OneOldCop is not surprised with the level of distrust and animosity being shown toward police officers today. As noted in “Of Chaos and Politics” this is nothing new. Over the last few decades, police officers have watched animosity toward and distrust of law enforcement ebb and flow. Consider the 1970s.
Starbucks was still a small storefront operation in the Northwest in the 1970s. Coffee cost less than a quarter a cup in most restaurants, and there were no smarmy baristas spread across the country ready to embarrass a police officer wanting to use a restroom. There were, however, people and businesses treating police officers as if the officers were a cross between storm troopers and lepers. Additionally, there were those who thought police officers were game to be hunted.1
Yes, in decades past police officers often felt hunted, hated and outgunned. In a number of incidents, police officers armed with handguns and shotguns faced criminals with semiautomatic weapons, automatic weapons, and explosives. In short, the challenges police officers face today are nothing new. What is new are the conditions under which officers must work.
As a young, relatively, police sergeant in 1976, this writer attended the first antiterrorism workshop held in Texas. Most in attendance felt it was a decent workshop, but as we found out over the years, the information provided had an expiration date. Over the next few decades, everyone in law enforcement learned how quickly terrorists could adapt their tactics, and how difficult it was to respond to those changes.
By definition, terrorists did not need to comply with anyone’s rights, worry about collateral damage or beg politicians for money. A terrorist’s job was to violate the rights of those they attacked. They did not care who was hurt in the process, and funding was not a huge problem. If they didn’t find financial backers, they often resorted to kidnapping, hijacking, and robbery. Still, law enforcement in the United States had a not so secret weapon of sorts that kept the problem under control, the patrol officer.
OneOldCop can still remember the terrorism expert during the 1976 workshop making that point. He believed that the ordinary street cop was a significant concern for terrorists wanting to commit acts in the States. He made the point there was no honor or glory in being stopped for a traffic violation before one could set off a bomb or launch an attack. He and most in attendance recognized the truth of his statement.
Patrol officers, the men and women, driving around our cities on a daily basis, were deterrents to all sorts of crime. Officers making routine traffic stops regularly interrupted crimes before they were committed. They also caught criminals fleeing a crime. Once apprehended, criminals often commented on crimes they had not committed because some patrol officer had followed them, been seen watching the store they were about to rob, or gave them a suspicious look that made them pick another place to rob. No one attending that workshop, including this writer, had a clue that street cops would be effectively defanged or muzzled in the not so distant future.
Within a decade of the workshop in Texas, the federal government began taking steps to make it much more difficult for patrol officers to do their jobs. Officially, these actions were not designed to make it more difficult for the police. They were officially undertaken to address what some saw as institutional or systemic racism or discrimination.
This writer is not claiming such problems did not exist. As someone who worked within law enforcement and government to address racism, discrimination and related problems, the realities were obvious. Some people misuse their authority, and those problems need to be addressed.
The problem is government bureaucracies tend to use sledgehammers to swat flies. Dealing with individual officers or agencies would take too much time to help politicians before the next budget cycle or election. Accordingly, they passed rules, made threats and developed error-ridden statistics to support their overreaching actions.
The result is a system of policies and rules under which police agencies or officers can be prosecuted, sued or terminated for doing their jobs. The only things the feds need are enough questionable statistics to make it appear minorities are being unfairly stopped, ticketed or arrested. Anyone doubting this is true simply needs to review what happened to the New York City Police Department in the last few years.
New York’s stop and frisk policy came under attack because of allegations that it was targeting black and Hispanic citizens. The policy was defended by pointing out most crimes were being committed in areas that are densely populated by black or Hispanic residents. However, the powers that be focused on the fact the majority of those arrested, detained or investigated were black or Hispanic, completely ignoring the fact the victims of the crimes were also black and Hispanic. Accordingly, NYPD officers have been effectively neutered in those areas.
The ACLU and left-leaning activists claim the changes have not made the city more dangerous. Yet, one only needs to watch the news to know that is not true. As with officers around the country, NYPD officers, now know that following up on their suspicions place their careers and their lives at risk. Accordingly, as others have noted, the cops are covering their butts the only way they can, making certain they don’t cross any politically incorrect lines.
The relationship between police officers and the public they are sworn to protect has always been subject to tension. Even in the so-called good old days before the Vietnam Era, people disliked cops at times. Yes, there may have been more respect for law enforcement in general, but there were still tension and problems.
Many of those problems were caused by the perceived lack of professionalism within law enforcement. The response to this charge, again at the prodding of the federal government, led to the development of the “professional model” of law enforcement. Government agencies at all levels spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last sixty years to make the term professional police officer more than a label.
Police officers today have more education and come closer to meeting the definition of professionals than at any time in the history of law enforcement. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be enough to placate the cop haters and activists who make a living at the expense of the men and women who gear up and patrol our streets 24-7.
So, what is the purpose of this piece? Beyond letting this writer get some of this off his chest, the piece has a point. There are those who believe the way the police are being attacked by the media, the government and many people who should know better is some sort of a conspiracy. This writer does not think that is the case.
The truth is societies rise and fall on the basic moral fabric of the society. This has been true throughout history, and it is true today. Our society is on a downward slide, a slide that seems to be picking up speed.
The fact the problems here and in the world are part of what appears to be a historical cycle does not mean people will not try to capitalize on the chaos. The attack on the local police may not stop as it has in the past. There are those who think medical care is not the only thing that should be nationalized. Washington already has far too much say in the way local police departments do their jobs, and it appears they want more control
It is safe to say a national police force is a possibility within the relatively near future. This will not occur because of some vast conspiracy by agents in black trench coats, flying black helicopters. It will happen, because society is collapsing, and most of us are too focused on our own wants and problems to notice. If this trend continues, cities and states may find themselves overwhelmed by the challenges and excessive regulation. Eventually, the federal government will step in with an even greater presence. The end of the United States as we know it today may not be far behind.
Some may feel the last sentence above is an unnecessary alarmist statement. It may be, but during the current administration, it has become clear the executive branch of government is becoming frustrated with the rather deliberate process of the legislative branch. Couple that with the willingness of the judicial branch to legislate from the bench, and the country might be facing a dangerous concentration of power in the next few decades.
In the meantime, we all pay the price. Our streets are less safe. Our neighborhoods are less safe. Our lives are less safe. All because those sworn to protect us, have been handcuffed by those who think the country needs to be fundamentally changed.
- The average number of police officers killed by firearms annually during the 70s was 127. In 1973, 156 officers were killed by firearms. (http://www.nleomf.org/facts/research-bulletins/)
© S. E. Jackson – 2016