I’ve written a lot this year about consequences. It seems there are a number of folks out there who simply don’t consider the consequences of their actions. It doesn’t matter if those consequences are direct to the person involved or indirect and aimed at someone else. Sometimes that lack of concern about consequences comes from carelessness, from simply not thinking through what they are about to do. Other times, too many times, it is because the person involved simply doesn’t care. They are entitled, you see, at least in their own mind.
What has me thinking about it again today is this story. It’s a simple enough story and one that should have been one of those feel good stories the news all too rarely covers. Simple really. A teen is making money by working at a food kiosk at the local mall. While on duty, a police officer comes up and orders a cookie. The teen recognizes the officer, who works at the mall, and wants to do something nice for him. So he buys the officer the cookie. It’s his way of telling the officer that he appreciates all the man, and those like him, do.
Pretty cool, especially when you consider the fact the young man paid full price for the cookie instead of using his employee discount.
Fast forward to the next customers. They’d been behind the officer in line and saw what the young man did. Instead of thanking him or commenting about what a nice gesture it had been, they did the opposite. They wanted a free cookie too. When they didn’t get it, they did not go gently into the night. They caused a commotion and, if I remember correctly, at one point it looked as if one of them might actually try to get into a physical confrontation with the teen.
Because they wanted a free cookie too.
Because they were special. Or entitled. Or just selfish pricks.
It doesn’t end there. The young man was called onto the carpet by his employer and suspended. Fortunately, his mother wasn’t about to take it lying down. She posted what happened to social media and pressure was put on the employer, Great American Cookies at Katy Mills Mall. Great American Cookies has backed off the suspension, saying finally that the young man did nothing wrong. Corporate has issued a statement in support of police officers.
But what would have happened had the young man’s mother not taken to social media? It was easier to suspend the young man than it was to fully review the situation and come to an informed decision. Sounds familiar, especially this weekend.
In another case, this one involving a public personality, consequences should come to bear. Early last week, police issued a statement laying the fault for a fatal crash directly at Venus Williams’ feet. No charges, fortunately, had been filed yet but the public statement was out there and being carried by every major news organization and sports channel.
Then, several days later, the police are having to backtrack and basically retract their initial statement. They had seen another video of the crash, one from a different angle. This video apparently shows Ms. Williams was not at fault in the crash. In fact, the video shows she had the green light.
But, in the rush to lay blame in a somewhat high profile case, the police also rushed in the collection and processing of evidence. Whether it was for political reasons or something else, they accused a woman who now, looking at the evidence, was not in the wrong. Will there be consequences? There should, and not just civil consequences coming from whatever action Ms. Williams might take against the police department.
There should also be employment consequences for those involved in making the hasty judgment and releasing it as a proven fact to the media. There are times when the police should simply say, “we are still investigating and will update you once we are through.” This was one of those cases.
It is not an easy decision, especially when the locals and the media are demanding fast action. They forget that real life isn’t like cop shows on TV. DNA results aren’t returned in mere minutes. Every cop shop does not have a fully equipped forensic lab and more. Evidence isn’t always processed in the local police station but is instead sent off somewhere else where that evidence joins the long line of items to be tested and reported on.
It is a situation the local cops in the town where I live face right now. Two weeks or so ago, a young teen girl disappeared. Several days later, she was found dead in a landfill a few miles away. Our cops have been doing exactly what they should. They have been investigating the case, asking for help from other agencies when needed and keeping their mouths shut in public. The police chief has been hammered because an Amber Alert wasn’t issued when the girl went missing. Never mind the fact that her case didn’t meet the legal criterion for such action to be taken. The criticism continued.
Others have complained because the cause of death has not yet been released. The truth is, as confirmed by the police in a short statement yesterday (maybe the day before), the ME hasn’t yet concluded what the COD was. They are waiting for tests to come back and that may take another month or more. Until then, or until more evidence is uncovered, the police will not be making any further statements. They do this out of respect for the family and because there is no sense to fuel media speculation.
Will there be consequences for this action? Possibly because, while the police chief is hired by the city manager, both he and the city manager basically hold their jobs at the behest of the city council. If the politicians decide the only way they can stay in office is to sacrifice someone, they might do so. Fortunately, our city council isn’t that mercenary. They really do have the best of the town at heart. So the only consequences I foresee right now are a demand that we find a quicker way to process evidence and find out why people died.
Three different situations, three different sets of potential or real consequences. In the first, a very real example of someone’s sense of entitlement negatively — and needlessly — impacting another person’s livelihood. In the second, an example of where the “need” to reassure the public that the police are working quickly to determine responsibility not only backfired but could be said to have negatively impacted a celebrity’s earning ability. I don’t think there was any malice involved, just a lack of foresight and a backbone. In the third, we have an example of a police force accepting the consequence of having public questions and some doubt leveled at them instead of potentially damaging any case that might arise out of the investigation. Looking at all three, I would much rather take the last example than the previous two.
When are we, as a people and as individuals, stop bulling ahead and take long enough to consider the consequences of our actions?