What do the situations involving George Floyd, the Catholic priesthood and errant school teachers all have in common? Middle Management – The Weak Link

The world has been rocked by the death of George Floyd. More importantly, that the police officer involved had a long history of complaints against him with very little action taken regarding those complaints.

In the last twenty to thirty years, the world has also been stunned by allegations of sexual abuse, particularly of minors by priests and the lack of decisive action by the diocese. The practice was commonly to transfer the offending priest to another parish, where the behavior would repeat itself. In other news; more shockers were reports of sexual abuse of minors by their teachers in schools.

Is the surprise that people who have control issues are often attracted to jobs in the police force? Are we amazed that pedophiles are attracted to professions such as the priesthood, teaching, counseling, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts where they will have access to young children?

Are we stunned to find out that individuals will enroll themselves in long and arduous education and training programs which will then ‘qualify’ them for these jobs? Or, that they can be charming, winsome, and persuasive in their ability to get through interviews and screening processes? Is this so surprising? What is the cure?

In the state of Arizona, where I live, there are a number of governing boards for different professions. There is the State Bar of Arizona for lawyers, the AZ State Medical Board for doctors, the AZ Nursing Board for Discipline; also the AZ teacher Certificate Board for the Department of Education and the AZ Board of Accountancy for accountants and CPA’s. There may be others I am not mentioning.

Each of these professions require tremendous time, energy and education to become licensed or certified to work. Also, each have a duty of care and responsibility to the public and there is an avenue ( the Board) where complaints against the individual can be filed.

Should anyone in these professions lose their license/credential, the result is not just the loss of a single job, they lose the ability to work in that field at all, period. Once an attorney loses his license, he cannot practice law. A doctor or nurse who loses their license cannot practice medicine. For a teacher to lose their credential status, they can no longer teach. There are instances where an individual can regain their license through the governing committee; however, it is usually a long and arduous process and depends on the nature of the offense.

Many of these professionals work in public forums like schools, county hospitals or county law offices. They are therefore, paid public servants. How then are they different from police officers? The police are public employees and go through extensive training and interviews to get the job. They are expected to be professional, to act in a professional manner and are usually paid well.

What similar organizations exist to promote accountability with our police departments? In Arizona there is the AZ POST where officers can obtain an AZ Police Certificate. How much bite does this department have on discipline measures? What about other states?

As a teacher in the state of Arizona, anyone can look up my name and see a history of any disciplinary complaints against me that were lodged with the state. The same system exists in the State of California where I used to teach.

If teachers have that level of accountability, and nurses, lawyers and doctors; why not police officers? We say that things happen when they are ‘under the gun’ and in ‘adverse conditions’. OK, what professions do not operate frequently under adverse conditions?

Maybe it is time for there to be county, State and maybe even national licensing for professional police officers. Also, the ability for the regular public to file complaints with a State agency and not just to the specific police department involved.

I will a bit more blogging about this issue. We’ll compare how different states and perhaps, different counties, deal with complaints against officers and departments. Recent events have shown up that it is clear that departmental discipline measures are not enough. Defunding is not likely to solve the problem. Another system will simply evolve with different names. The issues will remain. A viable system of accountability is what is needed; if that causes some individuals to lose their jobs, maybe that is what needs to happen.