How to Act When You’re Caught in the Crosshairs of Controversy

I am grateful for the wonderful professionals who have chosen a career in law enforcement. Ours is one of the most difficult professions made more complicated by a changing culture that expects perfection from imperfect people working in high stress and dangerous situations. Integrity is in short supply across America so your character counts more than you might imagine.

We live in difficult times, but every generation has their unique challenges. Here are some impediments that make our profession all the more necessary. Whether the lists qualify as philosophical examination or paradoxical fodder, I am not sure. Since it is real, you will find yourself in the crosshairs of controversy every day you carry a badge and deal with people who have compromised values.


  • Honesty is a value that is valued less every day.
  • Right and wrong now reside in shades of gray.
  • Diversion from fact is a strategy implemented by the corrupt.
  • Lying has been minimized while deception has been maximized.
  • Public officials and people in power claiming 5th amendment privileges have become commonplace, all the while declaring to be eager in seeking the truth.
  • We have cast aside certainty for ambiguity, which has led to ambiguous confusion.

Social Issues

  • Today’s cops are tasked with solving more non-law enforcement related problems then at anytime in history.
  • Society is decriminalizing drugs while crying foul at the deaths they produce.
  • In seeking social diversity, people have become more divided than ever.
  • Some have mistaken their inalienable rights as the right to demand that others agree with their depravity.
  • Being “enlightened” has led to a darker world.
  • A darker world casts the illusion of pleasure, but pain awaits its’ inhabitants.
  • Traditions have been redefined to make a select few happy, yet there is more unhappiness that has led to a population seeking therapy in record numbers.
  • Worldview therapy also triumphs expression, but so much of the expression turns out to be destruction.
  • We work more to buy bigger homes then see it combust when strangers are unable to cope while occupying the same house.
  • The moral compass for our nation has been trampled upon by a parade of lascivious self-expression—but since everyone enjoys a “train wreck” we watch in volume.


  • Culture is shaped by a distorted, unrealistic view in the media.
  • The 24-hour news cycle is enough to make us want to hunker down.
  • There is more politicking than reporting.
  • Sound bites deceive, as editors become more activists than journalists.


  • We blame things for behavior generated by the choices of those who are confused, lost, and otherwise wandering off course.
  • The vocal opinions of a few are influencing the majority and will continue to blame firearms for destruction rather than the heart of those in possession of guns that “tamed the west” and currently defend about 2.5 million people from victimization annually.
  • The public wants us to combat the bad guys, but they cheer in the movie theater what they find vile in real life.
  • Medication is replacing discipline leading to breeches in safety everywhere.


  • We have crushed our moral compass to appease a few, leaving lessons unworthy of duplication but duplicated nonetheless. This has created a new norm that is abnormal and emotionally unhealthy.
  • Punishment has lost its’ place in the corrections process.
  • In anger, people scream for justice except when they are to blame, they then ask for … no, they demand mercy because it is really the fault of another.
  • Those professing to be tolerant do not tolerate others taking a stand for what they believe to be right.


  • Civil debate is limited while “scorched earthed” is common practice.
  • Being good stewards of the environment and respect for the animal kingdom are important values. Unfortunately, they have become schools of religious thought.
  • Entitlement has symbolically been added to the Constitution while responsibility has been erased from public practice.
  • The American way of life appears to be imploding based upon actions taken by politicians seeking to expand power rather than serve people.
  • These same office holders claim to believe in American exceptionalism, yet so many impede forward progress in pursuit of personal agendas.

Spiritual Darkness

  • As our culture has become more tolerant we have become less reliant on anything resembling God or His guidance for us.
  • We want to kick God out of the public square except when evil annihilates the day. Then we corporately pray asking God to do what humanity could not.
  • Some seek salvation through Mother Earth while chastising the belief of a Heavenly Father.
  • The more distant we travel from our Judeo—Christian values, the more confused, intolerant, and angry we become.
  • We have traded authority through revelation of an omnipotent Creator for authority based on the majority of public opinion, resulting in every person being a law unto himself.

I feel like some of our not-so-fellow-Americans are attempting to re-write Take Me Out to the Ball Game by removing the line, “Root, root, root for the home team.” We are the home team, so I will continue to cheer for our success without apology.

As law enforcement professionals, how do we survive when placed in the crosshairs of controversy? I commend three solutions to you. While simple, your boots might feel like they are anchored in cement, because these practices will be unpopular at various times and downright professional suicide in certain circumstances.

  1. Stick to the truth regardless of favor or partiality.
  2. Be flexible with your preferences, but stand firm in your principles.
  3. Deal with the facts, not the personalities or perceptions involved.

WARNING: If you practice these solutions you may get symbolically bloodied. But if peace of mind and a clear conscience are things valued, you will apply each one. What sounds like a no brainer is anything but easy when politics, budgets, and opposing powerful forces collide—and you are caught in the middle with no where to hide.

Country music performer Eric Church sang, “I don’t like to fight but I ain’t scared to bleed.” His cause was different than ours, but you get the point. Symbolic or real, if your blood is shed when you seek the truth based upon facts, and stand firm in the basic principles of the law enforcement code of ethics, you have a much better chance of prevailing when you’re caught in the crosshairs of controversy. But on occasion we need to choose what is right over being victorious and that is where character is formed.

As a post-script, may I suggest seeking allies when feasible? Once you form an alliance and have principled facts and truth in your corner, do not abandon them. “Hang together or we’ll be hung separately,” said General George Washington to his troops as the Continental Army was outnumbered 5-1 and surrounded in Brooklyn Heights by British forces. The American Revolution was a controversy of epic proportion, and I think you know how that one ended!

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