I am proud to be a lawyer, a member of the Florida Bar. Yet I’ve noticed a tendency in my profession to defend any member perceived to be under attack, to go easy upon the inevitable miscreants in our midst, perhaps from an “us v. them” perspective or perhaps from a “there but for the grace of god go I” point of view. The legal profession is not unique, many groups display this tendency – doctors, police officers and teachers unions just to name a few.
I’ve never understood this “circling the wagons” attitude particularly when there is significant evidence of misbehavior. I WANT to have HIGH standards for my group and I want to cull out those that do not live up to those standards. My first social identity is as an overall member of society and my first duty under the Social Contract is to protect society as a whole, to support those actions that engender the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest period of time (which I believe means a free, democratic society).
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton displayed remarkable courage when he publicly spoke of the “very few… who poisoned the well” and whose actions hampered the work of the rest of their colleagues: “My intention going forward is to ensure that we will aggressively seek out those who should not be there – the brutal, the corrupt, the racist, the incompetent.” (Wall Street Journal, 10/3/2014, “Bratton Tells Police Brass: Oust Bad Cops”, New York Times 10/3/14, p. A14 “Bratton Says Police Dept. Must Dismiss Officers Who Are ‘Poisoning the Well'”)
Our loyalty to any group of which we are a member should never be higher than our adherence to our fundamental moral values, our ethics.
As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. Nathan S. Collier