Few moments in one’s life are as disappointing as realizing that someone who is held in high regard, such as a parent, mentor, teacher, politician, or anyone else is nothing more than a parasite who has been leeching off of the respect and admiration that comes with being identified as a role model. And if that the sting of that realization isn’t enough, also realizing that the once-respected “hero” probably finds no shame in being identified as a fraud – as a disappointment – adds insult to injury.
Back in September, Joe Gliniewicz, an individual who held the title of police officer in Fox Lake, Illinois, was presumed to have been murdered in the line of duty. Shortly after news of his death had become public, people who had known this person were eager to talk about the positive influence that he had been; I had even written about the “ripple effect” that is created when one person with such an influence on many others is lost. That column was the result of hearing stories of the life that was supposed to have been Gliniewicz’s.
On Wednesday of this week, a press conference held by the investigators of Gliniewicz’ death presented a more sinister nature of this once-respected individual.
Instead of dying in the line of duty, an investigation revealed that he had tried to hide the fact that he committed suicide in order to avoid punishment for behavior that ranged from unethical, to criminal. A common link between all of the accusations is the exploitation of those who trusted him via the chain of command or volunteer work.
From a subordinate who was allegedly punished for refusing his sexual advances, to the laundering of money through the department’s Police Explorer program, the individual who was seen as a hero only two months ago is now seen as a predator who had taken advantage of those below his rank.
As if exploiting those who trusted him wasn’t bad enough, Gliniewicz chose to commit suicide at a time when police officers who had earned the title of “Police Officer” were being murdered for no other reason than their job title. In a way, Gliniewicz leeched onto the deaths of officers who indeed, died in the line of duty.
On a personal level, I know several people who had known Gliniewicz. What is most infuriating is that for a while, we had all believed that he died a hero, that he was the role model whom we wanted to believe that he was.
Perhaps, this story will have heroes. Everyone involved has their interpretation of what a hero is, and many people applied their interpretation of what a hero is onto the public perception of Gliniewicz.
With the slow meltdown of professional sports as a result of greed on the part of team owners, to the criminal records of athletes, I had realized that a role model is not a person to emulate. Instead, a role model is a human being, with all of the flaws and shortcomings that are part of the species.
A role model is a person who should be held-up as an example of a person to be better than, in both public and private. When the life of Gliniewicz is analyzed and compared to the countless police officers who have built honorable careers – who have earned the right to the title “Police Officer” – then all of the perceived good deeds that were believed to have been performed by him should serve as examples of how to live, not as examples of how to live as you want others to perceive you.