Once a cop, always a cop—even if you’re not, anymore: Why your history of previous employment in law enforcement tends to follow you wherever you go, especially if you break the law
By Ken K. Gourdin
There is a headline in the on-line edition of The Salt Lake Tribune this morning (see http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/55913055-78/sorensen-drug-theft-child.html.csp, last accessed today) about a former Davis County (Utah) sheriff’s deputy, Christopher K. Sorenson, being charged with stealing merchandise by attempting to switch bar codes on more expensive items with those on less expensive items in a store, then absconding with the merchandise when the scheme failed. (Hey, he tried to pay . . . something; can’t a guy get credit at least for attempting to be a little bit honest? Heh-heh!) The five-finger discount was only his second option, after all! He has prior convictions for retail theft and drug use, and has been in treatment (but has relapsed) several times. My comment was, “Treatment hasn’t worked. Maybe jail will.”
Other commenters wondered why his employment in law enforcement is still relevant, given that he was discharged from his position as a deputy ten years ago. I believe there are at least two reasons why it might be. Here’s what I said in response:
Right or wrong, fair or unfair, knowledge of one’s former occupation in a position of public trust (especially a position of public trust as critical as that of a law enforcement officer) tends to follow him wherever he goes. Hopefully it puts current officers on notice of their obligation to their oath to keep their lives (private and public) unsullied, and puts law enforcement, municipal, and county leaders on notice of their obligation to screen candidates very carefully.
The fact that Mr. Sorenson’s previous employment in law enforcement was mentioned, even though that employment is not recent, simply is evidence of how seriously the press and the public take the idea of public trust. Mr. Sorenson should have taken that idea far more seriously than he did, and every officer should take it seriously, as well. Many do; some don’t. We can hope that they can learn from the mistakes of people like Mr. Sorenson without having to make their own.