Edward Snowden, Sherron Watkins, and Justin Hopson. What do these three names have in common? While the first two are widely recognized as two of the most consequential “whistleblowers” in American history (Snowden leaking the NSA reports and Watkins exposing the Enron scandal), perhaps lesser known is the story of former New Jersey policeman and current South Carolina resident Justin Hopson. Hopson’s story can be found in the Post and Courier.
After a mere eleven days into his rookie year with the New Jersey Police State Police Department, Hopson was faced with a choice that would change his life forever.
During a routine pull-over, Hopson witnessed his training officer arrest a woman for drunk driving…while she was riding in the back seat. Hopson refused to support the charge, confronted his training officer, and eventually brought his case to court in 2003.
There was no grey area.
But Hopson’s integrous choice to stand for justice was not a popular one amongst his peers.
He claimed that he was then targeted by an organized, secret society within the state police called the Lords of Discipline that harassed him regularly. Hopson also said he was physically beaten, his car was vandalized, and he received threatening notes left outside his station. Nevertheless, Hopson stood his ground and paved the way for the largest internal investigation of the department in state history.
Finally, in 2007, the state court found seven officers guilty of harassment but said they found no evidence of the Lord of Discipline’s existence, despite multiple victims’ reports of their activity, and made a settlement agreement with Hopson.
Despite this, there is a larger principle at stake here than simply innocent or guilty, settlement or no settlement. The conviction to do the right thing is a value that the majority of Americans nowadays seem to have deemed old fashioned. In an age where corporate criminals and whistleblowers alike seem to garner similar reactions from the media, incentives for “old- fashioned” ethics are not exactly enticing.
However, regular people like Justin Hopson who possess the fortitude to go against the grain in support of a higher purpose that transcends any job description or social norm are the same kind of regular people who founded the freedoms that set America apart from so many other nations.
It’s not a matter of clout, it’s not a matter of recognition, it’s a matter of caring. Dare to be “old fashioned” and stand for something greater yourself.
Whether it’s in your community, your neighborhood, your church, your family, act with integrity. Justin Hopson