I’m going to start out by saying a lot of my friends work in law enforcement, at all levels of government: local, state and federal. Naturally, because they are my buddies, I’m tempted to say publicly that none of them have let their badge go do their head and all have maintained a sense of humility while working their respective beat.
But privately, in a conversation amongst ourselves or amongst friends who are not in law enforcement, the consensus is that the badge does have an effect on their personality. Not always in dramatic ways and not always in negative ways, but it does have a transformative effect. Generally speaking, I would say that becoming a member of law enforcement has made them more confident, more brazen and, perhaps, as a result, more fearless and reckless. A couple examples that are a bit oversimplified to make the point:
My shy, socially introverted friend who got anxious in large groups now has a command presence that would turn the head of even the most apathetic and disengaged hipster. He gives an order, people listen (unless they’re so drugged up or incapacitated that the only way to get them to follow an order is by force). When he shakes your hand he looks you in the eyes, and no longer at the ground. He is confident. And in this case, becoming an officer of the law has done wonders to bring him out of his shell.
My other friend never had a problem with confidence. He was a star athlete in high school, a socialite, an all-around good guy. Yet when he became a cop, he started to act in ways that he hadn’t in the past. He became reckless. He started cheating on his girlfriend. He would drink excessively and then drive home. He would start fights when we went out to bars. In this case, the badge gave him a sense of entitlement and invincibility that made him behave in ways that he otherwise wouldn’t have.
Now to suggest in either case that the change in their personalities was solely due to the fact that they put on a uniform is a bit naive. There are many reasons why people change, and sometimes it’s for reasons that are tough to pin down or articulate. However, I don’t think even they’d argue that becoming a cop — the training, the brotherhood, the on the job experience — had a profound impact on them, and that it has manifested in some of their behaviors.
Okay, I’m going to break from discussing my friends and personal observations and discuss Special Agent Marc Delpit with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. I have no idea who Delpit is, that is to say I don’t know him personally, but recently he was arrested for aggravated assault after allegedly beating a man at a high school football game as well as brandishing his gun during the incident and before a crowd of people.
This is speculation on my part, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the available reports on this incident suggest that Delpit not only lost his cool, but acted in a manner that suggests the badge went to his head. From KHOU:
Houston Police spokesman Kese Smith said the incident took place around 8 p.m. Friday in the parking lot of St. Thomas High School during halftime of the varsity football game between St. Thomas and Angleton high schools.
Delpit is the father a St. Thomas varsity football player, and the alleged victim is a teammate’s father.
Smith said according to multiple witnesses, the two men began arguing when Delpit punched the victim to the ground, and then continued to assault him. When bystanders tried to intervene, witnesses said the ATF agent pulled out a pistol and waved it at the crowd.
Knocking out one of your son’s teammate’s father at a varsity football game is a bit extreme. Is it not? I mean, one better have a pretty good justification for throwing down at a high school ball game, particularly if one is a government agent.
Well, Delpit told Houston police that he was attacked and was acting in self-defense. Moreover, that he pulled his gun because he felt threatened by the crowd of people in the parking lot and wanted to keep them at bay.
I don’t want to try the guy in the court of public opinion. Maybe he was attacked, and maybe he was legitimately acting in self-defense. Hopefully, whatever happened, justice prevails and if he was in the wrong Delpit gets punished but if the evidence shows he acted reasonably then hopefully he is exonerated. In the meantime, authorities will continue to investigate.
“ATF takes these allegations very seriously,” said Senior Special Agent Nicole Strong with the Houston Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Explosives.
“Pending the outcome of the investigation, the agent in question has been placed on administrative leave with pay and has been relieved of his firearms, badge and credentials,” Special Agent Strong said.
Okay, while we’re going to refrain from rendering a final judgment on Agent Delprit, I still think the early reports of the case are indicative of what I’ve seen in my own life. To give you another example, my friend’s older brother became a state trooper in New York, several years back. Their dad is a cop, I think one of their uncle’s is a cop too, so law enforcement runs in the family.
State troopers in New York make great money, maybe not if you live in and around New York City, but if you live anywhere else, including upstate, where I am from, getting into the academy is a great gig (at least it’s seen this way by most of my blue-collar friends). During academy training they make $50,374, then they receive a raise to $66,905 upon graduation and employment. That’s really good money for one’s first year of employment. In no time at all they start making six figures (when you include overtime).
In any event, so my friend’s brother lands this job. He is a trooper. He was always a bit of a wild one, but now that he’s a trooper, he gets really rowdy. He is out drinking all the time. Partying like crazy. Starting fights, I mean the badge goes completely to his head… You know what, as I’m writing this I’m realizing that if i give away too many details I’ll out my friend and his older brother. I don’t want to do that. I guess I’m copping here (no pun intended). Long story short, he gets into a fight at a bar and pulls his gun on a patron. Not good. Despite the clout he has from being a cop’s son, he loses his job (and rightfully so).
But now that we’re all a bit older I remember asking him not too long ago about why he started to act the way he did. Why he started to behave as though he was above the law. If I recall correctly, he said, “In most cases, when you’re a cop, you are above the law.” He went on to explain all the things he got away with when he had the badge: basically any traffic violation, driving drunk, fighting, stealing (not material things, but if there was a concert or a sporting event, a flash of the badge would get him inside).
I guess this mentality is contagious and it begins to influence all aspects of your life. When you don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else you begin to assume that you may be better than everyone else, or special, or above the law. Speaking candidly, several of my law enforcement friends are getting divorced, are struggling financially (gambling issues), have issues with alcohol. That said, many others are fine, upstanding citizens who rarely use the badge to their advantage. That said, I wonder, just how often a cop’s badge goes to his head? Is it a real, systemic issue (I just saw another headline about the Secret Service that was rather troubling)? Or is it just an overblown concern?
I know many of our readers work in law enforcement. I’m wondering what your thoughts are? What has your experience taught you? For those that don’t, what is your take? What have you witnessed in your life on this issue?
I want to say that this article is not to be construed as being anti-law enforcement. In full disclosure, my GF works in law enforcement. So, I’m not anti-cop, I’m just trying to start a real open and honest discussion here.