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For The Greater Good

March 26, 2009

You may have seen this next trait in the movies or even on TV crime shows. Sure that might make you laugh, but in “real cop life on the job”, the principle of the greater good is operative. Knowing that, would you be able to say you could follow that principle? Would you take the risk of going against a lesser rule to achieve something higher?

This is another one of those “Oh boy, I hope I never get into that kind of situation,” situations. Really, what the examiners want to know from you is if you demonstrate the ability to turn a blind eye to minor crimes or the infraction of lesser rules if there is a larger principle at stake. Are you able to take that risk and “go for it” for the overall greatest good? It may mean breaking a lesser law or procedure, but things will ultimately turn out fine because there was something else worth a lot more at stake.

Let’s try a quick example here: you arrest a drug dealer who has been hanging around the high school peddling drugs, but during the course of questioning her, she says her contact is a well-known higher up in the Mayor’s office. She says she will help you get him arrested. At this point, the higher good would be to go after the well-known drug contact and allow the smaller fish to swim after providing help. Could you do that?

Since we’re using examples, here is another one for a different scenario. You are ordered by your commanding officer to take some case evidence out of the drug locker because he needs to inspect it. You know that it is not his case. Do you go along with him and do what he says and then later say: “I was just following orders,” or do you stand up and say something? You know this would be a serious error in judgment on your part as well as his. Will you risk censure by your peers to take a stand and do the right thing  – refuse to get the evidence and tell the officer whose case it is?

Sometimes being a cop is not an easy job, is it? You may never find yourself in that kind of a situation – ever – but you need to know what you would do if you were faced with something like that, and so do your examiners. Like “Doctor, heal thyself,” think “Recruit, know thyself.”

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