Kevin Grell | Contributing Writer
There are certain things each of us know that we can’t do at work if we wish to keep our jobs. During a disagreement, food service workers can’t spit in customer’s food; nurses can’t strike patients; and police officers can’t fire their weapons in the air. Sounds simple and logical enough, right? Unfortunately, one of FIU’s very own police officers is being accused of violating this principle. During a disagreement during a training exercise last Friday, an FIU police officer fired “at least 5 shots” into the air and has since been temporarily removed from duty pending an investigation. I’m sure dozens of people will say that this officer is a good person who does fine police work- and he very well may be- but this transgression is quite frightening. Not only did he risk the lives of his colleagues around him, but he also undermined the faith and trust that citizens place in police officers’ hands.
Unfortunately, this story is just another example of alleged misconduct that’s seemingly plaguing local law enforcement. Early Sunday morning, the first four links on a Google News search for “Miami police officer” yielded the following headlines: “Miami police officer arrested for assisting drug traffickers,” “FIU officer loses temper, fires gun inside police facility,” “Miami Beach cop curses at man for saying ‘God bless you’,” “Miami police investigating officer over [illegal] arrest quotas” .
This issue is multifaceted, and no single policy change can completely solve the issue. But, surely, as a community we can quell the epidemic of alleged misconduct through a joint public policy, departmental, and individual effort. From a policy standpoint, it seems odd that investigations against police officers are often led by other officers who are part of internal affairs divisions. In any other field, this would be an obvious conflict of interest- why not here? An impartial committee of community leaders could certainly fulfil the role of holding our officers accountable to the moral and ethical standards of our communities. From a departmental standpoint, officers should have 24 hours-per-day access to licensed psychologists and ethicists in order to talk about stress and situations that they face on a daily basis. And most importantly, from an individual standpoint, officers need to continually think about their actions and the actions of their colleagues and to work to align these actions with the values that they swore to uphold.
Police officers are citizens first; they are bound by the law just like you and I are. But, I implore that they aim to surpass this mark. Police officers should be the bearers of our moral compasses- the stalwarts who children look up to and aspire to be. When a keeper of the peace can’t keep his own peace, it’s a sad day for all of us. As long as we- police officers, citizens, and politicians- continue to downplay and sidestep the issue, there will be many more instances of misconduct and many more sad days for all of us.