Flint, Michigan: Blue collar, hard scrabble, industrial and diverse. Everyone has heard of it for one reason or another. Whether it is automobiles, poison water, or high crime. This is my home, and it was my employer for many years as a police officer.
If you have been involved in law enforcement for any length of time, you know that the public view of the police can change quickly, from hero to zero.
THE PENDULUM SWINGS
The recent horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has swung the pendulum. The tides have turned, and the police are again the villains. This time, though, it seems a little different. There is now talk of defunding the police, or disbanding departments, all together. I have some serious issues with numerous portions of this diatribe.
Is there racism? Of course! We’ve all seen it in one form or another. Hell, there was plenty of racial tension within the FPD, but we didn’t need to amplify it outside of the department.
Flint is unique. I am willing to go as far as saying that there is no other city in the United States like Flint. Not Chicago, not Detroit, not Los Angeles, not New York … nowhere! It is a small town with a bigger city feel, a literal melting pot and the people of Flint are amazingly resilient and tolerant.
I think that resilience and tolerance translates to the police, as well. I spent 23 years as a police officer in Flint, 14 of them as a supervisor and several years undercover. I was also the sergeant’s union president for 12 years.
For most of that time my partner was black. But guess what: I didn’t care, and I didn’t think about him as a “black guy.” I thought of him as a brother, and I still do. In modern policing, I like to believe that the majority of officers are simply trying to protect the citizens of their community, and themselves.
Generally, cops are trying to make a difference, and not going out of their way to oppress any specific race or culture. At least this was my experience in Flint. We never needed to get creative with the law or the type of arrests that we made. I was never ordered to arrest someone to generate revenue for the city, or stop someone from interfering with a kick-back – at least that I know of.
I don’t know of any officer who carried “drop weapons”, and I was never aware of anyone planting drugs. Believe it or not though, I saw plenty of cops fired for wrongdoing!
IF FOLKS ONLY KNEW …
People (civilians) point to police training and complain that racism is taught to the police, and we are trained to believe everyone could be out to get us.
I taught defensive tactics for ten years, and it is important for police survival to understand that every incident could quickly turn to shit. Frankly, good cops don’t agree with tacit protection of bad cops. To use a broad brush and say that ALL cops don’t follow the law is wrong and untrue.
So, here we are. We are seeing suggestions for reform, but I believe that a majority of these suggestions risk bringing an end to police work, in general. Nearly 100 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, so far.
No one will want to be a police officer if they have to face potential daily death for nominal pay, and then could be held personally liable because someone failed to yield to their emergency equipment during a chase and got hurt or killed.
Hell … I am glad to be retired, and I would not want to become a cop in today’s world! It’s way different than it used to be. Agencies around the country are already having trouble filling police vacancies, and it is only going to get worse.
Everybody is a Monday-morning quarterback with no training, and no experience.
ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY
Today’s problems were not created overnight, and there is no single cause. Part of the problem is that over the years, the police have been stripped of the tools they really need to adequately perform their job.
In the 1970’s Flint had 350 cops, and they had a foot patrol program that became a model for agencies all over the country. They had an active police athletic league, cops in the neighborhoods talking with the citizens, and yes, there was proactive police work being performed.
Over time the population of Flint has declined, but the crime rate increased. Flint is now forced to combat a staggering crime rate with only 100 cops, and there is nearly no community outreach. Due to sheer call volume Flint needs every boot on the ground, and all of the police work is now reactive.
Defunding the police started years ago by cutting revenue sharing to the various municipalities, and it’s clearly not working.
LET’S NOT KILL THE GOOSE …
What is the solution? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know that it is not eliminating the police. Our country is seriously divided and it isn’t just along racial lines.
Police are not jack-booted thugs and communities need to start taking responsibility for policing themselves. Everyone wants to talk about the Thin Blue Line and police “protecting dirty cops,” but no one wants to talk about the silence, and “snitches get stitches” epidemic in the communities. All the activists want to point a finger, but refuse to admit they share responsibility.
Sir Robert Peel, who established the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1829 and became known as the “Father of Modern Policing,” taught that, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” What he meant was the police cannot be a force separate and apart from the citizens they serve.
The police need the tools to properly do their jobs, and the communities need to be held accountable for their shortcomings, as well. We all need to work together, and develop real solutions and not some knee jerk, ‘disband the police’ emotional outburst.
For all the active duty brothers and sisters in law enforcement, keep your heads up. Know that there are still plenty of citizens who know that you are providing a valuable service and providing it as safely and efficiently as possible. Take advantage of the resources available to you, and never be afraid to speak up or ask for help.
No one can do it alone.
Most importantly, stay safe.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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