Memorandum to the Senate Subcommittee on Ethics

The conflict of interests between the standards of conduct required by ethics rules and an individual freedom of action and speech is an everlasting issue.  The Moose’s case is not an exception.  Although he has become a national hero after his brilliant investigation of the case dealing with the Beltway snipers, the public accused Charles A. Moose of making profit from the tragedy and violating the prestige of his public office.  The reason for such a strict verdict was the fee of “more than $4,000 for an open movie contract about his experiences” (Lewis &Gilman, 2012).

A clear vision of the Moose’s case provides two controversial ideas. On the one hand, having entered a public service sector, officials are to reserve their constitutional right to free speech. Many other officials frequently write books or memoirs, thus gaining fame and honoraria. In fact, when investigating the snipers’ case, the authorities originally promoted mass media as a successful tactics. After the police officer had signed the deal with a Hollywood  television production company, public opinion changed completely. Such attitude creates a double standard.  Finally, legal ethics aim is to stop corruption and criminal influence on a public service sector. The Moose’ case lacks these faults. 

On the other hand, having returned the tough verdict, an ethics commission had certain reasons for such a severe decision. First, county ethics laws bar officials from outside work. Having entered his service, Moose had been acquainted with the above-mentioned requirement of his employment agreement. The official negotiated the book and movie deals without asking his supervisor’s or ethics commission’s permission. Therefore, his dealings were illegal and he must suffer a penalty. Second, it is not appropriate for the Chief of the Montgomery County Police to eulogize himself as a hero. Having an aura of strength and confidence, Moose “was viewed as the one individual responsible for coordinating the massive and successful law enforcement effort” (Lewis &Gilman, 2012). Moose worked in a successful team, and he had no moral right to appropriate his colleagues’ merits. Third, giving his oath, Moose swore to be responsible for his decisions and actions. In the negotiations, the core-motivating factor of Moose’s deals was his honorarium, but not public well-being. Therefore, he betrayed his badge and public trust. Fourth, having revealed information about the investigation, Moose could endanger criminal prosecution. Fifth, outside work distracts the police officer from his direct duties. The officials cannot combine their dangerous routine with other activities, especially commercial ones.

The ethics commission considered all the above-mentioned reasons and voiced its tough verdict. The Chief of the Montgomery County Police received no special attitude. After a several months’ conflict, Moose did not comply with the commission’s decision and resigned in 2003. He had to return the honorarium that he had received without the ethics commission’s permission. Nevertheless, the ethics commission agreed that it would not take any action to restrain Moose’s book, movie, or speaking opportunities after he resigned (Lewis & Gilman, 2012).

To sum up, the standards of proper conduct in public service are a controversial issue. On the one hand, nobody can deprive an individual of his/her constitutional right to free speech. On the other hand, if that individual is the representative of the authorities, he/she assumes special moral and legal responsibility for personal words and actions. That is why the officials are to meet additional strict requirements. In Moose’s case, it is prohibited to use public office for private gain. Nothing could convince the ethics commission to reexamine their earlier verdict to bar police officers from accepting payment for their outside employment work. As a result, after several months of conflict over a book and an open movie contract about his experiences, the Chief of the Montgomery County Police had to resign. This act was the high price of his fame and fortune. Nobody can use prestige of his office for private gain.

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