Being A Law Enforcement Officer Is In What It Used To Be
By Larry Blustein
Alex Thomas just retired after 33 years as a law enforcement officer. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father who both devoted their lives to the profession.
But as much as the Thomas family honored and upheld that badge, the tradition that had been part of their fiber for decades, is coming to an end.
Thomas has two sons – and neither have opted to follow their family – instead using their degrees for a higher paying job in another field.
The Thomas family is certainly not alone. Being a policemen in today’s society is not what it once was. The objective of upholding the law is still the same, but low pay and total disrespect for the position has driven many away.
“It is so sad to hear my boys tell me that being a police officer is not what they want to do,” Thomas pointed out. “But you know, even though I have bled blue since I was young enough to walk, I fully understand and comprehend what they are feeling.”
The problem of recruitment and retention of police officers in departments across the United States is well documented. Many law enforcement agencies have difficulty not only identifying and hiring qualified candidates, but keeping them as well.
Most people understand that law enforcement careers aren’t for everyone, but it seems, at least anecdotally, that the pool of available candidates continues to shrink. Several factors have converged to make it more difficult than ever to find good officers, and diminish interest in policing careers.
Even though more and more people are earning college degrees, salaries for law enforcement officers – especially starting salaries, don’t reflect the higher earning expectations of newer generations of job candidates.
“There are so many things that go into being a policeman these days,” Ally Harper, a recent police academy graduate said. “When I got out of high school, there were like five of us girls who really wanted to go into the profession, but things have changed.”
In the past four years, Harper was the only one who stayed the course – and because of so much division between civilians and the law enforcement personnel, others decided to go in a different direction.
“Police officers put their lives on the line every day, and the vast majority of them truly believe they're working to save lives,” Harper said. “So when an otherwise law-abiding member of the public begins yelling and cussing at the cop who's giving him a ticket—or, worse yet, just a warning—it can be hard to take.”
Many people who love the profession and have looked forward to a career are re-thinking that decision. There's a perception that the "cop culture" is one of corruption when it comes to taking care of each other and the "thin blue line" or the brotherhood. This can lead to a lot of distrust from the public and it's largely an unfair characterization. Yes, a few bad apples have earned that stigma, but most officers want to weed out the dirty cops even more than the public does.
“The crazy thing about all of this is there are still great cops out there – and many who are willing to put aside lower pay and everything that goes along with it to make our streets safer,” Thomas said. “There is give and take in everything – there are also ‘bad apples’ in any walk of life.”
WHY DO COPS GET NO RESPECT?
The role of police officers has changed beyond recognition, and the special connection with the public has been lost.
“The fact is that, as police officers and detectives, most our interaction with the public is negative-based,” former Captain Ross Miller said. “If we respond to their home on a call, it is generally going to be the worst day of their life- for one reason or another. If we stop them in the street, we are intruding upon their personal space, asking a lot of questions, and generally treat them suspiciously- for a good reason (otherwise, why would we talk with them?).”
In addition, social media and mainstream (liberal) media have NOT been very supportive of police agencies, pointing to the many questionable shootings and other negatives that have not been investigated. Police are automatically guilty – no matter what is shown or said.
“There was a time when nothing would stand in the way of me devoting my life to law enforcement,” Miller said. “Today, not so much. Not worth all the negatives that go along with it.”
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