We can only tolerate so much
Here in Ottawa I have been paying attention to the local media's coverage of the case of Constable Kevin Hall of the Ottawa Police Service. Hall is currently appealing to the Divisional Court of Ontario to overturn the decision to dismiss him after he admitted that he is addicted to drugs, and that he has stolen them from the evidence lockup. He has plead guilty to an offence under Ontario's Police Services Act and was ordered dismissed. He is currently suspended with pay.
I think that most people that know me can attest that I am a very forgiving person, sometimes quick to anger, but never for very long. I am a strong believer in second chances, but somehow I just can't wrap my head around how allowing Constable Hall to continue to serve as a police officer could be a good decision.
According to what I have read, Hall's lawyer is arguing that the problem could simply be solved by submitting Hall to random drug testing. I respectfully disagree. There is no getting around the fact that the public is aware of this case. People deserve to be able to have confidence in their police officers, and they have to know that the people who are charged to uphold the law are every bit as accountable, if not more than civilians.
I understand that we can't expect police officers to be superhuman, and like anyone else, they too have the right to make mistakes, and while they are responsible for repairing the consequences of those mistakes, the punishment must fit the crime and destroying someone's career is not always the solution. I would not be so quick to demand a dismissal if the circumstances were a little more reasonable. For example, if an officer realized that he or she was addicted to narcotics and sought treatment on their own. This of course opens up a whole other can of worms, because the officer in question would still be terrified about coming forward for treatment out of fear of losing the respect of his or her colleagues. It is also very difficult for a person who is suffering from addiction to realize that they have a problem. So it's not always reasonable to expect someone to come forward, but frankly we have to draw the line somewhere, and for police officers that line must be more demanding than for other people because of the other powers we confide to them and because of the need to maintain trust with the public. Being a police officer is not easy.
For all I know, Constable Hall might have become addicted to drugs while working undercover, and if that is the case I would deffinately say that the man needs treatment, not necessarily discipline (depending on any other circumstances). But it is also entirely possible that he simply got in with a bad crowd and a got caught up in the wrong kind of life style. If that is the case, it was still his decision, and he will have to live with the consequences.
Finally, as is often the case with court cases being reported on by the media, a lot of important details could have been left out from what I've read, so it's entirely possible that the Constable has a perfectly justifiable reason for not being fired, I guess that's why everyone is entitled to his or her day in court.