I have a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement officers at the local, state and federal levels. They put their lives on the line every day, facing the worst aspects of human nature in an effort to "Serve and Protect" civilians like me.
A recent story in the Washington Post by reporter Tom Jackman gives rise to the question. If you click on the link below you’ll read how officers in Fairfax County Virginia lost $300,000 to bring down an online gambling ring that had a few “associates” based in Fairfax.
I’m not so worked up about the money since the lost funds came from evidence seized from other criminal activity, and the gamblers that got caught in this sting will pay it back – although over the next 20+ years.
My issue is whether or not it’s a good idea to have law enforcers embracing the role of law breakers? There are strong opinions on both sides.
On the "yes" side of the argument, detectives and undercover cops that work vice details need to be perceived as criminals to move up in illegal enterprises to bring down top-tier masterminds. That ascent (or descent) into the underworld may require unseemly criminal activity. I understand that.
However, on the “no” side of the ledger, I wonder how much energy, personnel and resources are wasted in cops playing robbers? In the Fairfax case, none of the gamblers who were caught will serve jail time. Was justice served in that instance? It doesn’t seem so.
I guess what I’m saying is that police work seems unique in that it sanctions some of its fraternal members to apply Machiavellian tactics toward a nebulous anti-crime goal at any cost.
Imagine if that mentality was widespread in other professions, say if doctors made people sicker; teachers made students dumber or farmers grew inedible food – all toward some vague greater good. It’s not possible and doesn’t make sense.
Shouldn’t law enforcement be a beacon of light to dispel darkness, rather than becoming the darkness?