FEATURED IN LIFELINE TRAINING
I said, “Stop working.” Didn’t you get it?
I had an interesting conversation with a fellow columnist Valerie Van Brocklin—whom I respect, by the way—after my last column, entitled Stop Working. I also received several emails, a hand-full of phone calls, dozens of face-to-face conversations at seminars and scores of comments on Lawofficer.com and the Facebook pages of both Law Officer and the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. And I learned a lot by both listening to and reading their opinions.
The most obvious things I learned?
- Some just flat out missed my point—I’ll take some of the responsibility for that. Maybe I just wasn’t clear so I’ll work on it and try to clarify here in this column.
- “Title readers”— it’s interesting that several who took the time to write—some of them hundreds of words—didn’t actually read the article. They apparently became so incensed at the title of my column that the compulsion to reach out overcame them before they could get around to actually reading it. So they banged away at their keyboards to respond to something I never actually said.
- Some people don’t like—and certainly don’t trust—the police. In addition, they portray the roughly 800,000 criminal justice professionals as though they were a singular being with corrupt intentions.
But before I go on, let me clarify my last article …
- No, I don’t think cops should stop working.
- Yes, I do believe that most citizens actually want police officers to act preemptively, be proactive and protect them from predators.
- No, I certainly don’t think that the police are motivated by ill-intent.
- Yes, I do think that the many in the media and numerous insincere activists with both personal and financial agendas perpetuate a lie. That lie: A majority of police officers are driven by malevolent motivations. To clarify: That’s a lie. Not a mistake; not a misspoken statement; a lie.
- Finally, a big YES: Police officers around the country are getting the message that they should stop working, stop being proactive and that doing less isn’t as damaging to your career as is doing more.
The Stop Working article, while focusing on the NYPD controversy, was meant to point out a collective cultural shift that’s occurring in big cities, rural counties and small towns alike: the accepted and uncontested belief is that proactive police work is really motivated by the need to subjugate citizens, assert power over the powerless and/or devalue others based on race, creed, sexual orientation, etc.
Not surprisingly, almost completely absent from the conversation is the actual truth.
Police officers are proactive because they want to stop crime before it happens and before criminals can hurt others. Why? Because the vast majority of us are good people who care about and want to protect the innocent!
Perfect time for the politically correct qualifier. Do cops have their crabby days and display disdain a little too often? Sure. Are there some police officers who are mean, biased and even racist? Yeah, there are. But, and I’d argue this to my death: There are no more people that fit that description in law enforcement than there are in any—and I do mean any—segment of the population. People of that ilk are alive and well in the medical field, education profession, certainly the media—even in theology.
The real truth is that the vast majority of police officers are motivated by one thing: protecting the innocent. I know it’s corny but it’s still the truth. And we work in spite of the obstacles, threats of discipline and the potential for litigation.
But, we aren’t insane. Well, mostly we’re not. We still volunteer for the dirty jobs: Undercover narcotics and organized crime, SWAT, bomb squads, night shift and so on. We run into burning buildings, wade into violent bar fights, enter darkened hallways looking for homicide suspects and charge into buildings occupied by an active shooter.
We get very few thanks. No parades. No hugs. No gifts of great material value.
And we’re fine with that. We can live without hero monikers, awards and medals.
But—please!—stop the name-calling, the ridiculous racist rhetoric and the destructive diatribes that paint all in law enforcement as, well, criminals.
So where is the public outrage? Where are the politicians speaking the truth to their constituents? And where are the bosses standing up and acting as our advocates?
I’ll tell you where: on the defensive! I’ve seen it in big and small towns alike. Accusations, even baseless ones, put administrators on the ropes. They eat up administrators’ time and cause considerable emotional angst. So the bosses find themselves spending an inordinate amount of their time trying to disprove a negative that doesn’t exist. And this isn’t fun. It’s draining as hell, and they don’t like it much.
Eventually, they figure out that not having to defend officers’ actions is much more fun than defending them. They also realize that the people they report to know next to nothing about law enforcement. But they think they do, because they own the complete seasons of Law & Order SVU.
So perhaps unconsciously, they communicate to officers that getting in trouble isn’t something they, the bosses, want to see. And the officers get the message.
Again, I’m not advocating a work stoppage. In fact, I totally agree with Val Van Brocklin that your character is what defines you and your behavior. I’m just saying, systemically, it’s becoming a viable and accepted option in many organizations.
Law enforcement officers works in spite of the many obstacles. They want to do their jobs. We have the most enthusiastic recruits of any profession that I know of. These guys get out of the Academy ready to rock! They are stopping cars, making arrests, searching vehicles, finding contraband. The stats and activity on the shift they inhabit soar. They’re happy, supervisors are happy, life is beautiful until one of two things happen: The recruit gets a citizen complaint and/or the sluggy veteran officers get to them.
A citizen complains: Some—not all, but some—supervisors overreact. They berate, criticize, grumble and whine. Then, perhaps unintentionally, they convey a clear message: No more citizen complaints … And what is the best way to avoid getting a citizen complaint? Yep: Do less.
Sluggy veterans give advice: “Listen kid, you need to slow the hell down! This place sucks you just don’t know it yet. The more you do the more trouble you’re gonna get in. So just follow my lead. Do the minimum; volunteer for nothing. The sergeants will love you and if you want you’ll probably get promoted.”
And one more time: The downside for not working (at least systemically)? There’s none.
My bottom line: I’m proud of police officers because they do work, and should work, in spite of those who believe the worst about them. Yes, we are flawed. But we are also honorable. We are the warrior’s that do what 95% of this country would never do. We wade in and put ourselves between the wolves and the sheep.
A word of warning from a veteran cop buddy of mine: “When society makes enemies with its cops, it better become friends with its criminals.”
Pick a side.