Life as a cop

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With so many protests against police recently, let’s balance the record a bit, shall we?

Nobody denies that the officers in the [CORRECTED NAME] George Floyd case behaved unconscionably. Just like us, police officers hurt for victims like [CORRECTED NAME] George Floyd and are embarrassed when fellow officers betray their oaths.

I’ve worked with law enforcement at every level and there are far more good police officers than bad ones. It is a tragedy that incidents like this cause some not to trust those who serve in law enforcement. And when politicians claim that police are the enemy it makes their work even harder and more dangerous. Ironically, if these critics called 911 for help, the police would respond.

Another bit of irony is that those who are proclaiming that police officers are biased are, in fact, displaying bias. They are assuming that all who wear blue are the same as those bad apples in [CORRECTED CITY] Minneapolis. Such stereotyping is no different than racism.

An officer’s shift begins by donning over 20 pounds of gear. Imagine carrying two bowling balls around at work all day — every day. All of this weight often leads to health troubles over a career.

Some veteran officers make less money than a first-year school teacher. Still, these officers love their work, often choosing to serve in the communities where they grew up.

They must memorize dozens of codes and learn hundreds of laws that govern their career and protect the Constitutional rights of citizens. Officers must also learn standard operating procedures for their individual agencies. An arrest that isn’t done by the book or poorly documented incidents may result in a criminal walking away free.

When most families are celebrating Christmas, the 4th of July, or Thanksgiving, officers are often working. Holidays are busy times for law enforcement. Criminals and traffic problems don’t take holidays off.

For routine traffic stops, some agencies require that the driver be on his or her way within 15 minutes. In that short time, officers have to ensure the car isn’t stolen, no warrants are out on the driver, look out their own safety, listen to protests and insults, and at the same time keep their cool and remain professional.

By the way, you may not like getting a traffic ticket, but I’ve driven in many countries where there is chaos on the roadways. I don’t want that here.

Traffic stops are among the most dangerous things law enforcement personnel do. Officers are sometimes struck by distracted motorists while managing a traffic stop. And officers can’t assume the driver they’ve stopped is just a person on the way to work or the grocery. In many cases, routine stops turn up armed individuals with outstanding warrants, intoxicated drivers, or thieves leaving the scene of a robbery.

It was officers on a routine patrol who caught Timothy McVey (the Oklahoma City bomber) and Eric Rudolph (the Olympic Park bomber).

Police work long hours and paperwork has to be completed before they go home. On a busy shift, an officer may have to spend an extra hour or two — without pay — completing paperwork, making a 12-hour shift more like 14. Days off may be spent testifying in court — sometimes without pay — rather than playing with one’s children, fishing, or resting.

Rarely does any commentator have any understanding of police procedures and the media can easily make officers look bad with videos presented without any context.

During a traffic stop, for example, if an officer has probable cause for suspecting something nefarious and there are multiple occupants in the vehicle, the officer may briefly handcuff all of them. If things turn ugly, officers can’t fight three or four men alone and backup may be 15 or 20 minutes away.

If an officer is forced to fight a suspect or fire a weapon, a short video of the event is often all that makes the news. What led up to the event usually isn’t shown and the many skills police employ every day to reduce tensions and avoid confrontation never makes the news.

Like airline pilots, police officers must never make a mistake — not even once. If they discharge their weapons, not only could their careers be over, but they may go to jail. Yet they have to make decisions sometimes in milliseconds and if they hesitate, they may die.

Officers repeatedly go to the same houses on domestic violence calls, arrest the same thieves and drug dealers, and stop the same drunks. They do it because they love their career and support from the public that they serve would be nice. Police officers are not the enemy.

[Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., is a college professor, published author, licensed counselor, certified professional counselor supervisor, newspaper columnist and public speaker. His website is gregmoffatt.com.]

6 COMMENTS

  1. It is not stereotyping to say all cops are bad because one bad apple ruins the bunch and the cops that shot Breonna Taylor haven’t been arrested yet and 3 of them are still on the police payroll. If all cops weren’t bad we would have seen them calling for an independent investigation into their actions to determine what happened and reform the system to prevent it from happening again, like what OSHA and the USCSB do after industrial accidents. Therefore I’m left to conclude that all cops are indeed bad and care more about protecting their own than the public good. Which is why we can’t reform the police we must slash their budget, and give traffic ticketing to the DOT and hire mental health and addiction experts to get people the help they need instead of throwing them in private prisons. Leaving only a shadow of the police to respond to the 4% of calls that are a violent crime, this also eases the burden on police officers as they no longer have to memorize as many laws and ordinances. Very rarely do police lose their jobs or get arrested for shooting someone. Shouldn’t we be asking why do police keep going back the same houses for domestic abuse and arrest the same drunks? Obviously arresting them again isn’t going to do anything, what can we do differently to fix the underlying cause instead of treating the symptoms.

