Big Badge Fever
Have you ever noticed how some people can’t handle power? It just goes right to their heads.
It can happen in all sorts of occupations, at the pettiest levels. I’ve seen mild-mannered office secretaries turn into back-stabbing lunch monitors who terrorize the mid-level office staff when they have the ear of a high-level executive. One never-to-be-forgotten tyrant in my own past actually inspected feet covertly to be sure the “girls” were wearing panty hose when in slacks.
The very nature of some jobs, though, combines in a malignant way with this odd personality type. Imagine, for instance, the gargoyle panty-hose inspector from my past with a gun and badge.
Big Badge Fever. That’s the term used within the police community to describe the ‘disease’ that takes hold of some of their own. Police with this disease commit illegal, and frequently abusive, acts - just because they can. At one time, it was pretty prevalent, but over the last twenty years or so, police organizations at every level have worked hard to get rid of these pustules in their departments, either after the fact (through internal investigations) or before (with initial psychological screening).
Unfortunately, when a department is dangerously undermanned, historically corrupt, and unable to recruit widely, the ability to pick and choose is not an option. I’m afraid that the break-down with the NOPD after Katrina reflects this.
Although many NOPD officers performed selflessly for days on end after Katrina turned the city on its ear, others did not. Instead, these embarrassing examples of how NOT to man a police department stole from, lied to, and abused the very communities they were sworn to protect. Why? Because they could. These people should never have been police officers in the first place. You simply cannot give any ole Joe/Jane a gun and a badge, and expect his/her personality to integrate the incredible power that comes with those occupational tools.
These (hopefully former) fevered members of the NOPD did more than violate the trust of the public. They also badly tarnished the reputations of the many police who did their utmost - without communications, information, or direction - to maintain peace and serve the public.
New Orleans owes it to the public, and to those officers who did their jobs so well, to not only expose those who violated, but to overhaul their hiring and training procedures radically. Only the most archaic and corrupt organization would continue to nurture this well-known and treatable disease.