Regular Monitoring of Officer Activity Can Curb Incidences of Ethics Violations

The news of Fox Lake police lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz is, by now, well known. This former officer spent years pilfering money from a Police Explorer account that, amazingly, no one ever audited. Although an exact figure has yet to be provided, we do know that he stole thousands of dollars without any apparent notice by his superiors. It wasn’t until an auditor was hired for the city that Lieutenant Gliniewicz felt any concern that his activities would be detected.

The entire event, from the theft of money to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were subsequently spent trying to hunt down the lieutenant’s supposed killers, may have been avoided if this officer was monitored properly. However, the Fox Lake Police Department should not be viewed too harshly. Many organizations throughout the United States could easily have had this happen to them. Leaders of police organizations can learn from this debacle and ensure that such an incident does not occur under their command.

Officers are allowed an incredible amount of autonomy. It is, perhaps, one of the most alluring aspects of the job. Autonomy can easily become an ethics nightmare where laissez faire leadership exists or the belief that, since an officer is entrusted with the ability to use deadly force, they should be trusted to make the right decisions the rest of the time as well. One does not equal the other. Lieutenant Gliniewicz may have been very capable of making a life or death decision, but we see that he clearly did not make ethical decisions elsewhere in his career.

OfficerMonitoring officers does not mean that leaders should micromanage their officers, nor does it mean that they should spy on them. The term, micromanage, indicates close control of the officer’s work. Monitoring, on the other hand, means that leaders know where their officers are and what they are doing. For instance, leaders in charge of a patrol unit should know where the officers are, generally, and what they are doing because they should be indicating this on the radio.  Long episodes of silence or a regular lack of activity, especially during the nighttime, may indicate a problem. Leaders who oversee detectives or other specialty units that do field work should meet with their people each day and discuss what they are working on and where they will be that day.

Part of monitoring includes conducting inspections and audits.  Regular inspections of officers and their equipment will ensure that they are not carrying unauthorized weapons that can land the department in hot water. Conducting inspections and audits of other equipment and property should be part of your department’s standard operating procedure. Routinely auditing accounts will ensure money is not being misappropriated.

If your department has historically had a hands-off approach, you may meet with some resistance from some members of the department. Simply explain that it is your job to know what is happening within your area of responsibility. If you are high up on the leadership ladder, you will have the responsibility of monitoring those who report directly to you as well as ensuring that those leaders routinely monitor their areas of responsibility. It is important to keep in mind that, regardless of title or rank, everyone is still an employee and is subject to the rules and regulations that the department directs.  Any resistance will eventually fade away as officers become accustomed to a more involved leadership.

Most officers don’t go from good to bad overnight. They ride a gradual slippery slope that starts with small unethical acts. When those acts go undetected, they commit larger unethical acts.  Leaders who routinely monitor officer activity can stop this from happening before the officer takes that first step since he or she is far less likely to commit any wrongdoing if they believe their wrongdoing may be detected. In this light, actions of involved leadership may save an officer from eventual ruin. When officers have demonstrated weak ethics, such as those revealed in Lieutenant Gliniewicz’s personnel file, they need to be monitored much more closely or, better yet, removed from the police force altogether.

As most small towns, Fox Lake was an unknown community until the acts of Lieutenant Gliniewicz put it on the media’s map.  His actions created grief for his family, the department, and the community. His actions cannot be undone, but law enforcement leaders can learn from this event and take steps to avoid the same thing from happening to them.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Laura Samples

Laura Samples has over 18 years of law enforcement experience and currently serves as a police lieutenant in Texas. She is a graduate of the Leadership Command College from LEMIT at Sam Houston State University, a graduate of the Denver Paralegal Institute, and has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management, from Fort Hays State University.She is also a veteran of the U.S. Army where she served as a Military Police Officer in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Laura Samples
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