Why Law Enforcement Shouldn’t Be Exempt From Being Monitored

As readers of this blog know all too well, I am a salesperson by trade. Indeed, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve mentioned my “vast” experience in the field, I’d have enough money to treat my wife to dinner at Tavern on the Green in Central Park; that is as soon as it opens back up. Seems New York City has this thing called COVID-19 that kind of put the kabash on dining out for the time being.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating there – and to be honest, I haven’t – or if you are unfamiliar with this particular establishment, here’s all you need to know. A modest four-course meal comes to around $100 per person, sans alcohol, which I suppose is needed to deaden the pain of the check.
Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes, sales. In every sales job I’ve had – and let’s just be polite and say I’ve traveled around a bit – there have been goals that I needed to achieve in order to make a commission check. My close ratio was closely monitored, along with my attachment rate. Attachments are add-ons. Like when a customer buys a flat panel TV, did I also sell them a power strip, an extended warranty, a DVD player, a home theater system, etc? 

If the job was phone sales, I was required to make a certain number of outbound calls per day, and I needed to have at least two hours talk time; in some jobs it was three hours. If I failed to achieve either, I was told my performance was unsatisfactory and that it would need to improve. If I was calling existing accounts I was required to find new contacts and when I spoke with them to ask what products they were purchasing and from whom. Under no circumstances was I ever to hang up on a customer without asking for a sale, unless I was just following up on a customer service issue. And even then, it was customary to ask if anything else was needed.

If the job was a retail position, each and every customer that walked in the store was an opportunity that I was expected to close. My managers insisted that I get them involved before the customer walked out of the store, and if I didn’t there was hell to pay. Even when they did buy, if I couldn’t get them to purchase an extended warranty, I was required to get the manager involved. No excuses were allowed and disciplinary measures up to and including a possible suspension came for anyone who didn’t follow the rules.

For those thinking of getting into the field, it is a very tough way to make a living. One day you’re on top of the world, the next you can’t catch a cold. But make no mistake about it: every minute of your day is monitored, from the moment you clock in to the moment you clock out. About the only privacy you get is going to the restroom or out to lunch.

As I scan the myriad professions in this country, what strikes me most is that, without exception, all of them have certain requirements that must be adhered to in order for the employees in those fields to keep their jobs.
A surgeon, for instance, must get prior authorization from an insurance company before operating on a patient. The insurance company requires a diagnosis of the problem besetting the patient, an explanation for why the surgical procedure is necessary and a detailed cost analysis which includes tests, blood work, medications, how long the patient will be hospitalized and what post-op procedures, if any, will be needed. I know this for a fact because I was hospitalized six times in 2019, twice for surgery, and in each instance, Blue Cross had to sign off before any treatment or tests were administered. If for any reason a surgeon fails to do some or all of the above, he or she can lose their license to practice medicine. It’s one of the few fields where getting a 90 is considered a failing grade.

A contractor needs to be licensed before doing any construction in your home. In order to get that license, the county where the business is located requires it to carry insurance in case of damage. If you step inside a customer’s home and you’re not licensed, you can be sued and perhaps even arrested.

Perhaps no profession is more closely monitored that that of attorney. Regardless of whether you’re a prosecutor, criminal or civil attorney, there are certain procedures that must be met at all times. If an attorney suborns perjury, he or she can be disbarred. Even slight offenses can have significant consequences such as censure. As an officer of the court, a lawyer has a duty to uphold the highest standards possible.

Teachers are perhaps our most trusted public servants. They are responsible for shaping the minds of our children and for safeguarding them during the day. It is a thankless job that pays not nearly enough, and yet, even with all they must endure, society still requires them to uphold certain standards. Their students must be able to pass the tests that the state requires; the classroom must be a safe environment; and abuse of any kind is not tolerated. A teacher who fails in any of these metrics can find him or herself with a pink slip or, as in the case of abuse, an arrest warrant.

The world of sports is perhaps the most lucrative profession any person can join. A pro athlete, depending on the sport, can earn more in one year than most people earn in a lifetime. But even in this vocation, there are certain standards that must be met if one wants to be a starter. And there are even some rules that if broken can irreparably damage an athlete’s career. The taking of drugs, be they recreational or performance enhancement supplements, can end a career dead in its tracks. Betting on one’s one team, as Pete Rose did, can lead to a permanent ban from the sport. Imagine screwing up a livelihood that pays millions of dollars a year. Amazingly, people have done just that.

My point is there are rules that every occupation and profession have that must be adhered to. Failure to do so can result in tragic consequences.

Why, then, aren’t cops subjected to the same set of criteria that any surgeon or lawyer or teacher would be? We’ve been told that being a cop is a tough job. That fact is NOT in dispute. But the difficulty of doing one’s job should never be used as a shield against accountability.

If no one is above the law, then no one should be above scrutiny. There isn’t one profession in America that doesn’t have at least some monitoring. Properly instituted, monitoring is an effective tool in helping all employees improve their performance. As much as it pains me to admit, getting called into my boss’s office to review my numbers made me a better salesperson. And the idea that holding cops responsible will somehow hurt them is so utterly ridiculous as to be offensive. Good cops can only benefit from being monitored, and bad cops have no business wearing a uniform and carrying a gun in the first place. If closer monitoring can root out the rotten apples on the force, then that should be a cause for celebration for every good cop in the country.

I know first hand the damage that some disreputable people have done to the reputations of those in my line of work. The term “used-car salesman” is not a term of endearment. Their recklessness has made all our jobs that much more difficult. But the difference between my profession and that of law enforcement is that there’s no “blue wall” in the former. When someone steps over the line and rips off a customer or perhaps even the company itself and one of us finds out about, that salesperson is given up like a bad habit. More often than not, they are shown the door, their reputation permanently destroyed. If the offense warrants, the company may even press charges.

Here’s the thing. America needs an effective police force that can protect the communities they serve. But effective doesn’t mean carte blanche. Being told you can’t do something – like employing a choke hold or executing a no-knock warrant – doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. If I told my boss I couldn’t sell with her looking over my shoulder, that meeting in her office would turn into an exit interview real quickly.

The fact is there isn’t a single profession I can think of where the employee enjoys such protections and immunities. This must stop if we are to ever end the senseless killings that have occurred within the African American community at the hands of law enforcement.

95 out of a hundred is a pretty damn good grade, but as Chris Rock adroitly observed, “Some jobs can’t have bad apples, okay? Everybody gotta be good. Like pilots. Ya know, American Airlines can’t be like, ‘Most of our pilots like to land. We just got a few bad apples that like to crash into mountains. Please bear with us.'”

Well put, Chris.

Author: Peter Fegan

Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants' fan and reluctant Mets' fan. My favorite motto? I'd rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.

What say you, the people?