The first of the Ten Virtues of a Law Officer deals with the Dynamic of Authority. A professional, ethical law officer must faithfully represent those authorities placed over him. Here is the text of the first Virtue:
Always remain submissive to those in authority over me, in faithful obedience, realizing that I do not represent myself, but the trust of the people, the authority of the government, and the ideals of the police profession.
Oftentimes we fail to recognize what the term “submissive” really means. It is not a wimpy term. It is a military term that means operating “under the mission” or “under authority.” It is a powerful term that describes a military force ready to enter into battle. Dr. George Thompson of the Verbal Judo Institute recognizes it as the Art of Representation. It is the essence of integrity: being who you represent yourself to be. The uniform, the badge, the patch on your sleeve are meant to represent something — something much bigger than you are.
As a professional law officer you represent the law, you represent the department, you represent the government, you represent the ideals of the police profession, you represent the Constitution, … and you represent the people. The one thing that you don’t represent is yourself. Your goals, your agenda, and your ego are irrelevant to the accomplishment of the police mission.
True obedience, faithful obedience, is more than just following directions. Character-based obedience means “fulfilling the expectations of your authorities,” and it is much more powerful than just taking orders. Check out this Character Bulletin from Character First! to learn more about character-based obedience. It features the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office (while I was still serving as Sheriff) to highlight this important principle.
Regretfully, terms like obedient and submissive are often misconstrued by law enforcement officials and treated as insults. I mean, what self-respecting law officer wants to be known as the “most obedient” or the “most submissive’ officer on the force? This can indicate a blindspot. By that I mean that your own character flaw may cause you to react to the same flaw in others.
Think for a minute about the most disobedient officer you know on the force (hopefully not you). The one who is always bucking authority and rebels against authority at every opportunity. What sends him into orbit faster than anything else when he is dealing with someone on the street? Disobedience to him!
So the next time you find yourself reacting (or over-reacting) to someone else’s character flaw, take a minute for some self-reflection. You might find that that very same character flaw is evident in your own life … and you don’t even know it. That’s what I mean by a blindspot…!
Click on this link to download a full copy of the Ten Virtues of a Law Officer.