It’s hard to believe more than five months have elapsed since the suicide of Fox Lake, IL police lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz. The scorching heat of that September day saw the very best of the law enforcement. They rallied together for one of their own. Even through the eventual betrayal, no one regrets the action taken and will gladly do it again when the radio crackles of an officer down. But, there’s a still a dead cop.
The movies and TV have a penchant for over-dramatizing police corruption. It sells. Police officers, like most, enjoy a good film about their profession even if it casts them in negative light. America knows it’s a caricature. There’s always a little truth sewn into the yarn, but it’s just a story.
The burning question is how does a police officer like Gliniewicz get to a point where he must kill himself? This article is not about to justify his actions and crimes. Nor is this article going to address complexities built into the emotional, medical, psychological or spiritual conditions of suicide. Rather, this article will follow one path (and there are many) which lead to a Gliniewicz situation. It goes like this:
Authority is a double-edged sword. The freedoms held dear in a democracy depend on order and justice. Some call policing a necessary good, some will describe it as a necessary evil. Regardless, it’s necessary. Even the best humans have a streak of evil in them, and a statutory authority may very well expose it.
Police officers are exposed to the extremes of lifestyle choices on a daily basis. However, it’s the basic opportunities afforded most people which police officers have a greater ability to conceal. Read any true story of police corruption and you will find one of three things, or a combination thereof: money, sex and alcohol. Every time.
Money, however, is the risk of truck enforcement officers. Where there are overweight trucks, there is an abundance of cash. The exceptional authority of a police officer to enforce weight limits and collect enormous fines requires exceptional accountability.
Lack of Accountability
With unique knowledge like truck law, it’s easy to pull the wool over the eyes of supervisors who should be holding subordinates accountable. Once a police officer can justify his actions in a way which appeases superiors possessing less knowledge, the impropriety can flourish.
Charade of Success
This is where the true fallacy begins. It’s hard for police administrators or municipal officials to deny an influx of cash. Contrary to popular belief, most local governments run a lean, mean frugal ship. Every penny helps provide community services. The police officer generating revenue shines like a star.
The con of evil is that it will remain concealed. The honest and honorable recognize the evil inside themselves and choose to do good. They can foresee the embarrassment, the consequences and the judgment when what was hidden comes to light. They choose to believe they will get caught and not create rationalizations for their actions.
Maybe it’s simple and they only lose their job. The more heinous are indicted, arrested and prosecuted. Some avoid it all by taking their own life. Regardless, the career is over and the public trust is compromised.
The public has not heard why Charles Gliniewicz became a police officer. This author will give him the benefit of the doubt. He was probably a good person with great intentions to serve the public.
He was given authority to be a police officer and was promoted several times to a position of greater authority. He was given an opportunity to run a successful police explorer post which may have produced fine future police officers. He had little accountability over his methods of instruction, the finances he managed or his time. Throughout the years, he was heralded with praise, awards and recognition. The success was an illusion as the walls came crumbling down.
But there’s still a dead cop.