LEO’s are held responsible for the exercise of their powers in accordance with an extensive, and often arcane, library of laws. They must utilize judgment and apply ethical principles in complex situations — without complete information. They are held to the highest standards of honesty and reliability.
Professional status earns pay and benefits
In our opinion, this is the justification for their relatively high pay and benefits, rather than a perceived risk of injury. Their risk of motor vehicle injury is comparable to that of a delivery person, except for the rare pursuit. Their risk of death or injury by violence is markedly less than similar risks faced by a U.S. Marine corporal.
LEO’s are professionals, just like MD’s, attorneys, and engineers. They are compensated for performing as professionals.
This does not mean that LEO’s are expected to be error-free; honest errors are signs that one is trying to do a good job, but didn’t have the information, or insight, or self-discipline to do a perfect job — this time. As professionals, they will do better the next time they face a similar challenge.
Professionals have home cities, too
From this point of view, off duty LEO’s who are residents certainly can be active in improving their City; those interested in politics should be politically active to improve their City – as citizens, not as cops.
Those who live in another city should work as citizens to improve their own city. They should not be trying to influence the election in Costa Mesa to improve their personal benefit packages, in or out of uniform. They can and should be trying to influence their home city’s government to be better for all residents.
Trying to overthrow the company’s CEO would be unprofessional behavior for a physician, engineer, or judge – and it is unprofessional behavior for an LEO. You don’t carry petitions or wield signs to overthrow the CEO of Hoag, hospital, for example, if you want to remain a pharmacist or a radiologist.
You may be able to get away with it if your job title is janitor or technician, although this is changing. And in some situations your job is protected by a union contract regardless of your disloyalty to your Board of Directors. But generally, professionals don’t agitate like Teamsters; they act like professionals.
Cops not goons
Finally, LEO’s are professionals who are less than perfect – and usually improving. They are not goons (although there may be a few “rogues” in the department who fit that description).