Photo via Flickr.com (Thomas Hawk).
Playboy's "Cyber Girl of the Week" in early June was none other than Jessie Lunderby, a correctional deputy with the Washington County (Ark.) Sheriff's Office. Her Playboy photo spread has been seen online, on television, and in print. What's next? If she loses her job as expected, she will most likely be seen in a civil courtroom.
Sheriff Tim Helder told ABC News that Lunderby—the deputy has been placed on administrative leave—violated department policy on proper conduct and outside employment that everyone signs off on. That wasn't the only issue. News of the photos spread like wildfire through the detention center's population. If she did come back, there's a concern that it could result in physical violence, cat calls or other problems.
ABC News posted a video of their interview with Lunderby, whose reaction was most disappointing. She said she didn't care what her department thought or did to her; it was her life; and her (private) life is none of the department's business.
As I watched the interview, I kept in mind that this is a common mindset for a 21-year-old. It was apparent she loved the attention, and it was of no concern that it was negative attention—also the mindset of many 21-year-olds. Lunderby is not just any 21-year-old, she's also a correctional officer. Doesn't she have a duty to the sheriff, her colleagues, and the county that employs her?
I see this as an issue of ethics, integrity, and character. Our professional identity as LEOs is not limited to how we perform our job. I believe an ethical LEO is one who holds the goal of law enforcement above personal goals. LEOs are held to a higher standard because of the authority and trust given to us. Integrity is a measure of trust, competence, professionalism, and confidence. Law enforcement is a career that requires commitment and sacrifice. I just don't see these quailities in Lunderby.
All departments must be concerned with the image they project to their community. Our ability to work depends on the support of the community where we serve. This is one of many reasons we must abide by department policy on proper conduct and outside employment.
Of course, we can't eliminate self-interest from our lives and we're not infallible, but we must be of reasonably good character. We must know our mission and be dedicated to it. We must exercise discretion not only on the job, but in our personal lives.