Any organization can have its bad apples. People are only human, after all, and sometimes they do foolish things. But in light of recent events, you have to wonder if something went awry within the Secret Service and the New York State Police. The sense of entitlement -- of being beyond the normal rules -- is palpable in the events that have occurred recently within those organizations.
Some members of the Secret Service -- the "knuckleheads," as President Obama tagged them -- were outed for bringing prostitutes to their hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, and perhaps also hiring prostitutes in El Salvador. In Western New York, meanwhile, three state troopers -- at least one with a history of trouble -- have been suspended on suspicion of promoting prostitution.
At least three related factors seem to be at work in these cases: One, the suspects are all men; two, they are working in fields overwhelmingly dominated by men; and three, they are in positions of a significant power, which can lead the wrong people to make bad decisions. Those factors all suggest steps that should be taken, beyond the Secret Service's useful new rules on drinking excessively, visiting disreputable establishments while traveling or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms. Though you have to wonder why the agency didn't think of that before.
The most important, long-term solution would be to change the tone of these organizations by bringing more women into their ranks, especially leadership positions. As the Secret Service, State Police or any other law enforcement agency becomes less dominated by men, the expectations of tolerable conduct would more likely seep down to the level of men who might otherwise compromise themselves and their mission by befriending prostitutes or otherwise disgracing their organizations.
That is an issue that has caught the attention of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It is such an obvious point that other members -- male and female, Democrat and Republican -- ought to get it, as well. It wouldn't solve the problems inherent in human nature and it could present a few of its own, but it is the right thing to do, from just about every perspective.
The other, more immediate, issue is for these and similar organizations to review their hiring practices. Are they doing everything they should to ensure that they are weeding out candidates who are unsuitable to these life-and-death jobs? These are officials who carry guns, after all, and who are empowered to use them, and to deprive citizens of their liberty. Standards must be high.
What psychological and other testing is performed before hiring? What kind of background checks? Even after hiring, are performance reviews at the level they should be for officials carrying out such critical assignments?
These issues shouldn't be swept under the boys-will-be-boys rug. This work is for adults, and these cases show that there are adolescents working in jobs where they cannot be allowed.