Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just the fax, my friend

Where does it end?

The mail keeps coming; the emails keep coming; the faxes, the phone calls. Well, I don't want it to end. Wait! There is a place I'd like for it to end. I'd like the abuses, the lies, the targeting of County residents to stop.

If deputies are ordered to do something (or not to do something), they'd better do it (or not do it). It's called "following orders." What's the penalty if they don't? The lightest penalty might be a duty re-assignment; something akin, perhaps, to the midnight shift at the Chicago Stockyards, except we don't have the stockyards in McHenry County. The harshest penalty? How about termination "for cause"? The cause? Insubordination. Failing to follow direct orders of a superior. (I've had a little personal experience with termination "for cause", after I refused to sign a consent form that a past employer was demanding that I sign. A year later a Federal law was passed, preventing employers from demanding that which I had refused.) Back to a local situation.

No matter that the orders never should have been given in the first place! The "something" I'm talking about the something that is wrong, improper, illegal or unethical.

Let's say that some senior deputy - one with authority - had a personal grudge against a neighbor. Is it the proper use of his law enforcement authority to order his subordinates (let's say, patrol deputies) to "sit on" that person and watch his every move until he commits some violation and then pounce on him? What if the deputy so ordered must abandon his other duties to follow that order by devoting hours to parking in the neighborhood and waiting for a minor violation to occur?

I remember a couple of nice cops in downtown Denver who wanted to ticket the luxury cars of political big wigs that were parked on the sidewalk and in the no parking zone in front of a well-known eatery just off Larimer Square. I heard them say to the dispatcher over the police radio one night, "We can't ticket those cars. The captain told us not to ticket them." Now that just about got them the "stockyards" assignment in Denver, and Denver did have a stockyards! After persistence on my part (and that was back in 1981), they told me that they could ticket those cars, but only if I called first. So I called every night.

Were the tickets just dumped in the trash? I doubt they ever got paid. But at least they got written.

But back to the topic. What can a deputy do after he is ordered to do something that he knows is wrong? What if he likes his job? What if he needs his job? What if he just wants to do the job that he was hired to do? You know, enforce the laws of the County, the State, the USA. Fairly and impartially. To protect and to serve (the public, that is).

The deputy given such orders has little choice, whereas he should have every choice. He should be able to take his complaint about such orders up the food chain at the department and be heard. Without fear of retaliation. Without wondering whether he'll become the next Serpico and get hung out to dry on a difficult call.

OK, deputies, tell me what your real choices are?

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