Countless reports on this website include stories of police officers refusing to enforce the law against family or colleagues when they have committed a crime. Sometimes the offense is a DUI, other times it is drug dealing. Covering up a crime is not only a rules violation but sometimes a crime in itself. Either way, it is police misconduct. Except, apparently, in Methuen, Massachusetts.
The Boston Globe reports that applicants to the Methuen police department were awarded points for saying they would not arrest a family member or fellow officer for DUI. When called to testify about the practice, the officers responsible for reviewing the applications were surprisingly forthcoming. According to the Globe:
“I’m looking for some bearing, some honesty, and how quickly the person can think on their feet,” Police Lieutenant Michael Pappalardo testified.
But Pappalardo also said he wouldn’t believe anyone who claimed they would arrest their family and friends. And when candidates said they wouldn’t arrest family or fellow officers, the hiring panel noted the person “knows discretion.”
While police officers are granted considerable discretion in how strictly to enforce the laws–such as issuing a verbal warning for speeding instead of issuing a ticket or putting someone in a cab who is drunk instead of booking them for public intoxication–favoritism is an ethical breach of that discretion. Such “professional courtesy” effectively insulates police officers and their families from the law. Put another way, favoritism places them above the law.
Unfortunately, the practice is quite common. The Globe story recounts the findings of a 2008 Civil Service Commission report:
“Every police officer who testified before the commission testified that the routine and customary practice when a stop is made on a fellow police officer, is to show professional courtesy and not call in the stop,” the report said.
Police officers should have more than “some” honesty to maintain the public trust. Read the whole thing here.