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June 3, 2014

BEAM: Blurring the blue line

— It was the summer of 2004, and my husband wasn’t coming home at night. I couldn’t much blame him.

We were living on Oahu, and the natural beauty of Hawaii islands had been known to captivate a man. When the sun went down over the Western edge of the Pacific, an orange glow filled the air that could stir the senses. Add the trade winds blowing the sweet smell of plumeria and you could understand why those in love make the pilgrimage to the Aloha State.

Not everything in Hawaii is paradise though. Corruption took my husband from me during these nights, although at the time I didn’t understand of what nature. Law enforcement guys, including FBI agents, can’t always tell their wives what they work on.

So when our spouses go out with their Kevlar vests in the wee hours of the morning, we can do little but worry, wait and pray. Through time, the ritual becomes a way of life. Still, it never gets any less difficult.

As the extra hours accumulated and the case headed toward the courts, I discovered my husband had been part of a surveillance operation that was investigating five Honolulu police officers. Their indictments varied from extortion to trafficking crystal meth. One in particular warned criminals of upcoming raids. Two other on-duty officers would routinely work security for an illegal gambling and cockfighting operation.

Just like with most jobs, law enforcement agencies can be plagued with wrongdoing. The bureau was no exception. An FBI analyst was also found in the sting to have leaked sensitive information to third party.

Less than moral law enforcement officials always anger me. They project a picture that an inherent dishonesty lies in the underbelly of police organizations.

For most, this simply isn’t true.

A majority of officers and federal agents live by the letter of the law. These men and women put their lives on the line, and miss countless milestones and celebrations in order to protect the community. Theirs is a thankless job, full of angry motorists, long stakeouts and the chance of being injured at every traffic stop or warrant served.

That said, Spiderman’s uncle had it right. With great power comes great responsibility. We expect more from those who enforce the law. In exchange for the authority of their badge, they must be held to higher standards.

When law enforcement officials fail to uphold the very law they enforce, more than public trust is broken. A disdainful eye can be turned toward all the men and women in blue. Respect is lessened. The integrity of good officers may be questioned. A feeling of distrust can circulate through the community.

Once this happens, how do we restore confidence in those who rightfully protect us?

Accountability will go a long way. Only an open, unbiased investigation will provide the answers to the public’s concerns. Every accusation against an officer, both on and off duty, must be investigated by an entity not related to the organization in question. (Just like the FBI examined the claims of misconduct at the Honolulu PD.)

Even the illusion of impropriety in these proceedings casts doubts on the outcomes. Despite the verdict, the investigative evidence and findings should be unrestricted and easily accessible to the community and the media.

Also important, bystanders who witnessed any alleged wrongdoings must come forward and tell what really happened. No one should be afraid of retribution. State and federal laws exist to combat intimidation.

Injustice cowers when the truth is spoken. Speak up. Let your story be heard.

Finally, don’t let the negative actions of a few extend to all law enforcement. Righteous officials are the norm. Most sacrifice so much to help others, and their service should not go unrecognized. If you get the chance, thank them, for their days — and nights — of protection.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com

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