The Moment We’re In: “We’re Done!”
Police are maligned with impunity—what will be the result?By Jim Glennon | Dec 23, 2014
Demonize the police. Assign evil intent to their activities. Scream about the profession’s malevolence. Label all 800,000 racists.
Spit on them at protests. Throw bottles at their heads. Call them “pigs,” “cowards,” and “murderers.” Tell them that they’re slaves to their slave masters. Hit them with barricades. Punch them when they aren’t looking. Trip them when they run in response to violence.
Then laugh in their faces.
Pass judgment and make comment on what they do while having not the slightest idea what it’s like to be in a gunfight, be within 20 feet of a threatening subject with a knife, or survive a real fistfight.
Break into their personal financial records. Post their home addresses. Send disgusting things to their families. Destroy their credit. Call their children names.
Eliminate them from the conversation. Pretend the problems in this country stems from them alone. Ignore the realities of patrolling crime-ridden communities. Forget that these are the first responders who deal, day in and day out, with the pain, suffering and death, many, for little pay. Disregard their thoughts, the proof and the reality of who they are and what they really do.
Act as though you know what it’s like to control a hostile subject, restrain a 350-pound man, feel the pain of a strike to the head by an enraged fist … Pretend that split-second decisions are anything but, and analyze what they do with the clear vision of hindsight.
Chant as you march: “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”
Do all of that.
Do it on the web. On T.V. In the papers. During “peaceful” protests.
Do it all.
And then what? What do you think will be the reactions of police officers? How do you think it will affect their behavior while on patrol or during investigations? What will it do to their decision-making when confronted with a hostile and resistive subject? How will it affect those considering law enforcement as a profession? How will it affect the perceptions of children who may need the protection of a police officer?
Do people think that it’s possible for officers to ignore all of this? Is it assumed that they would have no emotional reaction to hearing themselves and their profession slandered in every venue possible without rebuke or even challenge?
What’s totally lost in this hysteria is the human element. Let me assure you that police officers are very human. Those human feelings will elicit behavioral changes. This is basic human nature and psychological reality.
I wrote a column earlier this year called “Stop Working.” It was meant to be tongue-and-cheek, referencing the demonization of police officers doing proactive police work. I pointed out that cops never get fired for doing nothing. They don’t lose their jobs because of a process of laziness or a lack of activity. When cops do get fired it’s because of an event; because they were doing.
The point I was trying to make in that article was that if the media continued to portray all officers who are aggressive in fighting crime as corrupt thugs and immoral goons then the police of America will simply stop working. And there would be no downside to that stoppage for the officers. They’d still get paid. They’d get their benefits, and their stress levels would decrease. They’d go to work and answer calls, but they would avoid anything that could get them in trouble. After all, they have families to feed and pensions to protect, and no one likes being slandered for doing their job.
Those words were said to me by dozens of incredibly frustrated and discouraged officers in the last two weeks at a half a dozen Calibre Press seminars.
I’ve listened to police officers who were incredibly emotional. One had been shot several times while trying to protect a woman from a husband on a domestic abuse case. Another had been shot making a simple traffic stop.
Several teared up as they talked about how hard they work and what they have sacrificed personally to do their jobs and protect those in their communities. One told me how he ran into a burning house to save the occupants. Another talked of diving into a flooded street to save a person stuck in a car. These are people who loved their job—until their job became toxic in the popular discourse.
I had conversations with several officers who had experienced significant stress during the so-called “peaceful” demonstrations going on right now. They talked emotionally of being called “pig” and “murderer” and all sorts of other vile names.
I’ve seen videos where officers have the finger in their face, inches away from their eyes while the demonstrators called them “slaves” and “killers.”
And what’s becoming their emotional reaction across this country? “We’re done.”
One officer, from a major eastern city experiencing the demonstrations said those exact words to me. I’m paraphrasing the rest of the conversation but here’s the gist: “We’ve had it. They hate us. No one backs us up. No one is speaking up for us. Not the bosses and certainly not the politicians. No matter what we do we are doing it wrong. The harder we work the more trouble we get into. So we’ve decided, we’re done! Somebody resists arrest, we’re going to let them go. They can’t make us write tickets because there is a law against quotas. So, we’re going to answer our calls and if anything gets sticky, we’re calling for a supervisor. Let them take the heat. Let them make a decision. We’re done. Watch.”
Without doubt, the incredible frustration of the officers I have spoken to face-to-face over the past weeks is something I’ve never experienced in over 33 years in this profession. I’ve never seen officers so disheartened, dismayed and discouraged.
My initial assumption is that these are emotional reactions and the officers are just venting. When this blows over the officers will continue to do what they took an oath to do. But the more I think about it the more I’m not sure.
I now wonder: What will become of the profession and the future of policing?
Our goal over the last 20 years has been to build relationships with the communities we serve. And according to almost every measure we’ve accomplished that. Check out Gallup Polls trends over the last 30 years. Police officers rate higher than clergy and are in the top seven of most respected professions.
But events—singular, tragic incidents—are all that matters to the media and people with agendas. Even events that are misconstrued, misreported, and much more complicated than the simple headlines would convey. But people will use whatever to drive ratings, readership, and agendas.
And who will eventually suffer? Citizens. Not all will suffer equally. The most greatly affected will undoubtedly be the most vulnerable.
I’m no apologist for bad cops. But law enforcement is a complicated and difficult job. Watching CSI, Law and Order and NCIS doesn’t make someone an expert on police practices.
The craziness has to stop. Our politicians should watch the rhetoric and the media needs to slow this down and balance the reporting. The vast majority of police officers—and I know a lot of them—are hardworking, moral and dedicated to helping people. The stats are there to prove it.
Problems do exist in some communities. Unquestionably leaders need to address that. Let’s get the conversation going. Let’s look into each other’s eyes. Let’s stop the violent rhetoric, the name-calling, the false accusations. We need desperately to work together.
The alternative is not something a democracy can handle. The people elect politicians to enact laws. The laws then must be enforced. The people need their guardians. What’s more, they demand them. Show me a community that would prefer life without 9-1-1 and all that that would entail.
As Plato said, “It does not matter if the cobblers and the masons fail to do their jobs well. But if the Guardians fail, the democracy will crumble.”