Not so long ago, police officers were being hired right out of high school, to the tune of salaries in the $13,000.00 a year range. Men and women, many who spent three times that amount on education alone, mocked them for their career choice: “You mean to tell me you’re gonna work around the clock…weekends….holidays????”.
Years later, after unions fought war after war after war, the private sector watched in awe as police salaries, pensions and benefits soared, while their own job security and luster wore off like cheap paint. The problem is, that the rise in job benefits did not translate to a rise in job satisfaction and, most definitely, came at a price.
Generations ago, long before police salaries were topping $100,000.00 a year, being a police officer was about the fraternity. It was ALL about the fraternity. It had to be; there was nothing else to really celebrate. NJ.com could have done a ‘use of force’ report on the fist fights that occured INSIDE of the locker rooms, and they probably would have been more accurate. Riding the subways in NYC in the 70’s/80’s had to feel like being a soldier in a third world country.
NWA was singing “Fuck the Police” and cops were being fought, hunted and assasinated. For a period of eight days from 12/31/72 to 1/7/73, five law enforcement officers in New Orleans alone were shot and killed by a sniper who was a member of the radical group, Black Panthers. The killings went on until the suspect was ultimately shot and killed by police, who used a Marine helicopter to fly over the hotel he was holed up in and fired at him.
Throughout this period, however, sans a few that will always exist, there was never any doubt about where a police officer stood when it came to another police officer. Contrary to what the anti-police rabble-rousers would have you believe, this is not referring to cops “covering up” for dirty cops. This is recognizing that a police officer is essentially a soldier who is never NOT at war; and that the safest place for a police officer to be SHOULD be with another police officer. As the saying goes, no one takes care of police officers and their families like police officers and their families. Hell, that’s the entire premise behind Brothers Before Others.
While being vilified by those they locked up, police officers were supported by the ones they served and the governmental leaders who employed them. They were the guardians of the community and recognized as such.
Fast forward to present day: and every trade off that our unions made and every politician that gave without asking when it came to forwarding our profession is now collecting their return in spades. The American police officer is being abandoned by everyone around them. They are used by politicians as smoke screens for failed policies and mismanaged money. They are blamed by community leaders for breakdowns in society and family structure. There really isn’t a societal failure that can’t somehow be pinned on a law enforcement flaw nowadays.
To compound that problem, you have the ranks of virtually every department filled with members who are coming on to this job with little interest in law enforcement and even less interest in being a “cop”. The vast majority of today’s law enforcement youth simply made a career decision that they felt best benefited themselves and their families, with little regard to what this job truly entails. You have members of departments who are very ok with the next guy being jammed up, as long as it doesn’t effect them or their own promotional advancement. The fraternity is all but gone and sadly it’s hard to get any cop today to stand up for himself nowadays, let alone the guy standing next to him.
The division that exists is facilitated by our own hands. It’s high time for us to own it. As police officers, we need to return to a time when we were cops and we need to get the hell out of politics. Politicians don’t value us anymore; they don’t value the work we do or the sacrifices we make. We are simply a means to an end to them; scapegoats for their shortcomings. Stand next to the men and women who took your oath. Stand next to the men and women who wear a shield and a patch. Leave the cut-throat politics to the disloyal politicians, or make way for the ones that are ready to do so.