I have struggled over the notion of directly addressing my chosen profession through these articles. It’s no secret that policing in America is a polarizing issue in today’s society. That alone makes discussing cops and how they operate a source of contention, no matter how you broach the topic. Anyone, especially a cop, writing about cop related things is going to pour sand in the craw of at least 50% of the population. Therefore, instead of trying to write something that pleases cop lovers or cop haters, I’ll offer something that is likely to inflame folks on both ends of the spectrum. I mean, it’s only fair, right?
Are cops good or bad? I’ll spare you the overused soundbite about bad people being present in every profession. In short, the overwhelming majority of cops are good. Even bad cops usually have the noblest of intentions. However, cops can start off good and turn like milk, becoming sour and jaded. Bad cops, in all stages of their careers, do exist – but VERY few are bad right out of the gate. Most bad cops (which are the great minority of the cop population) didn’t start their careers as a dumpster fire of a human being – they ended up like that over time – some more quickly than others, and for a multitude of possible reasons.
The elephant in the room is use of force. That seems to be the only standard by which people determine if they’re pro-cop or anti-cop. If you don’t assess police actions on a case-by-case basis and simply lump all cops into one giant pool of corruption, then you’re ate slap up with the dumb-ass. If you think all cops are bullies, they’re not. If you think cops use too much force too often, they don’t. If you think qualified immunity is an archaic mechanism that should be abolished, you either need to quit using LSD or start using it – whichever makes you more enlightened. The idea of eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s “more stupider” than “defund the police.” I felt my IQ drop just by typing “eliminating qualified immunity.” Damn it, I did it again. Moving on… On the other hand, if you believe cops are always professional, always above reproach, never use too much force, and should be given absolute reign to purge society of all perceived scum bags – or if you think that building more prisons for the purpose of generating revenue is a prudent financial plan – to paraphrase a popular redneck comedian, “You might be a communist.”
Society fails law enforcement by buying into all the negativity surrounding cops in the media. Bad stories make attractive headlines. Good stories don’t sell papers or ad space. People seem to have lost the ability for critical thinking where cops are concerned, because they’ve been force-fed negativity for so long that they’ve developed an indirect form of Stockholm Syndrome and have begun to sympathize with their captors – the cop hating media.
Non-cop readers, I want you to hear this too, but know the rest of this article is directed to my blue compatriots.
Cops, are you actively working to change the narrative surrounding our beloved profession? I get it, we’re vastly outnumbered – but since when does that stop us? Wouldn’t you rush headlong into a fight with three guys twice your size to try and rescue a child from captivity? Wouldn’t you sprint into the absolute terror of an active shooter situation to smite evil in its tracks and save innocent people? Since when is fighting an uphill battle not exactly what we signed up for? If the narrative needs to change, and it certainly does, why aren’t more of us working to change it?
Do you have all the training you need to do your job well – to be as safe as possible, to communicate professionally and effectively with a wide range of people – to write, to fight, to shoot, to drive, to understand the laws you enforce? What would the general public think if they knew just how abysmal the annual training / continued education standard truly is – or that you can get 12 of the mandatory minimum 20 hours of annual “training” by watching videos online? If a stranger asked you what training requirements are mandatory for cops in your state or agency, would you have to use your “verbal judo” or embellish your response to keep from being utterly embarrassed? Could you say honestly that you and / or your agency go above and beyond what’s required, for training?
To improve the way cops are perceived by the public, make yourself a better cop – rather than depending on your agency to do it for you. Don’t be the lowest common denominator when it comes to training. It sucks to spend your own money, time, vacation, fuel, and energy to get good training. Believe me, I know. I’m not suggesting you spend your career being a “certificate chaser” – the world doesn’t need more of those. I also understand that much of the training available to us through law enforcement is really good! But is the mandatory minimum sufficient? Not even close – regardless how long you’ve been on the job. Take it upon yourself to get training that’s recent, relevant, and realistic, whether or not your agency will foot the bill. The world needs more well-trained cops, but the world will never have them if we depend on bureaucrats and people with political agendas to set the standard of “sufficient training,” because it’s far cheaper to bury you and / or pay liability insurance premiums than it is to adequately train you for the duration of your career.
I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, especially in my current position, working for and having worked for supervisors and department heads, who value(d) training and know the importance of elevating officers’ confidence and competence – but we, the rank and file hired hands, have to take some initiative too. Once, in 15 years on the job, have I been denied training that I requested. Most cops aren’t as fortunate as I have been. Therefore, a lot of cops sit and wait for someone with more rank to give them training directives that never come, rather than seeking out education for themselves – and that behavior needs to change.
We’ll never be able to curb the stupidity pandemic among the staunchest of cop haters but we must do our part to reduce the effectiveness of their overgrown mouths – without the use of a PR-24 – as tempting as that notion sometimes is. The only actions you can control are your own. Hold yourselves to the high standard that’s required of us, and rather than keeping up with the times, let’s get ahead of the current state of affairs, by being proactive, not reactive, where our training is concerned – because you are the only person that can make you a better cop.
Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.
(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official legal or medical advice.)