September 29, 2011

When you tarnish one badge, you tarnish them all



Nothing infuriates me more than a police officer who abuses their authority. Whether it be an overt action of excessive force or a seemingly minor compromising of one’s moral compass, there is no room in this profession for those who use their position of authority with dishonorable intention.

Take for instance, an off duty Chicago police officer who was on her way to work and running late when she was deterred in traffic by a funeral procession. Clearly impatient and agitated, she began weaving in and out of the line of mourners’ vehicles. Debra Green was one of those mourners in the procession for her deceased sister. She yelled out to the rude driver and pointed to the funeral procession flag to put her on notice.

We’ve all been in the unfortunate position of being late when an obstacle presents itself. When I’m running behind schedule, I’m convinced that the traffic lights conspire against me in perfect harmony to redden themselves on my approach. This is masterly choreographed the entire length of my commute. The days I’m stuck awaiting a train are notoriously when I need to be on the other side of the tracks.

Since I’m a naturally impatient person, I’m always in a hurry even when I’ve nowhere to go. I’m also guilty of letting out a groan of annoyance when I approach an intersection to see that I will be delayed by a funeral procession. However, in that circumstance, I’m able to snap out of my own selfish need to continue moving and put things into perspective. I remind myself to be grateful that I’m not in the procession mourning a loss, or the one for which everyone is gathered. This is why I was so annoyed by the actions of the off-duty officer. But the story gets better.

After Debra Green yelled out to the rude driver, the police officer radioed for assistance saying that Green threw a bottle at her vehicle which went through an open window and hit her in the face. Green was detained by the police and subsequently charged with battery which resulted in missing her sister’s burial.

Investigators from the Independent Police Review Authority discovered that a Chicago Police blue-light camera had captured the incident. The footage revealed that the officer’s account of the episode was skewed. Her windows were rolled up when she alleged that a bottle came barreling through. This was uncovered after the officer had already lied on the witness stand in her testimony against Debra Green.

To be clear, I am well aware that there may be some missing data from this incident for which I am not privy. I don’t have documentation of the court transcript, the police report or the subsequent internal investigation and I have learned over the years that there are three sides to every story: one side, the other side and the truth. But I do know that the charges were dropped against Debra Green and the police officer has since resigned from the Chicago Police Department and has been charged with felony perjury awaiting a hearing.

I’m wondering if this officer has had a chance to reflect on the circumstances in which she finds herself. I empathize with that panicked feeling of being late to work but I’m so disturbed by the tangled web of lies that were spun so she could justify her actions. Had she been late to work, she may have incurred some minor discipline and the story would end there. Because she was a police officer, she was able to use her position of authority to manipulate a situation for her own benefit. She did so at the expense of her career and the expense of the rest of the law enforcement officers who practice nobility and upstanding character both on the job and in their personal lives.

When you tarnish one badge, you tarnish them all.

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