Law Enforcement

Opinion: One piece of recommendation for regulation enforcement after Tampa Police Chief’s resignation

Editor’s Word: Sonia Pruitt is a retired Montgomery County, Maryland, police captain. She is the founding father of The Black Police Expertise, which promotes the schooling of the intersection of regulation enforcement and the Black group. She can be a professor of prison justice at Howard College in Washington, DC, and at Montgomery School in Maryland. The opinions expressed on this commentary are her personal. Learn extra opinion at CNN.


It was an unusual visitors cease, the sort that often ends with a regulation enforcement officer giving a driver a quotation or perhaps a verbal warning. However what ought to have been an on a regular basis visitors cease turned an train in questionable ethics in police conduct.

Opinion: One piece of recommendation for regulation enforcement after Tampa Police Chief’s resignation

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor was a passenger within the golf cart pushed by her husband when it was pulled over by a Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy in Oldsmar, Florida final month as a result of the cart didn’t have a license plate, in keeping with footage from the sheriff’s workplace.

The deputy’s bodycam footage confirmed O’Connor asserting that she was the chief of the Tampa Police Division and flashing her badge, saying “I’m hoping you’ll simply allow us to go tonight.”

And on the finish of the November 12 encounter, which lasted a number of minutes, O’Connor handed the deputy her enterprise card, telling him, “If you happen to ever want something, name me. Significantly.”

This week, O’Connor was positioned on administrative depart pending an inside investigation by the Tampa Police, which discovered that she had violated the division’s commonplace of conduct with regard to “abuse of place or identification.”

After the bodycam video of the encounter went viral and because the story made nationwide headlines, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor requested O’Connor’s resignation, which the now-former police chief tendered this week.

In my expertise, it isn’t uncommon for officers who’re stopped for visitors violations to establish themselves as regulation enforcement; it’s truly a standard a part of police tradition. It’s a solution to make a reference to others in the identical career, even when one of many events is the topic of the visitors cease.

Figuring out oneself as a regulation enforcement officer is just not inherently improper in such a state of affairs. In truth, a great deal of networking and trustworthy relationship-building takes place throughout visitors stops.

For a lot of officers, it’s an anticipated type of skilled courtesy that one officer acknowledges the fraternal relationship. It’s not unusual for an officer stopped for a visitors violation to be despatched on their means with nothing however a pleasant wave. It’s an act of grace by the officer initiating the visitors cease – the identical kind of kindness officers steadily prolong to members of the general public.

However when a member of regulation enforcement pulls rank to realize that leniency – that’s an moral breach.

Law enforcement officials swear an oath of workplace upon entry into the career, as ethics is a topic of immense significance. The Legislation Enforcement Code of Ethics, adopted in 1957 by the Worldwide Affiliation of Chiefs of Police, highlights the ethical and elementary obligations of a police officer, similar to responsibility to guard and serve, adherence to constitutional necessities, integrity and behaving honorably and serving with out bias. This code offers a template for regulation enforcement conduct.

Whereas the concept of police reform has publicly ebbed and flowed all through the years, with factors in historical past to bookmark contentious durations – such because the demise of George Floyd – police misconduct is no doubt a continuing thread within the dialog. There’s a name from the general public for brand new coaching, coverage and different accountability measures surrounding moral habits {and professional} requirements of conduct.

It’s uncommon to listen to of an officer being dismissed – or resigning – as a result of they flashed their badge to keep away from receiving a visitors ticket. The mayor stated O’Connor was requested to resign as a result of because the chief of the division, she units the instance. It’s practically not possible for a pacesetter to carry accountable the officers they’re main if they’re themselves concerned in misconduct, nonetheless minor the infraction.

Questions have been raised as as to if the punishment meted out on this case was harsher than what male officers who’ve equally transgressed obtain. As a retired feminine police captain, I can affirm that sexism is unfortunately a attribute of policing tradition. Ladies aren’t at all times handled with fairness – not when it comes to reward or when it comes to punishment – in regulation enforcement businesses.

None of that adjustments that on this case, a violation of police requirements occurred, and have to be answered for. In failing to guide by instance, O’Connor abused her authority.

Moral police habits is a important piece of the material of public security in America, important in establishing belief with the group and effectivity inside policing. The incident with former police chief O’Connor ought to be a reminder to regulation enforcement that the general public is watching, and that there’s now larger scrutiny of police actions which officers have taken as a right for a lot of many years previous.

On this time of persistent requires police reform and accountability, I’ve only one piece of recommendation for regulation enforcement discovering themselves in an identical state of affairs: Simply take the ticket.

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