BACK IN THE OLD DAYS …
In 1983, when I was hired as a new police officer, our department had a Personnel Division. That, eventually was replaced and became Human Resources.
As I recall, it was about the same time that so much began to change in my world.
The department stopped treating you as a person and began treating you as a resource. Resources are materials that are used, eventually used up and ultimately, replaced. Sadly, I believe that is how cops are treated in most departments today.
Back then, the academy still taught the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. The spirit of the law proposed a common-sense approach to law enforcement, versus strict adherence to the minutia of the law.
A perfect example back in the ’80s was finding a teenager with a joint in his shirt pocket. The spirit of the law allowed me to have the kid rip open the joint and spread it to the wind while I told him he wouldn’t get a pass the next time. The letter of the law required that I bring in the kid for processing and then inventory the joint.
TRUST AND VALUE THE COPS
Allowing an officer to work within the spirit of the law requires the administration trusting that the cops have the common sense to do the right thing. Some claimed that was risky and at times, might backfire on the department.
So, rather than working to train the officers to develop their common sense, they took the easy way out. The administration required the cops to follow the letter of the law in all cases.
If there were any deviations, the officer was immediately disciplined. Little thought was given to the repercussions this had on the people who were being arrested.
Departments became cowardly. They were afraid of any negative press and afraid to stand up for their cops.
After all, the cops were no longer persons.
They were resources to be used and tossed aside when no longer needed.
THE CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST
Eventually, new generations of police supervisors rose through the ranks and took the reins. The attitude of these bosses became the attitude of the street cops.
The outcome was predictable: If you have enough chicken-shit bosses, you will eventually have a chicken-shit department. Yes, there are individual officers with the courage and knowledge to do the right things. But now, they are prevented at every step of the way by more chicken-shit rules and procedures.
IMAGINE … A POLICE CHIEF WITH BALLS …
When is the last time you heard a police chief who spoke up and publicly disagreed with a mayor? You haven’t, because the disagreeable chief would get fired and replaced with a yes-man who will do whatever they are told to do.
The chief (or department superintendent) works at the whim of the mayor. Once they are no longer effective at blocking for the mayor, they get replaced.
They too, are nothing more than a resource. Eventually, truly qualified people stop applying for the job. All you have is a bunch of yes-men and women. Not an iota of common sense among them.
When a city government treats its employees as resources rather than as people with all of our human skills and failings, it isn’t long before the citizens take notice. They quickly lose respect for the police and City Hall.
Perhaps it is time for the city to once again, start treating the cops like people rather than resources to be used until they are depleted. Ignore the fact that such a change would require common sense. Sadly, I haven’t seen much of that in governments around here, lately.
Stay safe. Run low and zig zag, Lt. Robert Weisskopf (CPD ret.)
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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