Pretty soon, police departments nationwide will have to lower their hiring standards, increase salaries and benefits, and put a lot more money into marketing for new hires, because the men and women who would usually be candidates for law enforcement careers will choose another path.
Becoming a police officer used to be a family tradition. It's not just an Irish thing, as is often depicted in movies and on television. I cannot count how many father/son and even mother/daughter, police families you can find out there in various departments, of all different colors and backgrounds. It's an honorable profession serving the community, and children who are raised in cop households often grow up with the same sense of civic responsibility as their parents. I even know of one family in the Washington, DC, area who has family (cousins, brothers, etc.) in almost every police department in and around the city. Meet one "Officer Wigglesworth" and I guarantee you, he's related to all of the others.
But the times, they are a'changin. And not for the better. Because the overall attitude toward law enforcement has shifted and changed. The profession that was so revered after 9/11 has instead become itself the target of hate. A lot of people have tried to make the community's problems with law enforcement a race issue. But the cop killers are indiscriminate as to whom they murder. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian - it's all about the color of the uniform, so to speak, not the color of the officer's skin.
Officer Randolph Holder, a 33-year-old member of the New York Police Department, and a third generation cop, was gunned down by a bike thief a few days ago.
Only seven people showed up for a community walk led by clergy for Officer Holder on Thursday night, two days after he was killed in the line of duty. The murdered police officer was black. And his family is outraged that Holder isn't getting the same sort of attention from black community leaders that Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray got when they died resisting arrest. They've even got Al Sharpton on the defensive, because how can he explain the way he rushed to the side of every other family and can't seem to pencil in the Holders? It's a valid complaint. While so many in the #BlackLivesMatter movement want to paint a white face on law enforcement, Holder was a black immigrant representing the very best of the American dream.
Where is the community's outrage that Randolph Holder has been murdered? If Holder had dodged his murderer's bullet, and shot back and killed him, how would that community have responded? I believe we would be seeing riots, and protestors with their hands up, and everybody screaming that the dead guy was "just a bike thief" and didn't deserve to die for his crimes. The thing is, Officer Holder definitely didn't deserve to die for the bike thief's crimes. He was just doing his job to protect that community. He and his partner had responded to a 911 call.
No matter how much complaining, ranting, and protesting has been done by people, who does EVERYONE call at the first sign of trouble when they need help, including the criminals? The police. "Dial 911 for help" is (or should be) drummed into every little child as soon as they're old enough to pick up the telephone. Children are told that if they're lost or in trouble they should look for a police officer to help them. When everyone else is running away from a dangerous situation, the police run to it - as fast as they can - to intervene and help. Firefighters do the same thing, but in bad neighborhoods, they usually do it with a police escort or backup.
It's hard to listen to my husband, a retired Captain from the Metro Transit Police Department in DC, talk to other cops about "the job" now. While they once boasted to each other about the good work they'd done, the bad guys they arrested, and the people they saved, now they talk about how screwed up everything is. My husband's youngest son wanted to be a police officer, but he ended up taking a different professional route. My husband now says "thank God" none of his children followed in his footsteps.
"I would NEVER tell anyone to become a cop now," he says. "If you want to help people, you should become a firefighter." Then again, the rioters in Baltimore were throwing things at firetrucks and cutting the water hoses, as the firefighters tried to put out the flames in the burning buildings during the Baltimore riots. We all KNOW that's true because we watched it happen live on CNN. And then a Baltimore firefighter was shot in uniform not too long after that. The same day Holder was shot, two Detroit paramedics were attacked with knives while treating a patient.
When I listen to my husband talking to other cops - retired and active-duty - they all say the same thing. All of them are proud of being police officers, but NONE of them would become a cop today with the way police are being demonized, police departments are being "de-militarized," and political mouthpieces are calling for a "softer, friendlier look" for police officers. It's demoralizing and demeaning. And don't ask police spouses and family what we think about it.
You want us to put our husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and sons and daughters wearing blue in the line of fire wearing fuzzy track suits with a badge embroidered on them? Forget the tasers and guns, let's give them stickers with smiley or frowny faces, and they can simply label citizens so that children know whom they should avoid. And forget those mean handcuffs, let's use the honor system.
"Sir, I'm arresting you for beating your wife into oblivion, and now I'd like you to politely follow me to the car so I can take you down to the station, where we'd like you to smile for some pictures from three angles. Please?"
Right, cuz that works. Not.
The reason police cars are designed the way they are is because so many crazy and/or drugged-up suspects try to kick out the windows, spit at the cops, and do other disgusting things. That's just some of the glory of police work. Don't pretend you haven't watched "Cops" and cringed.
Officer Holder's mother, Princess Holder, has spoken out already, calling for New York to bring back their "stop and frisk" policy that the current mayor didn't support. She's right - more arrests are made when police initiate regular traffic stops and check for warrants, and question other suspicious characters, than any other way. But if you don't let police create a safe environment for themselves when they're doing their jobs, they cannot be expected to keep our communities safe.
Officer Holder was shot in the head trying to catch a bicycle thief. In 2001, Officer Marlon Morales, of the DC-area Metro Transit Police (my husband's department), was shot in the head while trying to stop a fare evader in a Metro station. Nowadays, police have to assume that every suspect, for even the slightest infraction, may be armed, because that's often true.
It scares the hell out of me that we will not have another generation of good cops coming onto police departments because of the hatred and political environment. I don't want any of our family members or friends to join the police department, but I also don't want to live in a country where the people who should have been the cops don't want to be anymore. And that's a totally legitimate concern. Not all of the people who do want to be a part of the new generation of cops will be the best ones for the job. You're supposed to join law enforcement because you want to keep the peace, not jump on board for the sole purpose of being a part of neutralizing crazy riots.
Undermining the authority of the police, and preventing them from doing their jobs as they've been trained -- for political purposes -- is destroying the fabric of the law enforcement community. It makes the police stop caring about enforcing laws. It makes them afraid to intervene when there's a chance they'll be criminally charged for doing their jobs. It makes nobody want to grow up and become a police officer like daddy or mommy, anymore. And that is a huge problem.
Right now, most cops wouldn't advise anyone they cared about to become a police officer. Be a firefighter instead, they'd say. With all due respect to firefighters (my husband was a volunteer for years before he was a cop), the community needs law enforcement, in addition to other emergency services. We need strong, professional police officers who are not afraid to enforce our laws and keep our streets safe. Without the safety net of a strong law enforcement community, this nation would rapidly fall apart.
Think about it.