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Good people do bad things

By Lincoln Police Sgt. Michael Geriets          Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 24, 2004]  After having chosen a career in law enforcement, I sometimes wonder why I didn't become a schoolteacher, computer programmer or work in an office at some corporation. I'm a talker and I may have even thrived as a salesman.

My sister has a master's degree and is a teacher. She teaches children with learning disabilities. Her outlook on life is quite opposite of mine.

She leaves her purse unattended in a shopping cart and is completely shocked when it comes up missing. She can't believe that there are people in this world that would do such a thing. She looks at everyone as if all people are completely trustworthy unless they have given her a reason not to trust them. Once she left her garage door partially opened and again was shocked when items came up missing. "Who would do such a thing?" She will go to a major city and walk around admiring the beauty, totally oblivious to her potentially dangerous surroundings.

I won't even leave my vehicle unlocked while entering a gas station. I sit in restaurants with my back to a wall so that I have a clear view of the entire room, especially the entry doors. I am very aware of everyone I see and am very conscious of any suspicious activity, even when I am not working. I notice things like customers entering and exiting businesses such as banks. If you see a number of people entering a bank and nobody exiting, you may want to wait, if you know what I mean. I drive by convenience stores and notice clerks standing behind the cash register and look at the customer on the other side of the counter to see that everything appears all right. When I go to a city, I am constantly looking over my shoulder to see if someone is following or acting suspicious. I then look at my sister and think, "Why don't you lock your doors?"

I am not as shocked as my sister would be when I read headlines in newspapers. I have seen much worse in most cases. I am, however, surprised to see someone involved in a crime when it's someone I surely would not have suspected.

I have seen "good people do bad things." We all have! Every time that our trust in someone is ruined by what they have done, we seem to have a part of ourselves damaged. We start asking ourselves questions like, "How could they?"; "How could have I known?"; followed by, "Could I have prevented this from happening?"

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I have seen "good people do bad things." Whether it's a Catholic priest being charged with a crime against a child. An ordained minister found guilty of buying, receiving, selling stolen property. Well-known individuals found guilty of embezzling from a business. A friend or family member commits suicide, or a parochial school student who kills his grandparents. My list goes on and on.

I believe that everyone in life has a goal, and that's to be good at what they do. I have spoken to factory workers who make the same part or item eight hours a day, five days week, year after year. They find satisfaction knowing that they can make those items fast and flawlessly. They may even compete against other co-workers. A janitor takes pride in his or her clean hallways and shiny floors.

I chose this career for the very same reason. I thought I would be good at it, and I believe that I am. I could not imagine doing anything else. Just as my sister takes great pride in being an early childhood teacher, I, too, take great pride in being an officer of the law. My outlook on life is quite different than hers, but just the same, our goals are very similar: to be good at what we do.

When I go to work and make an arrest, I'm doing my job based on facts, witness statements and physical evidence. It's not my job to hold grudges, to look down on people or to show them disrespect. Most criminals do not expect to get caught, and when they do, it causes a number of emotions, such as fear, anger and disappointment. They are going through enough without me rubbing it in their faces because... "I have seen a lot of good people do bad things."  

[Michael Geriets]

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