After the Webinar: Developing the Individual and Organizational Ethic. Q&A with Dr. Jeff Fox

Webinar presenter Dr. Jeff Fox answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Developing the Individual and Organizational Ethic. Here are some of his responses.


Audience Question: Is ethics always included in the Police Academy as a topic?

Dr. Jeff Fox:  I hope it is, but I believe it would depend on every state. Every state has their own standards that they must meet. I know in Virginia, ethics is covered in classes. When I was at the Academy, our mandate was that every class we taught had an element of ethics in it. You don't have to say, "We're going to talk about ethics today," but it was there whether it was firearms — especially when you get to firearms, defensive tactics, survival. It was in everything. I would like to think that it's in every state, but I cannot promise you that it is.



Audience Question: On the importance of having ethical individuals in your organization. How do you hire for ethics? 

Dr. Jeff Fox:  First of all, you need to look at the entire background investigation, and how good of a background you do. Every agency's different on that. A really good background investigation goes deep back into that person's past. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. It doesn't always mean that's the case, people can change. If you want to see what you expect to get, look at their past. That goes across the gamut. Who do you think people will put on their resume (as references)? People you want to talk to — and that's fine, but you need to go beyond those people.

The other thing is, you want to look at the whole thing. Some will do polygraphs. I'm fine with polygraphs as far as an investigative tool. Students come to me and say, "I've been a told a lie on the polygraph." And I'll just tell them that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard anybody say before. Just tell the truth. I always tell the students that there are three things you want to make sure. That you're mentally, physically and morally clean when you get hired. Don't expect to get hired if you've done this or that. Just because you weren't convicted of it doesn't mean you're not going to look at it. You also look at the company the person keeps. That's a very good background investigation. And when the background investigator makes a recommendation, hopefully, the leadership listen to what they say. I've seen cases where they go, "Well, we're going to hire that person anyway." That's a dangerous thing to do. Some things get knocked out. 

There's a fellow in the Academy who told his classmates the police are the enemy. He was kind of rude, would bump into his classmates in the squad room. I got word of this and I called him in. I said, "You know, you alienated your whole class. Why do you think the police are the enemy?" This guy came from a bad part of a bad city. He couldn't give me an answer. I said, "Why are you even here if you think the police are the enemy? We're going to be watching you really carefully for the rest of the time that you're here." I didn't have anything else to fire him for other than that, and that wasn't enough. But you know, he was at the Academy by 6 months and his past turned up where he was involved in statutory rape. They served warrants on him and he was fired. So, no wonder the police were the enemy.



Audience Question: Do you find that few agencies and employers don't go to that secondary or tertiary level of asking the references, "Who are three other people we can talk about this individual”? Do most organizations not do that?

Dr. Jeff Fox: I don't have any hard data on that. I think there's probably more that don't go as deep as they could. This came to mind, we weren't doing polygraphs at the time, I was a police officer and he came knocking on my door to my bedroom to do a background investigation. He said, "I want you to tell me everything there is to know about you and anything that you don't tell me I'll find about will be considered a lie, and we won't hire you." That kind of puts the pressure on you, doesn't it? To tell the truth about everything. This needs to be a serious thing. You need to be fair with people. But I think the majority probably don't go as far as they should, but there are some that do.



Q: I am an ethics instructor at my Police Academy. Are there any resources such as books, etc. that you would recommend to enhance the instruction to make it interesting?

Dr. Jeff Fox:  At the end of this PowerPoint is 4 to 5 pages of references. Some of those are newer or better than others. If you want to, you can email me, and I can pick out about 5 or 6 ones that are just phenomenal. I would highly recommend Gilmartin for one. You want to read what he has to say. There are a couple other ones in there. Pollock is another one. Another book was written by a fellow, Delattre. He has a great book on character and policing. Those are three off the top that I would recommend but there are 4 or 5 pages here of great references.  



Q: You talked about half-price or free offers during the entitlement section of your presentation. But there are a lot of companies out there who market themselves who do discounts honoring first responders, military, police, etc., especially around Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Veteran's Day. Are you saying justice professionals should not take advantage of that 30% off at restaurant dinner or 10% off at a furniture purchase?

Dr. Jeff Fox:  I'm glad you asked that. I don't want to have people think that's how I feel. Every agency is different on that. People may disagree with me on this. If you draw a hard line in the sand with the agency and you write in on your manual. You will never, ever, under any circumstance take a free meal or half-price on anything. You're pretty much setting your people up to violate the policy. I work for a really strict agency and our policy wasn't that. Our policy really didn't get deep into it, but basically, it was, if anybody ever expected anything for free out of it, you don't do it. But we were told we couldn't have half-price or free because people just want to do it for the right reasons. Honestly, some might want to do it because it's nice to have a police car up front for reasons, one is security, and if a police eat there, it must be good food.

I had some of my guys walk into a restaurant one day and one of the guys had given somebody there a ticket. The owner said, "I guess we should let you all have free food and won't give our people ticket." I asked the guys, "What did you do?"They said, "We all sat down and eat." I said, "I'm going to tell you right now, I'm highly disappointed with every single one of you for what you did." When he said that he turned around and walked out the door and never went back in there again. Because he was telling you that they were doing it because they want something out of it. It's just wrong to do what you did.

I was over in Germany and I was directing traffic. And this old German lady brought me a little hot tea out. I said, "No ma'am, I'm not allowed to take that." Where was the harm in this little lady giving me hot tea? What was I going to get out of that? It's the same thing for a cup of coffee. Now, it can grow and get bigger. If somebody brings you a television, no we don't do that. Somebody gives you a free car, no we don't do that. You should have parameters there at some place. I'm not opposed to that, but you shouldn't expect it and you shouldn't demand it.



Audience Question: Can you explain a little bit more what passive resistance is, in an organization?

Dr. Jeff Fox:  It goes back to the acts of commission where you don't do your job. You slow down. You're going to work one day and just right around do nothing. You do it the next day and the next day. I'll be honest, I was a super hard worker, hard charger. There were days when I went to work, and something happened, and it was just a punch in the gut for me and it was hard for me to do much. I did it. I stood myself up and said no, "I'm getting paid to do this, I have a duty, I'm going to do my duty." I can also see people that say, "You know what, it's been a rough day for me." There's a difference when something bad happens. When someone in the office died or something. Everybody may slow down. You got to expect there may be a change in behavior for a while. Just resisting whatever it is that you're trying to get accomplished. That's the best way I can put it. It might be, you're supposed to deal with ten clients a day, and you don't deal with one or two. Or you push things off. It's almost like a subtle type of sabotage.


Click here to see a recording of "Developing the Individual and Organizational Ethic."

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