that planting evidence, beating suspects in wheelchairs, and filing false incident reports are commendable behavior for cops. It only takes a few to undermine public confidence. Third-world corruption in our police departments is worrisome. If they're tasering people for convenience, it needs to stop. If the evidence they provide is tainted, they have failed to do their job. You know, the idea of signing off on equipment testing that has not been done doesn't seem either far-fetched or tremendously difficult. But when it's the equipment used to construe evidence against suspects--e.g., breathalyzers--that little lie affects hundreds of convictions. And when the potential wrongful convictions reach a systemic proportion, the people are supposed to be concerned. You don't get to write off such concerns as petty hatred. You don't get to give the police a break because of their service to the community. In such cases, their badges don't mitigate culpability, but augment it. In the case of the autistic teen, deputies either tased him because he was in danger or because he posed a danger to the cops. The department has been unclear about that. (1, 2) Consider two comments from the LATimes.com coverage of the story: The first asks some vital questions. The second makes the obvious point. The first asks the questions that demand the split-second decisions referred to in the second. Now, here's the thing, Max: law enforcement personnel ask for the job, and thus accept the expectation of assuming risk. Transferring risk to a mentally-ill teenager in order to reduce risk to oneself does not rise to meet the obligations a sheriff's deputy invites when applying for the job. Because of the public myth about what police officers are supposed to be, the split-second decision should not be settled by deferring to self-preservation above all else. Now then: Is this expectation fair? Is it fair to hold the police accountable according to such an expectation? Is it fair that the expectation should mitigate their culpability in unrelated matters? • • • Max, in your zeal you've overlooked the central issue, the role of the police in society. Now, I recognize that your holy crusade requires you to regard things like rocks and pencils as functional equivalents to devices designed specifically to kill human beings, but you need to put all that aside for a moment. In Oklahoma, some people think it is unfair to hold the police accountable for shooting a five year-old boy specifically because they are the police. Others would hold that the officers involved have been extraordinarily stupid; when asking to be a police officer, you're asking to be obliged to conduct yourself better than the average citizen. In the case of a Wyoming accident, some have asserted that the fact of military service in and of itself is a mitigating factor in assessing culpability, and for the same reasons have extended that mitigating influence to the police. So goes the argument, accepting certain extraordinary obligations speaks well of character, and thus makes it harder to believe that the accidental death was in fact deliberately effected. These arguments orbit a certain focal point, which is the public myth of the police. Because if we are to give the police certain credit, they owe the public something in return. Don't make contradictory excuses that make you sound like you're bullshitting the people (e.g. tasering an autistic teen); for heaven's sake, when you have the luxury of knowing what you're shooting at, take the opportunity to find out as much as you can; if the guy is guilty, why plant evidence, beat him, and file a false incident report? And of this last, if this is honorable conduct among a city's police department, what the hell are the people supposed to think? Now, if the role of the police reflects something similar to the public myth, there is a serious discussion to be had about what that myth equals. If the role of the police is to be donut-packing, lethally-armed yahoos no brighter than the next criminally-stupid idiot, we just might have a problem. If the role of the police is to serve the public by taking no risks except by accident--e.g., If having the suspect run into traffic is dangerous, how is incapacitating the suspect in traffic any safer? If it's dangerous to chase the suspect into traffic, is it any less dangerous to retrieve an incapacitated suspect from traffic?--how can they really serve the community? Consider one we hear from time to time: Police back off a high-speed chase because it becomes dangerous. Well, who is it dangerous for? It is dangerous for the community at large. Indeed, it is dangerous for the police, as well, but that danger is part of their job. Another part of their job is protecting public safety. So it's better, in many cases, to simply back off. If a cop rolls his car in a high-speed chase and gets hurt, that's part of the job. If a cop loses control and plows through a crowd of pedestrians, that's a really bad mistake. Wouldn't it be silly, then, if it turns out the myth is unfair? Wouldn't it just be ridiculous that police let suspects get away for no good reason? That they deferred to public safety when that wasn't their job? How tragic would it be that an arrest was delayed by hours or maybe a couple of days because the cops erroneously believed they shouldn't put large numbers of civilians at risk? Here, let's try two questions that are easier to ask than to answer: • When is it a police officer's job to kill someone? • When is it a police officer's job to die?