Saturday, January 15, 2011


Back on December 22, I wrote a post about image and the appearance of propriety and . . . aw, hell.  It was one of those discursive things that covered about fourteen subjects and ended up nowhere near where it seemed to begin and if you want to read it, here's the link.  It's not really relevant here except as how it's part of the genesis of this post.
What got me going then was the story of David Ferrante, formerly Sergeant David Ferrante of the police department in Parma, Ohio.  Ferrante, it was said, was color blind and back in 1994 cheated on the color identification test so that he'd be able to get a job with the Parma PD.  Sixteen years later, they found out, he allegedly confessed and he resigned.  Then he was charged the criminal offenses of tampering with records and with falsification.  The post wasn't about Ferrante.  His story, or more precisely the versions of it that I picked up from a couple of news feeds, were just the jumping off place for, like I say, one of these discursive, spin-it-out-and-see-where-it-goes things I write some of the time.
There was one weird comment that felt like spam but linked to so unlikely a web page I decided to leave it alone.  And Lee Stonum added his own almost surreal comment.  And so it sat there, the post did, for the past three weeks or so.
And then, this evening, I got an e-mail from David Ferrante, formerly of the Parma PD.
E-mails aren't exactly like comments.  Because this was directed personally to me, I don't think it's appropriate to go altogether public and start quoting it and all.  But I do need to try and give a hint of what he wrote - and he does caption the e-mail "My Press Release," so he seems to be at least somewhat open to my reporting on it.
Anyway, his pitch is something like this:
  • I'm not actually color blind, but my color perception is deficient.
  • I'm altogether capable of doing the work of a police officer.
  • Color deficiency of the sort I have is a disability of the sort that is (or at least should be) covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Parma's policy is illegal in light of that act.
  • I ultimately got in trouble not because of my disability but because I wrote a book critical of the way police abuse their power.  Essentially, it was retaliation.
All of that may be true.  Whether color-perception deficiency is or should be a disability recognized by the ADA may be an interesting question for disability-lawyers and employment lawyers and the folks who work in HR departments.  I'm not such a person.   And, frankly, none of that is even marginally relevant to the post I put up on December 22.
What interested me about Ferrante's story is not that he is (or is not) color blind and is (or is not) capable of being a competent police officer regardless.  The only things about him, his story, his situation that interested me were:
  • He confessed to cheating to become a Parma cop.
  • He trained young officers.
  • He wrote a book about police ethics.
  • He apparently said (or at least the book blurb says in part), 
  • Image is everything in law enforcement!
But now we have this other thing.  Sort of a meta-comment.  Which cries out for this response.
I don't give a rat's ass about his disability or deficiency or whatever.  But I'm seriously troubled by the fact that he never addresses in the e-mail the allegation (to which he apparently confessed, though I'm not so naive as to just blithely assume that makes the allegation true) that he cheated.*
Because, see, here's the question.
Assuming everything he says about his color perception is true, assuming that it's trivia, that it doesn't interfere with his ability to do the job, assuming that Parma's requirements are illegal and that he should never have been required to take a color perception test in the first place, assuming all that, so what?
Does that make cheating on the test OK?
Because I spend a lot of pretty fair chunk of my professional time dealing with the fallout from acts that people committed that they think didn't really harm anyone and the prohibition is just silly anyway, and who really cares, but sure, they made a mistake.  And I don't generally find that the cops are particularly sympathetic.  Nor, frankly, are the prosecutors.  Or the courts.
And there's that old adage about Caesar's wife needing to be above reproach.  Because there are those from whom we demand more.  Lawyers.  And judges.  And elected officials.  And cops.
And when you get right down to it, that's four categories of folks who seem to have a pretty high sense of entitlement.  And feel that their little ooopsies shouldn't count.
And they're wrong.

*That's not exactly correct, he says that he, and I guess I do have to quote here, "made a mistake."  But that hardly gets to the core issue. 


  1. Like Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, for instance? Click here, here and here for the story.

    In short, Her Honor suffered a personal tragedy before falling off the wagon into a fifth of vodka, then she decided it would be just fine to go for a drive in her State owned SUV with a load on that would rival a hard core college fraternity binge drinker. The State troopers busted her, and instead of being tazed, cuffed and stuffed Her Honor was allowed to drive away while the troopers called their boss and asked just what the fuck it was they were supposed to do.

    Her Honor got busted and wound up in court where she cut a sweetheart deal with the prosecution and a judge willing to hear the case. The deal amounted to a very gentle slap on the wrist - a fine, 6 month loss of license and treatment sessions. She should have been sent to jail, license suspended for ten years and disbarred; but because she's one of the ruling class she got nothing.

    That's just one case out of many. I don't see anything ever changing, so I guess my best bet is to become a politician or a judge.

    But I'm afraid my conscience would get the best of me and I wouldn't last.

  2. Justice Resnick's behavior was worse than you suggest. And her situation far sadder.

    An ordinary citizen would likely have been hammered much harder by the courts, though I'm not all that sure it would have been warranted. (Our DUI laws are a considerable mess in many ways and for many reasons.) As for disbarment, it's unlikely that any remorseful attorney (and she was remorseful) would have lost her license more than briefly - if even that - under the circumstances.

    None of which excuses what happened or even has much to do with what either of us wrote.

  3. Perhaps not, but it assures me (to some extent) that you really are reading the comments left to you by the president of your fan club.

    Sylvania Township chapter, if it matters.