“Residents should know that we hold each member to the highest ethical and professional standard and when allegations of misconduct occur, they will be thoroughly investigated. It is what our community expects and deserves; furthermore it is what we expect and deserve of ourselves.”
Brian King, Wilmette, Illinois Police Chief, May 5, 2011
A truism that you would expect from a police chief, but a statement that is not usually made unless something has gone wrong, and in Wilmette, something did. As a result, an 11-year veteran of the police department, who is also a 20-year military vet who served in Iraq, was charged with Official Misconduct and Theft. Officer Diane Grassi, 47, has lost her career and now faces prison over an allegation that she took $250.
According to reports it began last September when Officer Grassi made an arrest for DUI. When booking was finished she allegedly told the arrested that he was required to pay $250 for his release. After the money was collected the man was released on a personal recognizance bond, a process that requires no money. The $250 disappears, the sobered up drunk complains, a video of money being counted and changing hands surfaces, an investigation begins, an officer resigns and then charges are filed.
Before you shake your head or point a finger, you should ask how? How does someone who has spent so many years in the service of her country and community lose it all over $250, and how can you be sure that it will never be you? We will probably never know the answers in this particular case, but it should serve as a powerful reminder that temptation is all around us and you do not have to look far to see the casualties it causes. While this may be a situation you could never see yourself in, take an opportunity to examine yourself for areas where you may be vulnerable. How many details of this story would have to change before you might be tempted?
- What if there was no deception required and the money were simply left behind? What if you knew the drunk were wealthy and the money would never be missed? What if that $250 was the precise amount you needed to pay an outstanding medical bill on its way to collections? Would it be easier for you to inconspicuously pick it up?
- What if it is not a drunk, but a drug dealer, a real bad guy. Maybe you have recovered thousands of dollars in drug money and the $250 you need for that bill would never be noticed. Is it easier to imagine taking care of yourself, just this once?
- What if you just found the money in the street? If there were no way to find the owner and it just happens to be the exact amount you need for that bill? Is that an easier bridge to cross?
- What if a crime victim you have helped wants to show their appreciation by giving you a little something? Your resist, they insist. You know it is wrong, but their gratitude is sincere and that $250 is just what it will take to keep you out of a jam with the creditors. The likelihood that anyone will find out is slim. Even if it were discovered, you would be in some trouble, but it won’t make headlines and your career would probably survive. Could that be the time?
The point is that life surrounds us with all kinds of temptation and we are all vulnerable. We all have a point where we need help resisting temptation, and that includes you. Out there somewhere is the set of circumstances that you will fall to without support. If you don’t have someone to talk to about things like this you should find someone. Talk to a partner or someone you trust about this case, about temptation, explore your breaking point. Open a conversation and agree to hold one another accountable when you feel temptation gripping you. A friend like that could save your career, or theirs.
Were their signs along the way before Officer Grassi made headlines? Could a friend with the courage to say something to her when they saw those signs have made a difference? We will never know, but when we see a brother or sister fall and do not use it as an opportunity to check our own hearts we have failed ourselves.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8