Why policing in America is at a crossroad
(Article updated 12/17/2017)
This includes me.
So much in the world of policing, especially american policing, has changed in the past few years.
As 2017 draws to a close, I, like so many of you, ponder what other changes will come in 2018.
When I originally chose the title for this article, “Policing in America: Why Good Cops Are Leaving”, it seemed to fit the sentiment that I was trying to convey on the issue.
After some thought, and this just came to me only recently, the title unintentionally ignored a group we will never be able to quantify.
Those who may have considered a career in law enforcement but because of the current climate never will.
I know that you can’t prove a negative but recruiting numbers don’t lie.
The past few years have seen the profession of policing in America turned on its head.
The public outcry over several police involved shootings has divided Americans into two groups.
The first being the liberal leaning “why are cops killing so many unarmed, helpless, black men.”
The second being “cops have a tough job, just follow their orders and everything will be good group.”
I stand here before both groups and shake my damn head.
Like you, I hear a lot of the Facebook and keyboard cowboys spouting their beliefs and pleading me to copy and paste their post that are not even their own words.
Both sides are devoutly invested and emotionally charged to defend their viewpoint.
And I get that.
As a policeman, I took an oath that said, among many things, that I would be impartial and neutral. And that is exactly how I will approach this article.
Please, before you call me an a**hole or worse, a liberal, read the article in its entirety.
Here are the 3 changes that I feel need to be addressed in policing in America ASAP!
I read or hear about it everyday.
This agency or that police agency, any-town USA, are at critical manning and staffing.
It seems police and sheriff’s departments across the country are having a tough time keeping people around.
On the face of this issue the easy way out would be to blame it on the “War on Police”. And that is a real and present cause for some of the shortages.
The real problem and the solution is pay.
(Teachers, you’re going to have to take a knee on this one. I promise I will address your issues in a future article.)
The old adage is true.
You get what you pay for.
The salary of a policeman has remained stagnant for the better part of the last decade. The recession of 2007-2008 was every city managers burden initially but soon morphed into the perfect scapegoat.
“Sorry guys, I know it’s been 6 years since the housing collapse but we are just not ready to give you the raises that you deserve. Oh and you will have to start contributing to your retirement and forking over more cash to cover your health insurance.”
You get what you pay for.
What I love about this country above all others is our free market society.
Because of this, anyone, and yes ANYONE, with a dream and the right motivation can make and have a damn good life here.
And it’s no different with policing.
I recall approximately (wow I just sounded like a cop) a year ago that a jurisdiction from Texas traveled to a large metropolitan city on a recruiting trip.
At the end of the first day, the Texas agency had more or less abducted almost 100 officers from the department which hosted the event.
Most of the cops that jumped ship that day doubled their salaries to include other perks provided by the rogue agency.
Bottom line, money talks.
I recently wrote an article specifically addressing the issue of pay. You can read it here.
And stop showing me that cute little article about how people only quit because of bad management. It’s partly true but we all know that money wins.
Leadership and management are not the same.
I’m starting to think that leadership, be it private sector, military, or any other, is not a priority like it once was.
I have seen a lot of different leadership styles in the last 30 years, which include both policing and the Marine Corps.
When I first came into police work, they told me it was like the military or para-military.
Most of the leaders I had when I first started out as a cop for the first ten years or so were horrible. Just bad.
They led from a position of fear instead of mentor-ship and respect.
Not all were bad.
If you are reading this and you were my boss you already know what category you fall in.
Another disturbing trend in leadership that has come with technology is what I call The “PALS” leadership style.
The acronym, which I just came up with as I’m typing this, stands for the “Passive Aggressive Leadership Style”. This is the leader who only directs and provides orders through email.
“But c’mon Sarge, it’s how things get done now”.
And I agree.
Emails are how we communicate now.
I would be lying if I said that I don’t use them like everyone else to put out information and or get the job done.
But when it comes to matters of work issues and employee relations, put the keyboard aside and address the issue in person.
And yes, I’m talking to you police management guy or gal.
It makes you look bad.
Or worse, it makes your people hate you and want to leave.
3. Community policing
The burden and scope of a cops responsibilities these days are poisoning our profession.
We have become too many things to too many people.
And before some academic jumps on here and starts spouting the 5 thousand different programs that have been effective, hear me out.
The phrase “cops are the community and the community are cops”or some variation of that old tired saying, needs to get with the 21st century.
The only thing that has ever helped a community not suck are the people that live there.
I know that every police chief in America wants to fight me right now.
The only thing, in my 2 plus decades of policing, that has ever genuinely helped a community in trouble, has been “in your face policing”.
No he didn’t.
Yes I did. And that only solves the problem long term when the citizens in that neighborhood decide they have had enough. Or move.
We need to stop kidding ourselves.
Do you really think that Joe Thug (if your name is actually Joe Thug, this analogy does not pertain to you) cares about us holding hands with community leaders and forming partnerships?
What we are really doing are playing right into the hands of our neighborhood felon.
While our cops are attending meetings and listening to Mrs. Johnson complain about speeders on her street, Joe is planning and scheming his next hustle.
Now I’m not talking about the kind of policing that violates people rights.
I’m talking about the zero tolerance kind that has saved many neighborhoods from sinking faster than the Titanic. Or my promotion chances after publishing this article.
You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.