by Ian D Scofield
Earlier this month a Pennsylvania police officer was voted into a suspension by his city council in the city of Middletown. Why was this suspension given? Because he went to church while on duty and in uniform.
The council voted that he would be suspended for 10 days. It hasn't been made public whether or not the suspension will include pay or not.
In the past the officer had previously gone to church in uniform. On his first time going to church in uniform under the current police chief, the officer was warned that he could not do that again. He was told to request time off if he needed to attend religious services. This was reportedly detailed in a formal letter of reprimand that explained that the practice of going to church while in uniform was no longer allowed.
Because we have the right in the United States to our religious freedoms the officer is arguing that the suspension violates his religious freedoms.
Some people would also argue that by allowing officers to go to church in duty and in uniform are showing support for the churches their officers go to. This can create a blurry line. It may be a small argument but it is there none the less.
The officer who was involved in this stated that he only did this when there were no calls and that he was still available to handle calls for service. That being said, if there was a call while he was in church, no matter how hard he tried to be polite, leaving to take the call would cause a distraction.
While not the same, there was a case recently of an officer getting in trouble after kneeling during the national anthem. It was in the department's policies that officers must stand during such performances/recitals.
It wasn't a matter of whether or not these officers should be allowed to do such things, it is a fact that they were instructed not to/it was in the policies not to do such things. There is an appropriate way to go about changing policies and procedures. It tends to be far more effective too.
If you believe that something on the books policy wise needs to be changed (added or removed) then you should ask for it in person and in writing. Try to support your argument with facts. This will make it more likely that you will gain the support/approval of those above you.
Another thing to consider, is that while a lot of us love doing what we do, it is still a job Many jobs don't allow workers to go to church while at work. They may allow it while on an unpaid lunch but not while you are doing work for the company.
Make sure that policies and procedures are clearly spelled out and available to officers. Some agencies don't make these as available to officers as they could. That means that while officers might know the big policies, they are lacking on knowledge of the small ones.
The officer involved in the above-mentioned church suspension claimed that previous police chiefs had allowed officers to go to church. Instead of a formal reprimand, the new chief could have issued a department-wide memo. This isn't just for niceties. It is also for fairness so that all officers know that going to church is off limits now if it was previously allowed.
I will not take sides on whether or not the suspension was justified in this situation. Not all of the facts were publically released and each department also has the right to moderate itself as it sees fit. I have just given departments and officers alike some things to think about while providing two cases to consider those thoughts with. As always, stay safe out there.
About The Author:
Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer. At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content. Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.
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