american policing

Policing in America: Why good cops are leaving




Why policing in America is at a crossroad

This includes me.

The past two years have seen the profession of policing in America turned on its head. The public outcry over several police involved shootings has divided Americans into two groups.

The first being the liberal leaning “why are cops killing so many unarmed, helpless, black men.” 

The second being “cops have a tough job, just follow their orders and everything will be good group.”

I stand here before both groups and shake my damn head. Like you, I hear a lot of the Facebook and keyboard cowboys spouting their beliefs and pleading me to copy and paste their post that are not even their own words.

Both sides are devoutly invested and emotionally charged to defend their viewpoint.

And I get that.

As a policeman, I took an oath that said, among many things, that I would be impartial and neutral. And that is exactly how I will approach this article. Please, before you call me an a**hole or worse, a liberal, read the article in its entirety.

Here are the 3 changes that I feel need to be addressed in policing in America ASAP!


1. Pay 

I read or hear about it everyday. This agency or that police agency, any-town USA, are at critical manning and staffing. It seems police and sheriff’s departments across the country are having a tough time keeping people around.

Shocking.

On the face of this issue the easy way out would be to blame it on the “War on Police”. And that is a real and present cause for some of the shortages.

The real problem and the solution is pay.

(Teachers, you’re going to have to take a knee on this one. I promise I will address your issues in a future article.)

The old adage is true. You get what you pay for. The salary of a policeman has remained stagnant for the better part of the last decade. The recession of 2007-2008 was every city managers burden initially but soon morphed into the perfect scapegoat.

“Sorry guys, I know it’s been 6 years since the housing collapse but we are just not ready to give you the raises that you deserve. Oh and you will have to start contributing to your retirement and forking over more cash to cover your health insurance.”

You get what you pay for.

What I love about this country above all others is our free market society.

Because of this, anyone, and yes ANYONE, with a dream and the right motivation can make and have a damn good life here.

And it’s no different with policing. I recall approximately (wow I just sounded like a cop) a year ago that a jurisdiction from Texas traveled to a large metropolitan city on a recruiting trip.

At the end of the first day, the Texas agency had more or less abducted almost 100 officers from the department which hosted the event. Ouch!

Most of the cops that jumped ship that day doubled their salaries to include other perks provided by the rogue agency.

Bottom line, money talks.

And stop showing me that cute little article about how people only quit because of bad management.  It’s partly true but we all know that money wins.

Every time.




2. Leadership

Leadership and management are not the same.

I’m starting to think that leadership, be it private sector, military, or any other, is not a priority like it once was. I have seen a lot of different leadership styles in the last 30 years, which include both policing and the Marine Corps.

When I first came into police work, they told me it was like the military or para-military.

Laughable.

Most of the leaders I had when I first started out as a cop for the first ten years or so were horrible. Just bad.

They led from a position of fear instead of mentor-ship and respect. Not all were bad. If you are reading this and you were my boss you already know what category you fall in.

Another disturbing trend in leadership that has come with technology is what I call The “PALS” leadership style. The acronym, which I just came up with as I’m typing this, stands for the “Passive Aggressive Leadership Style”.  This is the leader who only directs and provides orders through email.

But c’mon Bart, it’s how things get done now.

And I agree. Emails are how we communicate now. I would be lying if I said that I don’t use them like everyone else to put out information and or get the job done. But when it comes to matters of work issues and employee relations, put the keyboard aside and address the issue in person.

And yes, I’m talking to you police management guy or gal.

Just stop.

It makes you look bad.

Or worse, it makes your people hate you and want to leave.




3. Community policing

The burden and scope of a cops responsibilities these days are poisoning our profession. We have become too many things to too many people. And before some academic jumps on here and starts spouting the 5 thousand different programs that have been effective, here me out.

The phrase “cops are the community and the community are cops”or some variation of that old tired saying, needs to get with the 21st century.  The only thing that has ever helped a community not suck are the people that live there.

Period.

I know that every police chief in America wants to fight me right now.

The only thing, in my 2 plus decades of policing, that has ever genuinely helped a community in trouble, has been “in your face policing”.

Gasp. Shutter…

No he didn’t.

