The Ten Virtues of a Law Officer – Virtue #3

The third virtue of the Ten Virtues of a Law Officer states:

(I will purpose to) refrain from vulgar, obscene, coarse, or offensive language that may offend others…

This is one of those virtues that will likely rub some police and correctional officers the wrong way. After all, bad language is so ingrained in our culture, no matter how crude or offensive to others it may be. Some argue that it a coping mechanism, others that street-language is necessary when dealing with street-thugs. However, professionalism demands that we control our tongues. Failure to do so is not only unprofessional, it shows a lack of discipline and character (not to mention a limited vocabulary)…

The first night I ever rode in a police car as a 16 year old kid (in the front seat, not the back), I remember the officer telling me that I was free to “take anything home” that I learned at the police station, except for the language. Well, guess what I took home? That’s right, the language. It was some years later, as I was contemplating marriage and raising a family, that I realized I needed to clean up my language. It wasn’t that hard and I am so glad I did.

Now, I’m not advocating that we become a bunch of prudes. That’s not realistic and probably not particularly desirable. But we do need to clean up our language. If we don’t do it, the courts will likely do it for us. This doesn’t mean that we won’t let an expletive slip every now and then. But it does mean that crude language and coarse joking should not be the norm.

I remember when I was Sheriff that the best compliment I would get on the deputies and staff was the lack of foul language. And many of our staff, particularly some of the ladies, would often tell me how refreshing it was to work in an environment that was free of crude talk and sexual innuendo. Not only is taming the tongue good character and good policy, but it also insulates you from a potential sexual harassment charge.

The Character First! definition of deference is:

Limiting my freedom so I do not offend the tastes of those around me

No where is this more important than in the area of our speech. Resorting to foul language, even during a street confrontation, is rarely necessary and generally shows a lack of tactical communication skills and an amateurish approach to generating voluntary compliance.

Sheriff Ray Nash
Police Dynamics Media


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