8.23.2012

Today’s Investigative Special Report August 23, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “When A General Order Is Given By A Superior, Should A Law Enforcement Officer’s Religious Beliefs Determine If He Should Pull The Trigger Or Not?”


by Lawrence W.Daly
Every time you see an American Soldier you should want to stand at attention, shake their hand, hug them, and thank them for the dedication, loyalty, honor, trust, and courage and keeping America’s freedom in order.  These men and women’s platform is to protect
COLLEGE STATION, TX - JANUARY 20:  A color gua...
COLLEGE STATION, TX - JANUARY 20: A color guard place the flags of the United States and Kuwait at an event honoring the 20th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War on January 20, 2011 in College Station Texas. The Gulf War was waged against Iraq from August 1990 to February 1991 during President Bush's administration. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
 and serve this country; no question, they do what is asked of them.
Since the Persian Gulf War the attitudes of American’s changed when it came to how citizens treat these valuable military men and women who put their lives on the line every day. Maybe the positive treatment began changing after America realized how they treated the heroic men and women of the Vietnam War. Whatever the reasons for the changes are i.e. when, and why, as Americans, the change in how the military is treated is necessary and refreshing.
In the United States there are another set of men and women who are being recognized for the work they have been doing for centuries, those who wear the badge, these individuals and groups are law enforcement officers. They, like the military, deserve the proper respect which they rarely hear from their community.
The roles of the military and law enforcement in some areas are similar in roles and responsibilities. Just like the military from time to time there will be conflicts and problems inside law enforcement agencies. These conflicts sometimes aren’t between the citizens in their community and its officers, but between the officer’s and the police hierarchy. Those in charge expect those who are their subordinates to do what is expected of them, without any questions. However, from time to time the loss of perspective arises reference what that specific role and responsibility of the officer should be and then the conflict and resolution transpires.  To usurp the supervisors authority can and may be a mistake for the subordinate and their future career with the agency.
In order to minimize confusion, conflict, and misunderstandings there must be specific policies, procedures, and processes about an officer’s conduct which must be memorialized. Therefore, the administration creates manuals, protocols, standard operating procedures, training bulletins, emails, posts, and other memorandums which detail how an officer will respond to specific situations.
NASIRIYAH, IRAQ - DECEMBER 02: U.S. Army Lt. A...
NASIRIYAH, IRAQ - DECEMBER 02: U.S. Army Lt. Adam Pettus, from Tulsa, Oklahoma of the 25th ID, has the laundry room to himself as he washes clothes in a near-empty Camp Adder as the Army continues to send its soldiers and equipment home and the base is prepared to be handed back to the Iraqi government later this month on December 2, 2011 at Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah, Iraq. The United States military continues its pullout of the country by the end of this year, after eight years of war and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
For the most part the two relevant and material words in any of these documents are “shall” and “will” when it comes to following a procedure, protocol, the law and so forth. When the document state the officer “shall” provide him/her the opportunity to make a decision using their own judgment, but “shall” consider what the department wants them to do. The officer “will” specifically is defined as under a set of specific circumstances the officer “will” perform their duties and responsibilities as promulgated in the authorities of the document. There can be no deviation or questioning of the order.
One of these general orders which are sometimes found in the general manual is one which states, that if you believe an order is unlawful and it is being requested that you follow the order by a superior officer, you need to advise the superior that the order is not a lawful order and you will not be following the order.
This general order has its purpose however, when it comes to situations dealing with life and death, it may be difficult to disobey the order at that time. As a subordinate the officer fulfills his responsibility when he advises his superior of the conflict. Still the subordinate may end up performing a task which is in direct violation of the manual.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma in February of 2011, Captain Paul Fields found himself in a similar situation. He received a direct order by Deputy Chief Daryl Webster that in celebration of the Law Enforcement Appreciation Day which was held March 4th at the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Webster wanted Fields to be a part of the detail.
