The incidents keep coming. The latest homicidal behavior by folks who are sworn to protect us has once again put the profession of policing in the spotlight. The Memphis beat down was a abomination and once again society (political leadership) has turned to some form of “police reform” as the answer to aberrant behavior by rogue officers. The problem is that we expect our police function to somehow solve the mess we see today on the streets while we turn a blind eye to the role our gendarme plays in a country that refuses to accept responsibility for their share of the violence (on the streets).
I left the profession 23 years ago. I still have family involved in policing and my prayer is they live to retire and join the masses intact, mentally and physically. What has happened in the years since I put the badge away is accounting for the mass exodus from the profession and a remarkable inability to attract applicants to a business that is rapidly losing respect of even hard core proponents of law and order. To put my observations into perspective, I doubt I could do the job today. I offer my sincere respect for those so engaged and will support and respect them. You have to wonder, though, what attracts them to this business in today’s climate. In fact, applicant pools are the smallest in 60 years.
What in the hell has happened? The current level respect for law, rule and discipline is abominable. Children are being raised in one parent environments and shuttled off to schools where discipline will get administrators sued. There is a steady decline in spirituality, especially Christianity. I can’t remember a greater disdain for authority in my 50+ years of observing human behavior. Our political leadership, where lying is a matter of daily conduct, sets the poorest possible example for citizens of every age. We are at the mercy of progressive prosecutors who refuse to prosecute out of some twisted notion of disparity and equality. We hand out money like party favors, bruising the notion that reward is the product of work. We are a culture in decline, displaying the narcissistic tendencies of great empires that are long since lost to history. Our sharply divided political environment sees todays societal problems through a prism that filters out the people’s role and sees only the police function as worthy of “reformation”.
A great starting place to address the current rather sad perspective relative to policing begins with salaries high enough to attract top tier applicants. Our selection processes need to be turning applicants away not begging them to stay. Many departments are staffed well below their authorized allotments, understandably. We have a skewed view of the role police officers play. It is not to police casinos, conduct school bus inspections and inspecting cars for safety defects. The roles need to be streamlined and funneled into aspects of policing that might require the application of force, to include deadly force, as well as more traditional police duties. Perhaps the biggest contribution to the redesign of policing would be to preclude the continued politicization of the our police agencies. The involvement of blue ribbon agencies in the furtherance of political goals is devastating and undermines the sanctity of law enforcement in general.
The debacle in Memphis is heart wrenching. The officers are going to pay a tremendous price and a life was lost. That being said, I cannot imagine going to work in the jungle they were directed to police, horribly undermanned, directed by superiors who either were blind to the frustration of that environment or, God forbid, a part of that dog eat dog culture that creeps into the hearts and souls of officers ill equipped and under supervised, left to their own devices to meet the challenge of lending dignity to folks who have no dignity.
There is no quick fix for a society in decline. There is however a strategy for addressing the abysmal reputation that is starting to envelope policing. Hire outstanding applicants, pay them well, supervise them skillfully, equip them with the best in gear and transportation and train, train train. We still don’t know what precisely went wrong in Memphis, but the evidence thus far points to an incredible lack of effective supervision as a huge contributor. Excellent officers make excellent supervisors. It has always been that way.
Policing is a profession, not a job….treat it like a profession.
Have a great week.