While his grammar may not have been the best, the character Tony Montana struck a chord inside me with this quote in the movie Scarface: “All I have in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break them for no one.”
It should come as no surprise that people lie to cops all of the time. They may be lying to protect themselves, lying to protect a friend or family member, or lying to justify whatever actions they took in a particular incident. I’ve heard all manner of excuses from traffic violators. I’ve had suspects who were absolutely caught in the act on camera swear on everything holy that they did nothing wrong. I’ve had a rapist absolutely deny ever seeing his victim, only to be snagged later by DNA evidence.
I totally understand the motives of a lying suspect who is facing a fine or time in a cell for violating the law, but it can be a tough lesson to learn for a new officer. Sometimes it can really weigh on you as you realize that there are plenty of folks that will lie, cheat, and steal without remorse given the opportunity to do so. Once a new officer experiences the cycle enough, being lied to at work is no longer a personal thing. It’s just part of the game that we play on a daily basis.
Cops lie to suspects, too. If it’s done well, it can level the playing field when an officer is face to face with a suspect that is lying through whatever teeth they still have. If I can convince a suspect that I know more than I really do and get them to confess, I can justify my actions. I’m by no means the world’s best interviewer or interrogator, but I’ve had small victories here and there. If I need to be deceptive to make it work, so be it.
Outside of those interactions where I have to lie to a suspect in the course of an investigation, I pride myself on being an honest man. I don’t take a cent that doesn’t belong to me, and I’d certainly never fudge paperwork or testimony for a conviction. If you ask me a question and you’re old enough to hear the honest answer, that’s exactly what you’ll get because I’ve reached the point in my life where I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. While I’m not quite to the “not giving a shit” level of rocking dress socks with loafers in jorts, maybe one day I’ll get there.
As a parent, I fully understand that my sugar donuts will test the waters and lie to Mrs. Donut and me. If we catch them in a lie, their punishment is always more harsh to encourage them to be truthful in the future. It’s a part of being an involved parent, and Mrs. Donut and I do what we can to mold our children into good, honest people.
As parents, we do soften some things with little lies for the sugar donuts. We perpetuate the same general lies for holidays and the like, but we think it’s justified because they are part of maintaining a sense of innocence for our children. One day they’ll be old enough to know better, and if they question our lies we’ll have to own up to them and the double standard we created.
There are people in this world that I expect to be honest with me, no matter the situation. These folks are in my inner circle, the foundation of my small corner of the world. There is no game to be played inside the inner circle, just truthfulness and respect.
As my best friend, Mrs. Donut doesn’t hesitate to tell me the truth, and I do the same for her. It’s a measure of mutual respect. She puts up with enough bullshit from me because of work and my other obligations, so I won’t compound it by lying to her. In my opinion, that’s how a marriage is supposed to be, and we’ve managed to pull it off very well over the years.
I don’t expect my friends, coworkers, and bosses to lie to me either. I don’t have the time or patience for such things. For the most part, my friends and coworkers have held up their end of the bargain, and I do the same for them. Again, it’s a mutual respect thing.
Like a lot of people I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with bosses who lied, and mine began in the Marine Corps. Sometimes the lie isn’t necessarily known until the shit hits the fan and the overinflated blow-hard shows his true self by acting like a coward in the face of danger. Maybe he thought he was actually God’s gift to warfare, maybe his lie was actually to himself, or maybe deep down he realized he was a coward long before rounds impacted in his area and he was trying to prevent us from discovering that he would wither when he was needed most. I’ll never know the true answer because with any luck I’ll never speak to the man again. At any rate, I lost all respect for him when we were in combat because his true colors showed through after years of posturing and perpetuating a lie.
Less extreme scenarios have played out during my career in law enforcement, but they follow the same general pattern. I’ve been lied to by people above me in the chain of command several times, and it’s mostly been for ridiculous reasons. Perhaps it’s because they’ve been off the streets long enough that they forgot how to handle conflict. Maybe I’ve been used as a pawn in a power struggle by members of the star and oak leaf cluster club. Or maybe the rumor is true, and the bleach in white shirts actually does dissolve a spine.
I expect to be lied to by suspects, and even sometimes victims and witnesses while I’m at work. I don’t hold a grudge against them for doing it because it’s not a personal thing, it’s a part of the game. If you’re inside my little circle of trust but you can’t manage to be honest, your word will forever be tainted to me. It may be a harsh way to view the world and maybe it puts the bar too high, but it’s a matter of respect. If you don’t show me respect, I’ll reciprocate the feeling without any sense of remorse. I may no longer respect the person, but I’ll tell the truth, regardless if anyone wants to hear it.
If I ever enter the realm of the oak leaf and cluster club, I’ll bring my balls and my word with me and I’ll retire with them intact. I’ll be damned if I’ll put on one of those white shirts though.
It’s time to go patrol the Donut…