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Corrections and politics: Why officers should stay neutral

We must stay above the fray when it comes to politics especially around election time

By Tom Wetzel

With the election season right around the corner, many police and correction organizations and fraternal lodges will be tempted to endorse candidates for various offices to include the President of the United States. I would discourage them from doing so no matter how strongly they want to support a particular person.

The most important reason is that in our line of work, it is vital that we demonstrate a commitment to public service to all without any bias or the slightest hint of favoritism. When organizations that represent us take positions on candidates, they may compromise our mission.

Protecting and serving others is difficult enough without adding some suspicion that our personal feelings may influence us or our treatment of others who hold different political views. Despite cops and correction officers trying to be above doing that, perception, as we all know, can become reality for some. 

The second reason is that an organization may end up alienating about half of its membership by taking a position on a candidate. When a dues-paying member feels that his own fraternal organization or bargaining unit is supporting someone whose politics offend her or him, that member may not feel particularly fraternal.

Police and correction officers have a challenging job that requires teamwork. An organization that represents them should not diminish that esprit de corps so important to our work.

Collective bargaining rights were a major issue this past year and there are still plenty of hard feelings with some. But it is one thing to lobby politicians on improving our working conditions or matters of interest but an entirely different one when we align ourselves with them. What happens when the one we endorse is not elected? Will the winning candidate now be more inclined to listen to us?

We must stay above the fray when it comes to politics especially around election time. Unless a candidate is running on the Communist Party ticket, we should stay out of politics as much as possible.

Of serious importance is that we demonstrate our time honored principles and values to those we were sworn to protect and serve. When it comes to endorsements, police and correction organizations will serve their membership well by not taking positions.      

___________________________________________

Tom Wetzel is a lieutenant at a suburban police department. He serves as a SWAT officer and trainer and is a certified law enforcement executive. Tom has a black belt in Goshin Jujutsu and is published internationally in various police publications.  
 




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