This essay deals with topics associated with employment and policy law for supervisors and managers, with focus on four specific aspects of the application of such legislation. The first is a hypothetical scenario in which a police chief has to develop a policy to help his officers deal with the issues associated with a number of recent incidents of the “suicide by cop” situation. The second topic describes how criminal justice employees are protected by employment laws and why that protection is important. The third item is a description of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case of sexual harassment, outline of the arguments on both sides and consideration of their respective merits, plus a view on the impact of the court’s decision on current employment and policy law. The fourth and final topic covered deals with a hypothetical situation where a police sergeant observes alcohol abuse on the part of two of his men, with proposed steps he could take to deal with the issue.
Suicide by Cop
I am the chief of police in a city of 250,000 residents. In recent times there have been three cases of suicide by cop (suicidal persons who try to force officers to shoot them to end their own lives) within my jurisdiction. I think I should develop a policy to help my police officers deal with this issue, for various reasons. Firstly, any fatal shooting causes a strain on community-police relations (Dahl 2011), plus – as Dahl states: “There are few circumstances more terrifying for a police officer than facing a person with nothing to lose.” Not only that, but as Dahl also reports, such events often result in psychological stress for the officer concerned and in so many cases these days also bring lawsuits in their wake. Dahl’s article notes that some police officers felt they had to leave their job after realizing they had killed a suicidal civilian.
So, I believe that my officers should all receive targeted training. There appears to be no easy way for an officer to determine whether he/she is facing a potential “suicide by cop” situation and therefore no specific way to deal with the perpetrator, but I believe we should prepare all of my officers for that eventuality. I also need to set up a crisis intervention team in my department, so that a trained person is available “on call” at any time, should any of my officers feel they are being confronted by a potential “suicide by cop” candidate.
Employment Law Protection for Criminal Justice Employees
Rubin (1995) discusses issues including sexual harassment, recognized as discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act protects all employees against sexual harassment, including those working in the public sector. The need for protection is perhaps greater for police officers, prison warders and the like, because they come into contact with not just their work colleagues, but with others such as prison inmates or persons held in custody, or anyone else that is not a fellow employee but for whatever reason interacts with them.
The Act “makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, and sex”. An extension of that definition is that sexual harassment is considered as one form of sexual discrimination. Rubin describes that in employment terms, sexual harassment can be defined as “unwelcome sexual advances.” These may constitute requests for favors of a sexual nature, either in return for a promise of some benefit or other(known as “quid pro quo”), or perhaps simply as one unpleasant form of sexual discrimination (known as “hostile environment harassment”). By having the protection of the Civil Rights Act, an employee who is the victim of such behaviour knows that there is a legal recourse available to them. Conversely, a criminal justice employee accused of sexual harassment by (e.g.) an inmate, has the protection of the Act in that the accusation must be proven in the courts through due processes, so that malicious or unfounded claims may be rejected.
Sexual Harassment: A U.S. Supreme Court Decision
“Excerpts From Supreme Court Ruling on Sexual Harassment in Workplace” – a New York Times article (November 1993) – reported on a Supreme Court ruling on sexual harassment in the workplace. The case was brought by Teresa Harris, employed by Forklift Systems, Inc. as a manager. After a series of incidents involving sexual innuendos and derogatory gender-related remarks such as calling her “a dumb-ass woman, by the company’s president, Charles Hardy, Harris resigned and sued Forklift Inc. claiming an “abusive work environment”.
A District Court ruled against Harris, stating that Hardy’s comments did not “seriously affect” her “psychological well being.” and that an abusive working environment was not created. However, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act had been violated, thereby creating “an abusive working environment”, because she experienced “discriminatoryintimidation, ridicule, and insult” that the court determined was "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment”, even though it did not necessarily affect her psychological well being.
In my view, the Supreme Court got it right where the lower (District) court did not. Harris clearly suffered derogatory remarks and sexual innuendos witnessed by other employees and customers. That should not be acceptable in any employment. The verdict may well have set a precedent in that sexual harassment has been shown to be clearly unacceptable in the workplace. That may in turn lead to more such verdicts going in favor of the employee, which on balance must be a positive outcome.
Alcohol Abuse by Police Officers
I am a police sergeant with a squad of ten patrol officers, two of whom are exhibiting signs of alcohol abuse. Now I have to deal with the situation. According to an online article: “Alcoholism Among Law Enforcement Personnel: Its Unique Challenges” (July 2010), this serious problem is widespread. The article suggests that occupational stress may be the cause, which I can believe, knowing that a police officer’s job is one of the highest stress occupations, in which officers can be in life-threatening situations almost daily.
Some police forces are introducing preventive programs in which trained specialists periodically interview young officers to assess lifestyle risk factors (such as alcohol or drug abuse). However, I have a situation where the problem already exists. Having given the matter careful thought, I want if possible to keep these two long-serving officers in my squad. Hence I will not report them to my superiors, which would almost certainly cost them their jobs. Instead, I have decided to interview the both of them (separately), and confront them with the evidence of their “sickness”. I will make them each the following offer: They can keep their jobs and their pensions if they agree to a) undertake to immediately stop the excess drinking, and b) agree that until further notice they will accompany me to randomly-arranged alcohol tests to be carried out by a discreet doctor acquaintance of mine. I think that will fix the problem and keep my two good officers.
“Alcoholism Among Law Enforcement Personnel: Its Unique Challenges”. (July 2010). Milestone Group. Retrieved from http://milestonegroupnj.com/?p=142
Dahl, Julia. (2011). How to Stop Suicide by Cop. Pacific Standard. Retrieved from http://www.psmag.com/health/how-to-stop-suicide-by-cop-27758/
“Excerpts From Supreme Court Ruling on Sexual Harassment in Workplace”. (November 1993). New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/10/us/excerpts-from-supreme-court-ruling-on-sexual-harassment-in-workplace.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
Rubin, Paula, N. (1995). Civil Rights and Criminal Justice: Primer on Sexual Harassment. National Institute of Justice: Research in Action. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/harass.pdf