Life Stories

#ican’tbreathe

As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.

I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or to my agency. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed both in my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the law and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty. 

I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.

I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of police service. I will never engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will I condone such acts by other police officers. I will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.

I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.

I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession… law enforcement.

Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

I don’t watch the news. I gave up the news soon after COVID-19 became the topic of every news station. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it to be important to share information and facts, but when inciting fear becomes the basis of every program, if nothing more than to generate ratings, I simply decided to “unplug”. So the other day when someone at work asked if I had seen the “killing of a black man at the hands of the police in Minneapolis”, of course, I had not. As I listened to the conversation around me from those who had, I could not help but to “google” the situation. I was not prepared for what I read. I was further not prepared for the little I watched of the video.

First, being human, it was hard for me to fathom the complete disregard of a pleading man for his life.

Second, being a mother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend, I could not imagine watching this on national television, for the nation to view, much less for myself to see, again and again.

Third, being a nurse, I cannot express how every fiber of my professional nursing code of ethics was screaming “this is WRONG!”. In many ways, our nursing code of ethics and that of law enforcement are very similar. The core of both of our professions is to protect those we SERVE, yes, serve. WE chose our professions. In that choice, we became an advocate for those that cannot advocate for themselves. As law enforcement professionals, upholding the law should be done without intentional ill-intent, the same as we must do each day for those we serve within our profession as nurses.

I imagine that being a police officer is an incredibly tough occupation and for those that do this day in and day out to the best of their ability, protecting those you serve, I salute you.

As police officers, I can also imagine it is easy to become hard towards individuals that learn to manipulate the law and perform heinous crimes.

As a nurse, it is equally challenging to not allow our own prejudices to form and become hardened when faced with situations where we must care for individuals who have been suspected (with near certainty) of abuse, neglect or acts of violence against another human being.

But I must remind myself each time I am challenged with difficult situations that it is NOT my place to be judge and jury. Our institution cares for inmates of our local prison regularly. They come to us post-surgery. These “prisoners” are only patients to us, yes they may be shackled with guards but that is on the periphery for us. When they roll into our recovery bay, they are our patient and we treat them as we would treat any of our patients. We treat their pain, wipe their brow, moisten their lips and talk to them, while listening to their needs. As they leave, we wave them off with good wishes. That is my job. That is our code of ethics as nurses. It is not my place to judge. It is my place to serve and do the job for which I CHOSE, to the very best of my ability. In these situations, I also remind myself that I cannot know the path that others have walked, what hurts they have experienced and what unfortunate events have led them astray. It is simply not my place to do anything other than what my job, ethics and conscience dictate, which is serve and protect those I care for.

I have watched crime shows and I love them like the rest of the world. The good guy prevailing over the bad guys every time, it sends such a positive message. A happy, fulfilled ending each time (even though my heart was at times racing and my armpits sweating at all the perfect climactic cinematic moments). However, as I watched George plead for his life, for his breath, I had to remind myself that this was not cinema, BUT actual real-life footage. And the ending was anything but fulfilling. It had bad guys and it had good guys, but not how I had imagined and known them to be.

As I watched the little bit of footage that I did, every fiber of my being wanted to reach into the video and pull those men off the pleading man, pull the police officers off of George. Instead, like the majority of the rest of the nation, I could simply watch it and feel helpless and incredulous at the indignation and blatant lack of regard for human dignity and life.

The police officer(s), white(ish). George, black. Again, racism seemingly at the core of an in-explainable situation.

So here I am. And here we are. Racism mixed with injustice once again fueling fires of oppression and disproportion that never seem to rest.

I was raised in a small town in western Minnesota. I knew one person for all of my years in Marshall that was black, her name was Lisa. I thought her beautiful and exotic. We were as opposite as two people could be, me with my blonde-white hair, medium stature and albino-white skin and her tall and lanky with beautiful long kinky-black hair and milk-chocolate skin. To say that she stood out was an understatement. In our small town, and in our school she was an outsider. I felt bad for her and befriended her. She was being fostered by a white family and she had had some difficult childhood experiences. She also came from a larger city and Marshall was the opposite of a “hip town”, we were a farming community. I experienced some criticism, the kind that kids can deliver for being friends with Lisa but I could never quite understand it? I insisted that she was funny, nice and incredibly interesting if they would just give her a chance. In time, my mother felt that she wasn’t a good influence for me and made it difficult for us to play together. I truly believe that it was not the color of her skin, but more that Lisa was years ahead of me in maturity and life experiences that to that point, I had not yet learned. Mother simply was trying to shelter me. In short time, Lisa and her family moved, obviously feeling that Marshall was not ready for mixed-race families.

It never occurred to me to not like or accept someone because their skin color was different.

It never occurred to me that those that are sworn to protect, could also use that power to harm.

And yet, here I am. And here we are. Caught up in a bad movie with a degenerative plot.

So, what can I do as a “white” person? I can say that I don’t understand being anything other than white and to try to understand anything different is impossible. BUT I can say, that regardless of skin color, I accept everyone as human beings. WE ARE HUMANITY, and in my mind and in my heart, we are equal. If I had one wish, it would be for peace, acceptance, equality and love among humanity (is that actually 4 wishes?). I may be just one white person, but I can set an example for those around me and influence at least that much. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone could do that? What kind of world we could be then?!

And what can I do as a service provider? I can say that as imperfect as I am, I would, could and should never abuse my power as a service provider against those that I am sworn to protect. I honestly just cannot imagine it. Further, I am certain that if I did lose my mind for a moment, my comrades would do the right thing and bring me back to my senses! Never could I imagine a gang of us incurring harm on a human being. For that I am certain.

George Floyd was handcuffed, held to the ground by THREE officers, one of which had his knee into his neck (the very thing officers are NOT trained to do) while another officer stood by indifferent (and an accomplice) to what became the most televised, real-time murder in my lifetime. They ignored pleas from bystanders to help the man. They ignored George’s pleas for help. In truth, they are the criminals, far more so than than the alleged crime of a man passing a counterfeit bill or a forged check. They should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent, and nothing else is acceptable.

I can only say what I am feeling right now, and also the feelings of my family and friends; and without a doubt, this is one of the most horrific acts of human indignity and injustice that I have witnessed here in the US. And now, because of heightened emotions and suppressed rage, we are rioting, looting and hurting our own communities, similar to that of the dissent we see in third-world countries.

Are we not better than that as a city? as a nation? as a world? and as humans?

Minnesota, we are better than this! On every level, we are better than this.

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