To think of all the eager young men and women who desire to wear the badge despite the evil of this world speaks to their character. To think of all those veteran officers who somehow hold on to their fight and refuse to allow the politics and underhanded manipulative efforts of the brass deter them - well that speaks to their character as well. How long will it be before it all goes to hell?
How long can we sustain the good men and women of law enforcement before the constant wearing down from the public and from their own becomes too much? And....then what are we left with?
Change must start from within. We have no real right to expect the public to respect us when we don't respect and value our own.
The following is a story of one of those beat cops. It speaks truth in volumes. Until the leaders of our police departments and agencies remember the value of their officers and honor their worth, nothing will change.
"I remember ten years ago, a conversation I had with a relative. I expressed my disgust with the business world I was in. I was fed up with the back biting, the constant push for results in a failing market, the lies, the deceit and the struggle to win at any cost.
I remembered an officer who intervened in my youth, who told me I was better than what I was doing. I remember the impact that had on me. I remembered thinking, this man in his sharp uniform had integrity. I remember thinking, the professionalism shown by that veteran must run rampant within that field.
I told my relative, I was ready to shed the business world and step into a field greater than what I could imagine. He looked me in the eye and laughed. He said, I would soon understand that the very same traits I was trying to shed were everywhere in my new calling.
Determined to prove him wrong, I set out on my new adventure of law enforcement. I was paying my dues in the department, horrible shifts, horrible pay, but I was young(er) and I was learning a craft that would help me in the streets later.
I got the call. It was time for me to suit up and hit the streets. Time to really make a difference. My first brush with the "way we do things" was during my FTO phase. I had trainers who didn't want to work. Trainers who just wanted to meet the local girls. Trainers who cycled up and down like a teenage kid full of hormones. He didn't know whether he wanted to play loud music and drive fast or tell me to park and "work on reports quietly while I close my eyes for a minute."
Undaunted, I graduated and starting getting my feet wet. I was soon approached by a beacon of light and asked if I would be interested in training the new guys. The sales pitch was not without intrigue. If you train, the trainers are who they look at to promote. They are the ones that will be the next leaders of this agency. Of course I would, but my motives were selfish. I wanted to make sure the new guys didn't get stuck training with the same "types" I trained under. I wanted to make sure they were squared away, especially if my life depended on them.
I started on my trainer journey. As time wore on I began to see that the sales pitch was a farce. I had a hand in training quite a few people who are now my superior in rank only. I had to maintain who I was as I watched some scandalous folks work their way up the ranks. Whether by spending shifts in the right offices to get noticed, or causing scandals for others or just generally kissing the right rump to get the job done.
My dad was an NCO in the U.S. Army for 22 1/2 years. Working hard comes through genetically in my family. I bought in to the old adage of working hard to achieve success. I had done so in my previous jobs and now was no different. However this "professional" environment I entered, wasn't so professional.
I've seen folks flat out break rules and get promoted. While I've seen others break the same rules and get paper put in their jacket. I've seen married supervisors sleep with other supervisor's significant others and then play the victim when it gets found out. That's right, you guessed it, promote that guy. Folks that couldn't manage a load of laundry are put in charge of shifts of crime fighters on the street. Sometimes, you don't even have to have rank. Just be the guy and they will leave you in charge.
In a field where the unethical, uncaring and unappreciative should stick out like a neon sign, it's hard to find those that care. The leaders who care about equality and fairness are few and far between. The good old boy system is STILL a major factor in this business. To get ahead you have to "play the game".
I've seen families taking loans from their retirement, myself included, to stay in a job that will never appreciate them. They won't be appreciated by the citizens they serve and they aren't appreciated by the upper echelon they serve under. I've seen the sacrifice of missed birthdays, anniversaries, the blood shed for the department, the sacrificing of one's body to long term injury. There is no drive to do the right thing, with the exception of those struggling to live up to their own rigid morale code.
The unspoken attacker of the modern day LEO is morale.
Why continue to serve in a field where you are so undervalued, unappreciated, uncared for and generally despised? Why, across America, do we have department heads that refuse to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the ones who put it all on the line for that shield they proudly wear and don't spend their days kissing the royal backside?
The true and most positive answer I can come to is simply...integrity.
A year ago, I took a meeting with my department head and shared some simple ideas that could and would boost morale throughout the trenches of the working class in my department. Most, if not all the ideas would cost little to no money to implement and I even volunteered to follow up on the ideas and bring them to fruition. I got the standard nod and ok, we'll look in to them. As of today no morale boosting ideas have been put in place. We did however receive an agency wide email that cited budget concerns as to why we would not receive cost of living or merit increases for the fifth year. But there was a nice few lines in there that stated we would be receiving extra duties to help cover the 100+ employees we were down because of budget issues.
If people aren't getting paid competitively, one of the only ways to keep employees, is make sure they feel appreciated.
When I was in the business world and we payed people minimum wage to work, you had to show that appreciation. In this thankless job we do, if you're not appreciated on the streets and you're not appreciated at work, why would you keep coming to work? The answer floating around my agency and agencies across the country is they won't.
This profession is starting to become inundated with people not called to the job but simply those looking for a job. I know that if the safety of my family depends on an officer, I want the officer that is willing to fend off the wolves and not the one just collecting a paycheck.
I recently read a blog by Lt. Randy Sutton LVMPD Ret. called The De-policing of America. Quite simply put, officers across the country are fed up. They are fed up with the attacks by the public, the media and more often than not, their own Administrations. The proactive policing of the past is quickly being replaced by the "just doing enough to keep my job" mentality.
In years past, it would have been traditional for a LEO to pass the torch to his offspring. In these times it seems more traditional to steer them away from it. I myself have already explained to my children, in no uncertain terms, I DO NOT WANT YOU TO FOLLOW IN MY FOOTSTEPS.
The times of policing in America are changing. No matter what theory you subscribe to as to the why's, they are simply changing. I for one believe they are trying to oust those with a sense of duty and loyalty to the oath we took.
If you are a supervisor in an agency, now is the time to step up and be a leader. Don't just be a boss! Theodore Roosevelt said, "People ask the difference between a leader and a boss ... The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives".
Get out there and let your troops know they are appreciated. Thank them for going the extra mile. Heck, thank them for coming to work today. But make sure, when the day is over, they know that their LEADERS, appreciate them. Build that rapport, boost their morale. The country is falling apart at the seams at a rapid pace. The first line of defense to keep the wolves at bay, is crumbling under the mounting load of stress and turmoil dumped on our first responders on the daily. BE THE DIFFERENCE!"