Yes I did. And that only solves the problem long term when the citizens in that neighborhood decide they have had enough. Or move.

We need to stop kidding ourselves.

Do you really think that Joe Thug (if your name is actually Joe Thug, this analogy does not pertain to you) cares about us holding hands with community leaders and forming partnerships?

What we are really doing are playing right into the hands of our neighborhood felon. While our cops are attending meetings and listening to Mrs. Johnson complain about speeders on her street, Joe is planning and scheming his next hustle.

Now I’m not talking about the kind of policing that violates people rights.

I’m talking about the zero tolerance kind that has saved many neighborhoods from sinking faster than the Titanic. Or my promotion chances after  publishing this article.


 


3 is a good start but there are many more.

As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on the ideas expressed here in my article. Also, these are my opinions and mine alone. My hope is to get everyone talking and coming together for the betterment of our profession.




Some of you have reached out and want to share your story with others. A blog like this one is a great way to reach those who could benefit from your experience and interests. Blogging has changed my perspective and my life.

It could do the same for you.

Here is a video by Gary Vaynerchuk that expresses what I have been saying for years. You get ONE LIFE! If it’s starting your own business, getting your college degree, or starting your own blog, Don’t wait.

Just start.

I highly recommend HostGatorwhich in my opinion is the simplest and fastest way to get you started on your blogging journey. If you have any questions about starting a blog or a website, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly at bart@familysafefirst.com.

 

 

A 23-year veteran police officer, Bart spent time as a patrolmen and a violent crimes detective (specialized in strategic intelligence and research analysis). Aside from this experience in high profile case investigations, he has received training from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in Advanced Intelligence Analysis. Bart also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence (Magna Cum Laude) from Liberty University. As a father of four, husband and law enforcement officer, he wants to share his knowledge on safety with you. Bart is also a contributing writer for Law Enforcement Today.

11 Comments

  • Clifford Hamblen May 9, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    While many will say that Police are overpaid already, in NJ they have been legally limited to a 2 percent total compensation limit for more than a decade. That means if you get an extra sick day it is assigned a dollar amount and that is subtracted from the amount of a raise you can get. In NJ, one of the most expensive places to live, Police officers pay 10 percent of their gross salary into their pension. They also pay 1/3 of the cost of their health insurance. For example the Police Department i worked for ( i am retired now) has 18 steps(years) until you are at top salary. When I was hired in 1981 there were only 4 steps. Officers are required to have a bachelors degree. All of those factors when coupled with the horrendous atmosphere in the Political arena towards Police right now it is becoming very difficult to hire and or keep quality applicants.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 10, 2017 at 9:41 am

      Thanks Clifford. I know a lot of you guys up north are eligible to retire after 20, no matter the age. That falls in line with the US Military but for some reason most of us cops have to stick it out for 25 before we can leave.

      Reply
  • Mm sum May 9, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Well gonna agree with you on this. I retired fully after 37 years. I will admit the last 10 were tough but that was because I was a “part-timer”. In my tenure I was in two areas-patrol “the backbone of the department” more like the coxis and a middle school cop. I think the PALS now is so true. The leaders are pussys. They are afraid to tell their troop what to do face to face. So easy by email. Great paper trail for your boss. But very whimpy. I think your fourth point should be the sucking on the car computer. That thing can be a great tool but with all the tracking going on it of the officer it is just an IA rat. These new guys can’t stay off of it and get out of the car. No one wants to beat the bushes get out and be a bit proactive. And COP what a joke, the good hoods don’t want to see you and the bad ones attack you when they call. When I retired as a sergeant, I couldn’t get my guys to do 3 traffic stops a day. It is not policing my old salt boss demanded. Glad to be out. Sad not to be in the mix.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 10, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Thank you. 37 years! That is a very, very long time to do this job. Well, unless the last fifteen were spent sitting in a comfortable office at police headquarters. Thank you for using my acronym “PALS”. Some people want fame. Some want money. I would be completely satisfied with starting a new acronym. Have a great day!

