Thieves, addicts, sex workers. People can be quick to judge the actions of others. Former Harford County police officer Dan Gosnell’s story is very valuable and I am hoping it might soften the hearts of some Marylanders who see addiction in black and white ("This Maryland cop went from decorated commander to raiding evidence room for drugs. And he’s not alone,” Dec. 17).
I recently read some work of Dan Ariely who studies lies and malicious action. He said that most of us like to think we would always do the right thing and would never commit such acts as those described of Lt. Gosnell. However, when you ask people who have committed such tremendous wrongs, “What was your first step towards this?” the answer is usually an action most people can see themselves taking. In actuality, this researcher says lying — and by extension, wrong actions — are less about character and willpower and about situations and opportunity.
Such decisions, like Mr. Gosnell turning to stealing drugs in evidence to ease his pain, are rarely reached right away, but rather slowly achieved over time. Most of are just a few bad circumstances away from having to make very difficult decisions. I wish more people recognized that. I believe the more we build up societal mechanisms to get help dealing with society's daily hardships (trauma, sickness, medical bills, family stress, and on and on) the less people would harm themselves and others.
This former police officer's story serves as a reminder that people rarely do such harm haphazardly; rather they arrive there in pain, isolation, shame and desperation. Life is hard. I pray that we work toward being a society that shows each person the kind of grace and compassion you would show a troubled loved one or struggling colleague.
Allison Berkowitz, Bel Air
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