© 2009 Chuck Klein

Published 12 Oct 09 in Law Officer News:, read more

The term "Be Safe" or "Stay Safe," as a closing comment or sign-off, has become ubiquitous. Officers use it among themselves, trainers finalize sessions with it and police columnists end their writings with this same line. Not that this is wrong or not good. To the contrary, looking out for the well being of fellow officers is one of the requisites of being a police officer.

Wishing one to be safe can also apply to other professions as well. We surely hope all firefighters, truck drivers and pilots conduct their details in a safe manner.

There are very few livelihoods where "safe" is secondary to the profession. Law enforcement is one of those where ethical being trumps safety. Police officers, by their every nature, are charged with not only putting themselves in harms way for the physical protection of society, but must be the stalwart, the guiding beacon of honesty and integrity - the last line of defense against violence as well and moral decay. Should an officer lose his or her moral compass, all who witness - or learn - of his lack of ethics, will begin the breakdown of society.

The story has often been told of the Jewish boy who is punished for using the dairy towel to dry the non-dairy dishes. When he questions his father about such an archaic law, the elder explains that the dietary laws have always been in effect and if you break one law and allow it to go unpunished, all of society begins to break down. It is difficult to argue with this reasoning as the Jews have been around for almost 6000 years.

We have often heard the line, when relating to American police officers, "our country's last line of defense." This has usually been in reference to physically standing guard against enemies' intent on committing violence. A truer meaning has not been tendered. But, seldom espoused is the underlying definition of the American police officer - he and she stand for the epitome of civilized society. America's very existence depends upon the rigid blue line never wavering in the face of outrageous criminal conduct, civil riots or political trickery run amok.

The American Police Officer: A balance of benevolence to the community with enforcement of the law, in concert to the Constitution, all the while adhering to highest moral and ethical ideals.

However, when it comes to wishing the best for our guardians of the future, there might be a better term we can use: "Stay Ethical." Here, the speaker is not only acknowledging the audience is already ethical, but is THE BADGEencouraging/reminding them to continue to place ethics in the forefront of their world. USA police officers are the envy of the world and it's not because they are safe. It is due to their professionalism, a qualification that generates, exudes and is based on a high ethical and moral standard.

Ethics - ethical behavior - is defined as a set, or system of, moral values and principles that are based on honesty and integrity and have been accepted as professional standards. To a cop that means, no lying, no cheating, no stealing - no exceptions, no excuses.

It is surely every LEO's daily practice to live safely, to protect and serve, to stand beside and back-up fellow officers and . . . to always do the right thing. Safety is mostly a matter of practicing rules of common sense. There is little temptation to violate safety procedures. Not so, ethical matters.

Temptations abound to subvert those of power to commit lapses in discretion for the gains of favor.

THE BADGEPolice officers are in the business of ethical behavior. This is their stock-in-trade, forte', signature, persona, identification and what differentiates them from other professions. When one police officer violates this trust, this code of honesty, all are tarnished. Adherence to, or practice of, any voids-of-integrity is counter to the code of ethics that is part of each officer's sworn duty - his existence for being.

Law enforcement trainers find it most difficult to teach common sense, likewise ethical behavior. All LEO instructors can and should set the moral example while always being on the lookout for those badge wearers who might be subject to temptations.

Next time you sign-off with a fellow officer, consider acknowledging the exclusivity that this LEO is an honest, trustworthy person and that you wish him/her to remain so.

Stay Ethical,