Lawyers can be very hard on ourselves. We have tons of ethical rules we have to follow and classes we have to take each year. And lawyers who violate these rules can indeed lose their licenses. Sometimes it may be for a year, and sometimes for life — even when no actual crime has been committed.
Does this mean every bad lawyer gets punished? Of course not; obviously, some slip through the cracks. But lawyers are punished. Here in my area alone, I can think of half a dozen who have lost their licenses for one reason or another, including a few recent Judges and a District Attorney.
And that’s how we want it. We need people to trust us.
People often hate lawyers because lawyers by definition take a side and argue — which means that there are going to be people who don’t like what you are arguing. But almost everyone needs a lawyer at some point in their lives, and you want an honest and truthful one in those times.
And we lawyers need to be vigilant ourselves. At least a few times a year, I get a potential client who wants me to lie for him in some way. “I have a friend who will say I was in another place at the time” or “Yes, I did it, but I want to take the stand and say I didn’t do it” or even “The DA doesn’t know about my record in another state, so if the judge asks, say I don’t have a record.” Sometimes lawyers are removed because they do these dishonest things in order to win their case. (This goes for DAs who hide evidence as well, of course.)
And the police are in a similar situation.
Their job requires that the public believe that they are on our side — that they can be trusted. We should be saying “Oh, good, the police are here” and not be afraid of them.
But as we can see these days, that is often not the case. Despite the fact that the vast majority of police are good, decent, and honest people, they don’t have the support of much of the public because of the actions of some of them.
And that’s why it is imperative that the police police themselves — that they weed out the bad ones and don’t hide them behind the “Blue Wall.”
As you may guess, in my line of work, I have a lot of police officers I consider friends. They’re good people and I trust them. When we discuss a case we have together, I know that they aren’t hiding anything and that they can debate the crime without bias. They help me by being truthful and believable.
Then there are some that could say to me that the sky is blue and I’d go outside to look. And, not surprisingly, they have a reputation among the lawyers as someone whose word cannot be trusted. (Even the DAs will often agree with me when I tell them that the cop’s version of events isn’t true, because they can see it too.)
I am pleased to find that more and more DAs and police are prosecuting the bad cops these days. I give credit to the fact that everyone is carrying around a little movie camera, which makes it harder for a bad cop to lie about what happened.
But my point here is basically this: To keep your reputation, you need to distance yourself from those who would hurt it by association. This goes for everyone. If you’re a plumber, help expose the dishonest ones. If you’re a religious person, be sure to criticize and distance yourself from those of your religion that preach hate.
Set high standards, live up to them yourself, and do your best to make everyone else live up to them as well.
Protecting those who don’t means your own standards have been lowered.
Police, like lawyers, are people. People can be corrupted. People can be evil. The problem is that the police see any policing of the evil and corrupted in their ranks as attacks on all police. I agree with your premise that we need to elevate our standards in all fields, but especially in ones that people have to rely on for safety like police, firemen, doctors. When you need one you have to trust they are not out to kill you.
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