Comparing Professional Misconduct

Police Versus Physicians

The best customer service occurs when we EXCEED their expectations!
The best customer service occurs when we EXCEED their expectations!

This might not be a fair comparison, but stay with me… There are about 900,000 active physicians in the United States and about 470,000 active local police.[1]

For one reason or another, the American public has been besieged with accounts, both video and in print, of one police misconduct after another (highlighted by the events in Ferguson, Mo. last year yet strikingly followed by other accounts across the country).

Recently, a physician, Dr. Farid Fata, was sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence for healthcare fraud after he falsely billed insurance companies and administered un-needed chemotherapy to over 500 of his patients during a six-year period of time. He also was charged with money laundering and receiving kickbacks. Some very egregious, reprehensible and evil misconduct.[2]

I got to thinking. We all hear about physician misconduct from time to time, but not every day. So when I check in for medical care, I am not thinking that the physician about to see me will abuse me. No. In fact, I expect competent, caring service from him or her.

But if almost everyday, I heard (and perhaps saw on video) physicians intentionally killing or physical injuring their patients, or acting disrespectfully or uncaring toward them, would I think differently? And would that affect my willingness to go to a physician – especially one that I did not know?

The fact is that police misconduct hurts everyone. Each questionable account (especially involving a person of color, those mentally ill, or person of youth) breeds mistrust of all police in general. Unfortunately, it’s a matter of volume.

So, it is not sufficient to reply when confronted with what appears to be police misconduct that it’s “just a rotten apple;” and then point out (correctly) that 95 or more percent of police competently perform their duties day in and day out, are fair in their decisions, treat everyone with respect, and are controlled in their use of force.

It’s not sufficient because that means there are still over 20,000 police officers in our nation (the 5 or less percent) from whom you cannot expect a professional level of decision-making and care. And who may, in fact, physically harm you. If you are a person of color or mentally ill, you can raise the probability of that happening to a high level.

Time and time again, it has been pointed out that if you are an upper to middle class white person your chances of experiencing police misconduct is next to zero. So why care? The scriptural lesson of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is relevant here. Yes, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper because we all live together in this great nation and we all should be concerned with each other and how we are doing —  particularly when it comes to our system of criminal justice. [3]

What needs to be done to improve our police is to remove the “bad apples” (accountability) and set high professional expectations for them. This means attracting a diverse group of educated applicants, higher levels of pre-service training (especially in the use of force and how to de-escalate conflict situations), state licensing and requirements for continuing education credits, imprinting an iron-clad code of ethics, and zero tolerance for misconduct and illegal behavior. Additionally, police officers must be led by real leaders who understand the difficulties of the job and have, in spite of these difficulties, been effective, positive, informal leaders in the organization before they were selected to be its formal leaders.

Police can be improved. But it is up to each and every one of us (police included) to demand and expect higher levels of conduct and accountability than what is currently being experienced.

The ultimate goal of high-quality police service is this: To meet or exceed the expectations of those whom we serve — all of them — no exceptions!

Policing a free society is a difficult and honorable activity which should be reserved for the best of those among us.

We should compensate them well, give them the best preparation for the job we expect them to do, and expect them to be competent, respectful, fair, controlled in their use of force in every encounter, and willing to work closely with those whom they serve.

To expect less than this is to short-change our democracy and way of life and, in doing so, we will become a lesser people.


[1] http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5279

[2] http://www.newsweek.com/farid-fata-farid-fata-sentenced-farid-fata-medical-fraud-oncology-cancer-352317

[3] From Genesis 4 when God interrogates Cain after he slew his brother, Abel. See also: http://utmost.org/am-i-my-brother’s-keeper/