Thursday, April 19, 2007

Do the right thing

I genuinely enjoy college students. I taught part time at the University of Nebraska and at Nebraska Wesleyan University for 12 years, first as a graduate teaching assistant then as an instructor in sociology, political science, and criminal justice. I loved it. I still get a chance to be a guest in several classes every year, from geography to journalism.

Later today, I'm on my way to the most interesting by far, Dr. Richard Boohar's class, Deciding Right and Wrong. Dr. Boohar, a distinguished biologist, is a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska . Since his retirement, he has continued to teach this class, part of a special honors program for outstanding scholars. About a decade ago, he invited me to speak to his class about some of the ethical decisions in policing. It was especially interesting for me, with a great group of students who were really engaging. Dr. Boohar has invited me back every year.

The honors students I talk with every spring are just as good as the first group, but I've improved. I have always had a core of gut-wrenching mind benders to tell the students about, but a few years ago, I started doing something different. I asked the students to give me their thoughts on an ethical conundrum that I was dealing with right at that moment. Tell me what you would do about this issue I'm confronting this very week. They work their way through these pretty much the same way I do--considering options, weighing pros and cons, debating these with one another.

This is precisely what goes on in the police department's conference room. I often ask my commanding officers and civilian managers for advice, and frequently the discussion at our staff meeting focuses around the topic of "What's the right thing to do?" It's also a question we pose to our five citizen advisory councils when timing permits this kind of consultation. I also have a few people who are ethical touchstones that I occasionally seek out for a sounding board. I think these discussions about ethical choices and decisions are incredibly important.

I've got a good one to talk to the students in Dr. Boohar's class about this afternoon. It's a tough call on a high-profile issue, and I really can't make up my mind which course of action is best. I promise you this: I'll let Dr. Boohar's class decide, and follow their advice. Standby for the results.


Anonymous said...

LPD has great ethical decisions in policing and we are lucky to have such a great cheif.

JoeMerchant24 said...

"It's a tough call on a high-profile issue, and I really can't make up my mind which course of action is best."

Let me help you out, Chief.

Go with the soup.

Anonymous said...

Ethics? What do you do when you have two officers, One that lied and one that was just afraid of the situation? Oh I know, you got rid of the nervous officer. But wait...that would mean you should go..doesn't it? You were afraid of her even though you knew she was lying.....and let go of the one who truly cared about the city.

Tom Casady said...