There is nothing more fundamental to a police officer’s job than integrity. We grant our police officers extraordinary powers because we believe that they will use it to help their communities, not to benefit themselves and their friends.
That’s why the news that St. Louis police detectives and their supervisor used baseball tickets seized from scalpers for their own benefit is so disturbing. These detectives, who are all veteran officers, certainly knew better than to do what they did. Far from being “a victimless offense,” their action victimized everybody who trusts the police, their fellow officers who rely on that public trust, and the tens of thousands of baseball fans who paid their own way into the games.
My first impulse was to ask for their badges. After thinking about the matter for a while, though, I support Chief Joe Mokwa’s recommendation:
These eight officers should be suspended from duty for a while — and when they return from their suspensions, they should be reduced in rank to the department’s lowest level: that of probationary officers. At that rank, there are no second chances for a police officer: one problem, and they are out, without an appeal.
This punishment gives eight officers one final chance to prove that they deserve their community’s trust — and a thousand opportunities a day, as they do their jobs on the streets, to make amends for their serious mistake.
This is, I think, a better outcome for the department and the City than simply firing them.