…Anyway, that’s been the news from Police Administrators all over the Nation for the past couple of years.
Some of the very highest administrators in our Country have been publicly wondering, and generally offering unlikely reasons for the recent difficulty of recruiting police in various departments. Others are commiserating because there has been a raise in crime in their cities or in neighborhoods, and they just cannot figure it out.
I’m not offering any personal opinions here, just offering a letter written by an officer on the East Coast. If his “reasons” sound “reasonable”, or if his “reasons” are “unlikely”, the opinion is all up to you, the reader. I’m not interested either way because as one of my old worker buds used to say with his south-pacific accent; “Eet’s no my pro-blem, mon”.
The writer misses a couple of very significant events that working police have been handed recently, but he hits about 80% of the problems with recruitment, retention, and criminal proactive enforcement.
I don’t know how the “San Francisco Vigilante” association works on this subject but it was part of the letter. “Vigilante” actions don’t work today.
Here you go:
From a police officer in Maryland:
CDS enforcement (*Note: CDS means Controlled Drugs & Substances) by patrol is on life support as it is and total arrests have dropped by about 90% where I work. There were guys on my shift who used to go out and get 17 legitimate lock ups per shift, the majority of them felonies. (*Note; “per team”, “per shift”) Now, the department is lucky if the whole shift gets 17 lock ups for the month. The hand writing is on the wall: do nothing and save your job. Folks on the street are acting accordingly.
I asked one guy I work with why he stopped making arrests. His answer “I can’t risk getting fired.” This is by no means a brutal or corrupt Officer. Very polite, very professional and at one time a very hard worker.
Not anymore. The same goes for everyone to his left and right. They’ve all shut down. Police work is effectively over for them and that means that police services are effectively non-existent for the thousands of people who live and work where they patrol. Occasionally someone will ask me why we don’t Police the way we used to. I tell them why in explicit detail and suggest that they write their elected representatives.
A lot of guys refuse to run code anymore. They won’t activate their lights or siren for anything other than a call to assist another Officer.
Assault in progress? Drive the speed limit. A shooting or a cutting? Drive the speed limit and make sure to stop for at least three seconds at every traffic control device. Why? Because every accident where the Officer runs code is now the Officer’s fault regardless of the transportation articles. So be it. Patrol will adjust accordingly.
EMS will not enter the scene where someone is injured as a result of armed criminal action if we are not present. The longer it takes for the Police to arrive the longer that victim bleeds. The problem is that you can’t be fired for getting there a minute late even if the victim dies but you can and will be fired if you crash trying to get there in time, even if you didn’t violate the law or department policy.
Cameras will only make the situation worse. We have already been told that if we get cameras they will have to be turned off when we enter private property to avoid running afoul of the current wiretapping statute.
That right there knocks their effectiveness down by about fifty percent. Domestics, EPs/mental cases (*Note: EP is Psychological) and investigate the trouble calls account for a good many uses of force. You can ignore a drug dealer on the sidewalk. You can’t ignore a knife wielding schizophrenic who refuses to take his medication. If the Officer thinks that entering that house or apartment to deal with said EP will result in the loss of his job he’s going to pull back and wait for SWAT. Why? Because if he forms a perimeter and everyone in the house is murdered he cannot be disciplined. If he enters the house and kills said EP when attacked with said knife and the family claims racism/brutality/murder he’s looking at termination.
When the cameras come, arrests for loitering, disorderly, CDS possession and distribution as a well as a host of other offenses will all but cease.
A use of force can be justified but looks ugly at the same time. High ranking Police Executives and Mayors don’t like ugly – even if ugly is both lawful and necessary. The result is that Officers will be fired or suspended until the message is received that ugly will not be tolerated.
At that point active police work will cease – the process has already started.
A lot of folks want body cameras. They’re not going to like what they get…namely Police who will arrive slowly and will simply go through the motions when they arrive – if they come at all. The only thing that Officer is required to do is show up for work on time and get to his call for service eventually (which could be hours). If the Police go into hibernation they are untouchable. No one can be fired or prosecuted for doing the bare minimum. Sadly, that’s the future. It’s unfolding right now.
I completely understand the frustration that all police officers are feeling about the recent events. In many instances the problem can be traced to the fact that their superiors (i.e. chiefs, mayors, councils, etc) are more interested in protecting their political positions than in defending the officers when the actions are defensible. What may result, if the scenario that the Maryland officer outlines becomes wide spread, is anarchy where all law breaks down. In that case the citizens who are able will begin to react with predictably uncertain results. It is the same set of conditions that existed in the west in the middle of the 19th century.
Are we headed in the same direction as the Vigilantes?
* * * * *
(*Note: He mentions the “Vigilantes”, but does not explain them nor place them in historical perspective:
The “Vigilantes” were formed during the 1850’s Gold Rush Days. Here is a reasonably accurate explanation:)
WHEREAS it has become apparent to the citizens of San Francisco, that there is no security for life and property, either under the regulations of society as it at present exists, or under the law as now administered; Therefore the citizens, whose names are hereunto attached, do unite themselves into an association for the maintenance of the peace and good order of society, and the preservation of the lives and property of the citizens of San Francisco, and do bind ourselves, each unto the other, to do and perform every lawful act for the maintenance of law and order, and to sustain the laws when faithfully and properly administered; but we are determined that no thief, burglar, incendiary or assassin, shall escape punishment, either by the quibbles of the law, the insecurity of prisons. the carelessness or corruption of the police, or a laxity of those who pretend to administer justice.