      Reply
  • Midnight Mike May 10, 2017 at 8:05 am

    I have to disagree with you in regard to community policing. “In your face” is necessary and works in some instances but it alienates a lot of people and is ineffective when dealing with most reasonable people. We have more positive support now than I have seen in at least a generation and community policing has helped bring that out. We have to be flexible. You CAN enforce the law (in MOST cases)without being a hardass. We are policing PEOPLE. We have to give respect if we expect to get it.
    This DOES make our job harder, which goes back to your other two points, particularly the first. Law enforcement is much more difficult and demanding than it was a decade or so ago, and the pay is nowhere near commensurate with the skills and work required. Coupled with the increased stress, it’s no wonder there is high turnover. And personal contact with management is also something that we need to see more. Unfortunately, the “paramilitary structure” was often used as a way to avoid this even before E-Mail.

    Reply
  • Bart Proctor May 10, 2017 at 9:55 am

    We will have to agree to disagree. Now I’m all for getting to know the people in your district and developing a rapport and trust with them. Unfortunately, we spend a vast majority of our time answering calls that we have no business responding to. And maybe you extrapolated “in your face policing” with being a “hard ass”.

    For that I will defer to the original bad ass, Dalton Fury, who instructed in that blockbuster movie Roadhouse “always be nice. And then be nice again. But know when it’s time to not be nice”…

    Have a great day Mike and be safe!

    Reply
  • Tony Moreno May 10, 2017 at 11:35 am

    In general, I agree with much of what you’re saying but don’t see eye-to-eye with you on the community policing aspect.

    Law enforcement is a very demanding field and much of the problems have to do with “leadership”, or lack of. In the movement to “professionalize” law enforcement, the focus has been on formal education, credentials, titles, resumes and “leadership training” to achieve rank and none of those components determine a person’s leadership skills. So in general, good students who know and adhere to the system get promoted, not the actual leaders. When a crisis arises, the lack of leadership becomes apparent.

    Law enforcement management knows this as well as the people working hard on the front lines. That’s one of the reasons we have such a problem with the morale of those grinding it out on our streets. Those working on the front lines aren’t given enough respect by management.

    As far as community policing goes, it’s back to the leadership of the person or persons in charge of that agency, district or precinct to determine how effective the community policing strategies work. The strategy should include the welfare of the front line officers and not just the community alone. One method might work here but won’t work somewhere else. Sounds good, but the “in your face policing” doesn’t always work although at times it is appropriate. To me it is a tool or strategy especially in dealing with gangs and criminals, but I’m not sure i’d call it my community policing philosophy.

    The leadership issue in law enforcement accounts for many of the problems nowadays …..

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 10, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Tony, that was a very thoughtful and well executed response to my article. Bravo! It really needs no further validation from me. And you are a thousand percent correct on community policing. It’s like one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, “Beauty is in the Eye of the beholder”, meaning what community policing methodology means to one agency may look and mean something entirely different to another. Great comment!

      Reply
  • CHRISTOPHER GUELCHER May 10, 2017 at 11:40 am

    In my 23 yrs of policing, I’ve seen two drastic changes that have negatively effected our jobs: 1. Today, an officer can do their job as their trained to do it, but still end up in deep shit and under investigation. Furthermore, that investigation is now being forwarded to either the City or County Attorney’s office for consideration of charging the officer with a crime. Just a few years ago, that was practically unheard of.

    2. An officer’s private off-duty life is no longer private. Today, more and more agencies are attempting to influence control over their officer’s off- duty time. Especially with the growth of social media. My old partner who retired two years ago told me that it was only when he got out of police work, that his Constitutional Rights finally felt fully restored to him.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 10, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      I couldn’t agree with you more Christopher. Social media has definitely changed every aspect of our lives. I had to think long and hard about doing this blog while still employed with my current agency. Luckily for me my agency embraces technology and social media. I had to get a special clearance from my chief and city attorney to move forward. I never mention the city or my departments name in any of my writings and never use anyone’s name from my agency. Before I hit the send button on each article I have to be mindful just as anyone commenting here. You never know who could be watching.

      Reply
  • Midnight Mike May 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I’ve got to agree with you, Chris, on both counts, especially the second one. Even if the topic has nothing to do with law enforcement, you have to watch what you say and do.

    Reply

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