It’s our fault, again, as always.
Last week’s tragic events in Plymouth unfolded as they so often do. A madman goes on a violent spree. Police officers attend at speed, not knowing what they will face both in terms of their own personal safety, and in terms of the traumatic images they will be living with for some time to come. They deal with the immediate aftermath, doing so well what they’ve done for so long.
Then the press come in and within minutes they ‘ask questions’ about what the police did wrong. I write ‘ask questions’, but the unfortunate fact is that such questions imply fault immediately they are asked, and the more they are asked, the more assumptions guide them. The pot is well and truly stirred with no consequence to the asker except improved profile and profits, while those asked are assumed from the off to be covering something up.
And all the while, the uninformed public is convinced more and more that someone did something stupid. As if a licensing officer went, “Give this nutter his gun back, I don’t care.”
Never have I heard the question asked, “What laws were created that made this possible – you know, the laws that the police don’t really like but have to comply with?”
I see both sides, here, to be blunt.
First of all, legal precedent is binding, and all too often a higher court decision impacts the ability of those ‘below’ to act in any way other than blind compliance. There are things we can’t do anything about, and properly considered court decisions and precedents are one of those things.
But on the other hand, there is also a blind compliance born of unwillingness to question, to debate, to argue for alternatives. It’s one thing to say that (in this example) “A court decision meant I had to give his gun back”. It’s another to say, “He might sue us and that would cost us time and money”. Or worse, “I’d have to justify my decision and argue it in court. And I’m too weary/scared/unwilling to do that.”. That’s a get out. That’s surrender. That’s moral and ethical cowardice.
That, ladies, gentlemen and others, is an unwillingness to stand up for what you truly believe.
Standing up for what matters is often time consuming and can be expensive. But the quick and cheap alternatives are seldom any better.
NASA once had a motto: ‘Better, Faster, Cheaper!’. Some wag defaced one of their prolifically-placed posters with the expression, ‘Pick Any Two’. Think about that. You can have better and faster and it’ll cost you. You can have cheap but it won’t be good, even if it’s faster.
Now apply that thinking to what you believe. You can resolutely stand for something but it won’t be cheap in terms of time or money. Or you can take the quick route – but it won’t be better, and you might have to pay more. Or someone else will.
So when comes the time for the argument about whether or not what you’re being asked to do is quick/best/cheap, then stand up for the best, values-based option. Stand up firmly. Know the absolutes (unchangeable) and conditionals (debatable, changeable, influenceable). Know them better than those with whom you will have the aforementioned debate. Thereafter, if the decision goes against you (as it so often will) then at least you know you did your best. What happens afterwards is someone else’s responsibility.
And write it all down – when, where, to and with whom, and how it was said.
Never mind the time saved later – your conscience will be clear as well.