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Women in Law Enforcement

Boundaries of the Badge

The case of Arkansas corrections deputy Jessie Lunderby is a reminder of the danger of putting yourself above the mission.

July 02, 2010  |  by Patricia Teinert - Also by this author


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.


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

L Connelly @ 7/5/2010 1:10 PM

Well said. These have been my thoughts as well while watching this story unfold. Sadly I believe that in the long run she will regret these choices once she matures. LEO are judged in a different light than civilians. We have sworn to act personally and professionally in a manner that brings honor to our departments, selves and Law Enforcement as a whole. Behavior like this jeopardizes the reputations of all females in Law Enforcement. Too often the books written by female officers or former officers also slant to the cheap and sensational such as she has chosen. The truth of what happens on the street and in our lives has much greater opportunity and ability to lift up the lives of others and ourselves.

A life well lived is a reward twice.

copwriter @ 7/5/2010 2:07 PM

I think there is a double and outdated standard here. If a male corrections officer was to strip down and appear in a "beefcake" calendar or magazine, I doubt there would be much of an issue about it. Taking off one's clothes for modeling doesn't equate to having low morals.
The hazards of a high-profile figure posing nude, appearing in a sex tape or being a homosexual are all similar-- it provides a basis for blackmail and invites corruption. That hazard disappears once everyone knows about it. Inmates can't embarrass a CO with information that the CO isn't concerned about everyone knowing.
The issue here is that Washington County SO apparently regards posing nude as representative of a flaw in character. That may be a community standard, and the community has the right to set that standard. But I recall some years ago when a female NYPD officer posted for Playboy and was fired, while some male officers posed for Playgirl and kept their jobs. If Ms. Lunderby loses her job and files a wrongful termination lawsuit, she may have an excellent chance of winning.

MikeAT @ 7/5/2010 4:25 PM

Agreed. I posted on my blog a few days ago on how a Houston officer was putting on her Facebook page rather offensive posting on Hondurans (http://acopswatch.blogspot.com/2010/07/this-is-not-how-cop-should-behave.html). I’ve often said if you put on a badge you don’t give up your constitution rights. However, that doesn’t mean you can bring your department into the mixture.

This officer is a 31 year old and she should know how to use a little more judgment. The 21 year old officer in your blog posting should have done the same.

pteinert @ 7/6/2010 8:39 AM

@copwriter There is no double standard, the facts are she agreed to and signed the same department policy in reference to outside employment as everyother officer, male or female. Furthermore she listed her department in her photo spread bio. Both are grounds for termination. Her flaw in character is not posing nude, but as I stated in the blog, her complete disregard for her duty to the sheriff, her colleagues, and the county that employs her.

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