According to Jack Reacher, a fictional military police investigator in the movies, “There are three things cops never do, they don’t vote democratic, they don’t drive Cadillac’s and they never use personal vehicles.”
When the police property officer shrugs in acknowledgment, Reacher’s partner says, “Ok, so we’re not looking for a cop”.
Do cops vote democrat? Of course they do. They also vote republican, independent or sometimes not at all. Cops have political thoughts, beliefs, and opinions, and in today’s age of massive social media and web outlets, it’s become a real battle and challenge not to voice our opinions or our beliefs or political thoughts.
There is a gray area that, unfortunately, has seen its share of national attention over the past few years concerning the law, the Bill of Rights and the United States of America’s Constitution when it comes to voicing one's opinion.
This Monday's 'Behind The Badge' by Al Hobbs is brought to you in part by the Spooner Police Foundation
Law enforcement officers hold a sworn government position that carries its own set of policies, procedures, and rules of not giving any appearance of a perceived basis. This is a United States federal law that governs political activity by members of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, of which law enforcement is a part.
Even posting on social media in a manner that ‘appears’ as if you are representing the agency such as photos in uniform, or statement made while on duty at the ABC law enforcement department. Indirectly, anything you post can and will be used against you should some unfortunate incident occur.
There are several nationally known incidents where an officer was involved in a use of force incident and during Internal Affairs or the U.S. Attorney General’s office, FBI, etc., has introduced prior posting the comments and opinions made by the officer up to years prior.
It’s a frustrating feeling because we all want to voice our opinions. We all want to support causes we believe in and negatively comment on ones we don’t. But who ends up protecting both sides of an issue when things get ugly, who has rocks, bottles and the like hurled at them in anger, law enforcement.
In 2016 Dallas, Texas police officers were killed by a shooter while protecting a peaceful protest by a well-known and nationally reported group. Unfortunately, the protest was against the police and police activity and these same officers were there protecting the protestor’s right to protest. In this case, it’s important to note that the shooters were not associated with the protesting group, who remained peaceful.
This opens the question to law enforcement everywhere, how many are willing to keep risking their own lives to protect those with whom they don’t agree, maybe even personally do not like and definitely don’t share a similar opinion and are not even allowed to share their opinions on the matter?
So how do the members of law enforcement quench the desire to verbally unload and lash out? Each officer is different; some create pseudonym social media accounts in which to post messages or voice opinions, others simply keep completely separate personal and work-related social media accounts. Others just keep their mouths shut and step away from the keyboards when the mood turns ugly.
For me, I look at this problem as if it were a police vehicle pursuit or chasing an offender on foot with a gun and using that gun to shoot at you. The bad guys have all the advantages in these situations.
They don‘t worry or most times even give a thought to innocent people who may be hurt or killed by their actions.
They don’t worry about the accidents they’ve caused during the vehicle pursuit or the people who may be hit by their bullets.
They dive headlong around corners and floor it through intersections, all of this while the officer must consider not only all of these concerns for the public’s safety but so much more.
Things like police policy and procedure, the law, approval to chase, the original reason for the intended traffic stop, the time of day, the traffic conditions; not to mention how this will play out in legal court or in the court of public opinion if something goes sideways, not to forget possible serious personal injuries.
Because I am, as many other officers are, men of faith, I’m reminded of the Bible verse in 2 Timothy 2:4 that states, “No one engaged in warfare entangle himself with the affairs of this life that he may please Him who enlisted him as a soldier.” I take that to mean, do my job professionally and to the best of my ability, including off-duty conduct, and not get wrapped up in the current chaos swirling around.
As a citizen, I have the same right as every other citizen of this country, including free speech. But on-duty or off-duty, as an officer, I have to remind myself constantly to remain calm when online and know when to step away from the keyboard.
Maybe that’s not bad advice for everyone to consider.
Al Hobbs is a Law Enforcement Correspondent for DrydenWire and writes on a wide-range of topics on Law Enforcement but focuses mostly on the human element of being a cop in his weekly segment titled: "Behind The Badge". Al brings a unique writing style that allows him to connect with his readers. You can read his introduction to DrydenWire here.
Al is a retired police detective from the metro Chicago area. He has been a Law Enforcement Officer at the City, County, State and Federal level in excess of 35 years. His career has taken him all over the nation and the world. Al has been involved in all aspects of criminal investigation as well as general police duties. He is once again on the street as an active LEO for a North Shore community, just North of Chicago in Illinois.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DrydenWire.com.