The facts are clear cut and depending on which position you take, either Webster was correct in giving a specific order or Fields was correct in failing to follow the order. The scenario is Webster told Fields that there would be three patrol divisions at least six officers at the event, and in addition there would be three supervisors. Webster allegedly made this statement as a voluntary participation stating, "But should voluntary response not be up to task, assignment would be the next alternative."  Fields said in correspondence with a superior that he considered the order to be "an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with (his) personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking." 
Official seal of City of Tulsa
Official seal of City of Tulsa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He also told his superiors that he would not require any of his subordinates to follow the order "if they share similar religious convictions." 
Police Chief Chuck Jordan later suspended Fields. According to Jordan he stated that, “Specifically, he, Fields was suspended 40 hours for violating the department's rule on being obedient and another 40 hours for violating a rule on conduct unbecoming to an officer. The personnel order states that his "actions and writings that were made public brought discredit upon the department related to furnishing officers to attend" the event.” Further, Fields was temporarily transferred from the police department’s Riverside Division to the Mingo Valley Division; he received the transfer because it was part of his discipline. (Nicole Marshall, World Staff Writer, 2011, June).  
Obviously there were no winners in this situation as Fields has now filed lawsuits against Webster, Jordan, the City of Tulsa. The ‘Complaint of the Lawsuit’ states that Fields believes his First Amendment rights were violated.
The argument is an interesting argument that Fields has brought forth. However, there are some issues which need to be considered. Let us examine these issues:     
     1.      There was no imminent need for Fields to deny Webster’s suggestion.
     2.      There is no explanation of why Webster believed he needed to phrase the initial suggestion to the threat that if there was a lack of participation by the officers that it would become an order.
    3.      Fields reaction to Webster may have told him, Webster that Fields didn’t support the manner in which Webster was implying that the volunteer mission would turn into a direct assignment.
     4.   Fields detailed to Webster that he would not follow the order because he thought it was an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with (his) personal religious convictions.
      5.      As a superior officer is Webster responsible to ascertain from each of his subordinates what their religious beliefs are? Further, at what point does the statement ‘to protect and to serve’ the community receive the first priority when police decisions need to be made.
      6.      If Fields was uncomfortable with working in the public where he would have to work in specific areas which would make him uncomfortable, he may disagree with, may violate a personal feeling, his religion, his family morals, and so forth, then where does Fields draw the line of what he will and won’t do in the performance of his duties as a law enforcement officer.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 08:  U.S. Sen. John McC...
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 08: U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speakds during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill March 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. McCain and Gillard dedicated a photo exhibit, 'Enduring Bond: 60 Years of ANZUS,' to mark the 60th anniversary of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS). The exhibit features 60 images spanning the Great White Fleet, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
     7.    In examining and evaluating the Tulsa City Police Departments General Manual, is there a written policy that an officer gets ‘a pass’ if it violates his First Amendment rights? Moreover, in exigent situations would Fields then be the decision maker or would he obey a reasonable command by his superiors?
Maybe Webster and Jordan could have handled the situation in a different manner, but did they need to? If the general order is reasonable and logical and fulfills the roles and responsibilities of the goals of the police department, then Fields is wrong in how he has dealt with this situation.
In law enforcement agencies the administration from top to bottom knows if their officials are religious, healthy, intelligent, competent, lazy, untruthful, violent with the public, and so forth. The make-up of each law enforcement officer is known by their supervisors; there can be no surprises. They had to know Fields is a religious man and his beliefs should have been considered and respected.  However, the court will have to decide in Fields lawsuit if as a public servant his religious beliefs relieve him of specific responsibilities.
As a former law enforcement officer I respect the fact that Fields is a strong Christian man. The problem I have with Fields in this situation is if he can’t abide by the General Orders of the Tulsa Police Department, then he needs to find a new occupation. His failure to abide by the rules and regulations of the Tulsa Police Department could ultimately cost someone e.g. a citizen or another officer their lives. If Fields fails here and allows his religious beliefs to be a barrier, hindrance, boundary, and other question marks, is he really the person I as a law enforcement officer want backing me up at a situation where life and death is the situation. I think not.
  
Lawrence W. Daly
206-650-0229
onedaly@onedaly.com
Kent, WA

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