Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Is cop work the same anymore?

     I love this picture.  To me, it is what policing is.  Making connections, meeting people, helping people.  In my internal dialogue, the officer is having a snack, or a drink with the young run-away, and will eventually take him back home after a little chat.  The officer is genuine, and cares about his job, and the safety of the young boy, but takes the time to listen to him, and his problems.

     When I started as a young rookie back in '98, times were different.  We were post Rodney King, but pre 9-11.  It was the beginning of "Community Policing".  The job shifted from a stricter enforcement role to a problem oriented role.  Cops went to community meetings, listened to the concerns, and tailored the enforcement activities to help curb the quality of life issues in the communities.  It wasn't perfect.  It wasn't always ideal, and didn't always work, but it was what we did.  There was a true connection with the communities we served, and the officers who worked the beat.

     As the years passed, and after the attacks on Sept 11, 01, we moved farther away from community policing, and in my opinion, policing in general.  We became the people to call for anything and everything.  As technology made the world smaller, the distance between neighbors grew larger. Instead of going next door and talking to your neighbor if you had a problem, just call 911.  Neighbor blows leaves in your yard? 911.  Kids throwing snowballs? 911.  Party too loud next door?  911.  Dog barking? 911.  Power out?  Power company, right?  Nope. 911!

     Recently, I had a call for a neighbor dispute in one of the more "affluent" neighborhoods I patrol.  The background was that these neighbors have been fighting for 15 years.  The things they fight over?  Leaves.  They live across the street from each other, and one old dude blows his leaves into the street and over to the other old dude's curb.  We're not talking all the leaves. We're talking the little bit of leftovers after the yard work is done, and the stragglers are left behind.  So, I try to talk to the "victim" and see if he wanted me to talk to the "suspect" and see if he would agree to help sweep up the debris.  NOPE.  He wanted none of that.  So, I try to get the "victim" to agree to go to mediation with the "suspect" over these leaves.  NOPE!  He wont have that either.  He just "wanted us to know" that he planned on suing the other old dude.  Yup.  This guy wanted to call 911, an emergency number, to tell the police, an emergency service, that he was going to handle a non issue civilly, in civil court. 
     THIS is what more and more of our calls for service have become.  Not helping communities deal with quality of life issues, or combating crime, but dealing with people who can't deal with people.

     Oh, yeah.  We still have robberies, assaults, thefts, bad car wrecks, and all the regular stuff you see on COPS too.  We also have fewer police officers, more houses and occupants, and an increase in commercial development and shopping centers to contend with.

     We have also taken less of a law enforcement or community policing role, and more of a consultation, problem solving, feel good role within the community.  As people become more reliable on the 911 system, the medics have become people's primary medical care, and the police have become, for lack of a better analogy, another set of parents, to help with life's "little problems".

     Don't get me wrong here, we still want to do the job.  We still want to be in the communities, and we have a community oriented mission still in place, and have community meetings and groups. MOST officers still get out of their cars, and walk shopping centers, and do business checks.  I know I do, and I'm training my rookies to do the same.  The TIME just isn't there anymore to do it right. 

     All of this is happening as the role of the modern day police officer is made to be the villain, and is hated by the public we serve.  We are viewed as the boogieman, Parents teach their children to fear us rather than to run to us for help.  Officers are accused of being racist in our motives and accused of unequally enforcing the laws by the media, and the focus is on corruption and misuse of power, because That's what sells.  The focus has become, "If it bleeds, it leads" in the news.  We are guilty until proven innocent, recorded, and edited to fill an agenda.  We are made to feel powerless in the court of public opinion.  We are constantly berated with slogans of "Hands up! Don't shoot!", "______ lives matter!", and told we need "softer uniforms".  In recent years I have been spat on, my car defaced, cursed out, and given the "one finger salute" just for showing up to do my job.

    As a kid, being a cop was my dream.  Man, I thought it was going to be full of excitement and adventure.  I had aspirations of being influential in my community, and making a difference.  I thought I'd be locking up the bad guy, getting in car chases, solving crimes.  In the beginning, there was a lot of that.  I had a great time, learned a lot.  But, times change, the mission changes, the job changes.  We still have fun, and go after the bad guys.  But, I find myself helping a lot of people with a lot of "non police" issues along the way.  Some are genuine, and people do need help, but a lot are not.  In my agency, if you dial 9-1-1, and ask for the police, you get an officer.  Regardless of what it's for.  People tend to abuse it.  It clogs an already overworked system, and delays response to other calls for service that we should be going to.

     So, this begs the question, "What is cop work, and is it really the same anymore?"

    What say you?

Stay safe out there.





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