Police officers were listed among the people Jamie Bell apologized to earlier this week as he was sentenced on a sex crime in Adams County Court.
The 25-year-old Bell was sentenced to 36 months of probation and 360 days in the Adams County Jail after he pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse. When Bell had sex with a 16-year-old at a campsite near Marblehead on May 29, 2011, he was an officer with the Canton, Mo., Police Department.
"It happened, and I was embarrassed by it," Bell said during his hearing in front of Judge William Mays. "If I could go back and take it back, I would."
Unfortunately, when you're in a position of authority like Bell, you can't take it back. You have to expect to be held to a higher standard. It appears Bell did not misuse his power as a police officer in the commission of his crime. What he failed to remember was that, even though he may not have been wearing a badge at the time of the incident, he was still a police officer.
"It casts a pall on law enforcement," First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha said of Bell's actions.
The same thing can be said for people in other walks of life. If a judge or lawyer does something wrong, then it reflects badly on the entire profession. Farha and Mays pointed that out to Bell during Tuesday's sentencing hearing.
There's an entire generation of baseball players who have been labeled as steroid freaks thanks to some players who abused the drug. When an NBA or NFL player gets arrested for doing something stupid, it's natural to think that all the players in those leagues are lawless.
There are cases of teachers and clergymen who stray outside the boundaries of the law and violate children over whom they have power. When those cases come to light, it makes those professions look bad. Many more decent people who work in those professions have to put up with questions and have to wonder how one of their own could do something like that.
While you might not work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you represent your company or profession all the time. Your family's name is only as good as you make it. That's done by making good decisions.
Bell admitted he didn't make a good decision that night. He said he was embarrassed that "his morals got so low." He said alcohol played a part in having sex with a minor.
Even though he avoided going to prison, Bell will have a long time to think about what he's done. In sentencing Bell to 360 days in the Adams County Jail, Mays ordered him to serve 90 days right away.
We need to think before we act. Is it really worth risking a DUI after you've had a few beers on a Friday night? Do you want to go through the shame if you're caught? Even worse, do you want to put someone else in harm's way because you've let your morals go so low?
Don't give yourself a reason to apologize.