    • Oh Henry (pun intended) – Your pretzel “logic” is as illogical as a Trey Hoffman missive. The fallacies are many, but I’ll address only one.

      Following your logic, if police departments are responsible for policing themselves, a reasonable expectation would be that anti-police protesters would do the same. Any group is more likely to be capable of identifying problems within its membership more readily than outsiders may do so. When protesters themselves ferret out unruly fellow protesters, looters, and anarchists so that no laws are broken, no property is stolen or damaged, and no one is injured, then perhaps a rational person might consider your argument.

      As a Jewish carpenter once advised, remove the plank from your own eye before attempting splinter extraction from another’s.

      • Police departments should not police themselves I never said they should, because it’s hard to fairly judge the actions of your friends/coworkers. That’s why there should be an independent investigation that everyone can trust to be unbiased, not internal reviews. The police are already policing the protesters and many people called out the unruly protesters. Take the case in Buffalo where two cops were suspended for pushing over a 75 year old man and the entire emergency response team stepped down from their positions in solidarity. (they were still cops, just no longer on in the ERT) What I meant was instead of fighting against police accountability measures they should welcome it, because if they’re good cops they have nothing to fear.

        “There’s a lot of people who are in law enforcement who are like, “You know what? I actually did join the force because I thought I could help people, and I don’t really see that happening, and I want to reform.” I met so many who were there, officers who said, “I will not tolerate an officer being inhumane, but if I do complain, is that person going to be right back there on the force? And if they are, does it even make any difference if I do complain? I’ve got to get along with this guy. But if I knew this person was going to be fired if I complained, then I would complain.”” -Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

        We need to take a good long look at the police as a system and hold them accountable for their actions. We have all kinds of checks and balances in our government, why don’t we have any on the cops?

        • Henry – You conveniently ignore my most salient point in your response. It’s not that you have no reasonable grievances; but rather, by ignoring that the protesters have a similar problem of controlling a small minority that act lawlessly, you lose your high ground.

          Every time a window is smashed by a looter, 100 more people vote for Trump. The protesters should keep their eyes on the prize. Ridding our country of this boil on the butt of humanity that sits in the Oval office will get us much closer to any permanent remedy to the systemic problems you highlight. It is amazing that with so much at stake, the simpleminded protesters can’t recognize how detrimental their behaviors are to accomplishing their goals. They have made their points. Now go home, go to the polls, and deal with a new administration that will at least listen to you. Quit giving Trump every weapon to defeat you.

    • With all due respect sir, this is how a groupist talks. Say what you will, but you are guilty of profiling people that happen to work in the law enforcement community, individuals that uiu have never met and never will. And yet you somehow know their minds and hearts, even their motives as if you were omniscient God.

      Have you EVER told a lie? EVER taken something that doesn’t belong to you? Have you EVER slandered someone? Have you EVER cheated someone out of something, or to get get something you wanted, or on a test? Have you EVER hated someone, anyone? Even the President? Ever used God or Jesus’ name as a cuss word? Than you are a lying, thieving, slanderous, murderous and blasphemous person at heart. You are a sinner, just like the rest of us. And you dare judge, label and lump all cops together? Look at your own sin, your own hate. Repent.

      So it’s quite apparent that you hate police officers. That makes you a hater. Do you have a problem with authority? Do you want to be free of authority? Do you believe that socialism, perhaps Marxism is a better way?

      Be careful of what you ask for. Marxism and socialism leads to a Police State! And you think that is better?

      • Socialism is the opposite of a police state, the whole idea is the government is directly accountable to the people. Have you heard of the socialist rifle association? It’s purpose is similar to that of the NRA, from the SRA about page “We are an organization dedicated to educating on and advocating for all aspects of self and community defense.” Marxism is also good, as is anarchism which is actually the opposite of a police state. Yes I do have a problem with authority, what makes a police officer judge, jury, and executioner? Have you forgot innocent until proven guilty and jury of your peers? What about all men are created equal because all men are not treated equally in the criminal justice system.