Hello everyone, I hope you had a good week. It’s interesting how our perceptions of fairness can change depending on your situation. I bet if I asked you a simple question, should everyone who breaks the law be treated equally? The vast majority of you would say, “Of course they should, everyone must be treated the same”.
That belief, however, is tested when you or someone you know is on the wrong side of the law. I have received many calls at home and visits to my office from people who I thought were friends, asking me to drop a case, reduce a felony to a misdemeanor so they didn’t have to be booked into jail and so on. In fact, when I tell them I won’t do that the answer is often, “You could if you wanted to”.
Sixteen years ago I got a call one night regarding a 15 year old who was just arrested for Minor in Possession of Alcohol. The call started with “Hi Chief, this is Officer Melvin”. While that is not noteworthy, the second part is. Officer Melvin went on to say “I arrested your son Chris and you can pick him up at the Beatrice Police Department”. No questions were asked about what should happen, no deals were struck, it’s just the way we do business. I suspect most departments do business this way now as well.
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You see, people make mistakes. Kids drink beer before they are 21, some folks have drug issues and others may have just done something stupid, one time, which they would never do again. We try to treat all of these situations and the people involved the same, whenever possible. One mistake doesn’t make you a bad person forever.
For the last 22 years, Gage County has operated a pretrial diversion program for first time juvenile offenders and parents must attend with their children. I have taught a section of this program since the beginning and I can tell you this, I have seen parents from all parts of our community in those chairs doctors, lawyers, teachers, and yes, even the Police Chief. All of these parents were there helping their kids learn from their mistakes. If we had given special treatment to some, what have we taught them? I am afraid we would teach them that you are not accountable for your actions, which I believe is a real problem we face in this country already.
Of course treating everyone the same means I have a few less “friends”. I certainly don’t get invited to the graduation party where alcohol is served to minors, but I can live with that. Doing the right thing is not always the most popular choice at the time, but I do believe it is the only choice we have.