“How does bail reform and recreational marijuana legalization affect you as a sergeant?”
In my recent answer demonstrations I have been encouraging viewers like you to submit oral board questions for me to answer in future videos. The topic that I am covering comes from a viewer’s request. When the viewer – who was testing for sergeant – first submitted the question I recognized the challenge presented. The topic was one that is new and has a good deal of uncertainty about it. I also recognized that it is less of a sergeant issue and more of a command staff level issue. Nonetheless, this candidate wanted to be prepared for police sergeant oral board questions on the topic, and that is wise. So, for this topic, which is bail reform and legalized recreational marijuana, I will respond as though asked of me as a sergeant candidate.
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-Promoted to Lieutenant in Massachusetts
Bail Reform and Legalized Marijuana
“As a police officer now, and as a future sergeant, I keep in mind that the performance of my duties cannot be based on my personal opinions. Rather, that performance must be based on my duties and responsibilities as set forth in our general orders and the law. Therefore, supporting – through my actions and words – that which the legislature has promulgated will define my path as a sergeant.
That said, I understand that some, and quite possibly many, officers will have a negative opinion on the changes to the bail rules and the legalization of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. This frustration is natural when we understand that frustration is born from situations that we believe should be different but over which we have no control to change.
I’ll start with bail reform. A majority in the legislature determined that the prior system was not best for our citizenry and as a result they put modifications in place. While I cannot speak to the reason that the specific modifications were chosen, it is also not necessary for me to understand that reason in order to effectively do my job. As a sergeant I’ll be educating my officers on the changes that have been incorporated into the bail process without casting judgment. I’ll allow the officers to voice their frustration with me regarding those changes within our work unit; but I’ll also set an expectation that they do not voice their displeasure with the citizens that we serve. There are plenty of other ways for the citizens to be educated on laws other than negative opinions cast by our officers who should remain publicly neutral.
Where I expect greater resistance by officers is in the area of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. The reason that I expect greater resistance is because this change represents a 180 degree adjustment in what we have been telling those same officers for years. As with bail reform, I’ll be sure to educate officers on what the law specifically entails as well as the expectations that are held for them with regards to legalized marijuana. The parameters regarding what is legal vs illegal will be stressed so that officers do not see legalized marijuana as a carte blanche for our citizens. I’ll specifically emphasize what the law addresses with regards to the amount that can be possessed, the difference between legal and illegal sales, and how the law addresses impairment regardless of the substance that causes impairment, especially as that pertains to operating a motor vehicle.
Because this change in our practices is so dramatic, I’ll need to give this issue prolonged attention. I hold the concern that some officers who disagree with the law may seek to find opportunities to circumvent the law. That would be totally unacceptable and I will monitor my officers to assure that does not occur.
My additional concern as a sergeant is how all of this affects the morale of my officers. If my officers feel like they are unsupported by lawmakers and that this is an effort toward de-policing, I must address this. The best way that I know how to do this is through one-to-one conversations with each of my officers in which I remind them that it is our responsibility to work within parameters that are set for us and then go on to redirect them to other meaningful tasks that I expect them to engage in in support of our community. As with areas of concern, I’ll also speak with my officers with regards to desired behaviors and I’lll be sure to affirm their good work when it is within department expectations and especially when it rises to a level of excellence.
That is how I will address bail reform and legalized marijuana as a sergeant.”