I realized this week that I have had my fill of mindless garbage and I find that my capacity for polite conversation with morons who propagate it has dwindled substantially. How is that for an opening line?
Fed up? Yep.
I’m tired of the meaningless melodrama from the news media and partisan politicians pushing the panic buttons over political shenanigans that have been going on for centuries and amount to nothing more than the routine antics that maintain the status quo.
One government trying to influence the political landscape of another? And…what? Like it or not, nations have been doing that forever…ours included. It’s just not news, people! But, it’s Trump in the White House, so they throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. I have wondered if “the Donald” was capable of bringing people together—even if the only purpose was to oppose him. Seems that’s quite likely.
I’m tired of the daily reports of random shootings with multiple victims, violent robberies, police pursuits, street races producing nothing but mangled metal and flesh, car-jackings with terrified kids in the back seat, domestic violence that ends in apocalyptic exchanges with law enforcement and the ever-present innocent bystander that gets taken out in the process.
I’m tired of protesters marching over issues they don’t understand, angry faces spitting profanities without purpose, kids boldly questioning authority without ever wanting an answer, college students who can barely complete a sentence much less express an original thought, activists embracing whatever “issue du jour” bubbles to the top, and politicians of every ilk pandering to the mobs.
Of course, the anti-cop hysteria lingers across the board. The warnings from legitimate voices in law enforcement were ignored and the predictable negative consequences have come to fruition. “De-policing,” political backstabbing, slacking objective professionalism, declining personal dedication by officers to the public well-being and gross rationalization of the outcome have already transpired to a great degree. Many police chiefs and sheriffs deny the problems exist, because 1) acknowledging problems breeds expectations that they will come up with solutions, 2) they really don’t know what to do, 3) they don’t want you to know the extent of their incompetence, and 4) tainting the reputation of the their agency vicariously diminishes their political careers. It seems they would rather surrender to the criticisms, valid or not, and adopt a posture of impotence that embraces inept practices and rewards passivity by line personnel. It meets the approval of the politicians they pander to and it all dovetails nicely into initiatives that decriminalize thuggery. You don’t have to address a growing crime rate if you redefine and rationalize criminal behavior. A crime is no longer considered a crime. A felon is no longer a felon by the stroke of a pen. Rising crime rates? What crime rates? What crime?
Mark my words and hold onto your hats, because we’re entering a new advanced stage of deterioration of American policing. Not only are officers and deputies routinely losing their lives unnecessarily, but their sacrifices are soon blurred by a fickle culture with gross short-term memory loss. What was the name of the last officer you heard of that was killed in the line of duty? Do you even remember their agency, gender, or circumstances of their demise? Cops being murdered are not necessarily headlines anymore. They’re often sandwiched between traffic, weather, and movie reviews. Your civic “leaders” who generate horridly bad public policies doomed to failure wave their fingers at you like old Ben Kenobi, and dismissively proclaim, “These are not the things that should concern you…”
There’s liability for contributing to these problems from both sides of the political spectrum. In an effort to punish public safety personnel for standing up against some draconian management practices over the last couple of decades, and to provide cover for budgetary troubles stemming from the excesses of financial institutions and mismanagement by local governments, some politicians became accustomed to demonizing public employees in order to attack the costs of legitimate compensation agreements properly negotiated by both sides. No doubt, there have been isolated cases of unsavory practices that justifiably outrage the taxpayer…public employees included.
But mostly, the public gets a substantial “bang for their buck” and reasonable compensation has been honestly earned through significant dedication and sacrifice. Much of that hollow rhetoric has died down lately, if you haven’t noticed. The justification for such nonsense grew slim for rational voters, especially when employee associations willingly returned to the negotiation table and made concessions to help resolve the issues. Besides, a few political machines saw the advantages of promoting pro “law-and-order” candidates in the current climate, gaining hard won seats in the hallowed halls of government. Certainly, there are those who sincerely appreciate those who serve public safety. But…let’s face it…hardcore politics is unsentimental.
Budgetary cuts, cop bashing, shortsighted policies, bombastic subversive movements, and the public’s apparent tolerance for much of it has had a devastating impact on morale among veteran cops and have served as substantial impediments to attracting and retaining qualified personnel. Those who could retire have done so in droves.
While those with education and versatile aptitudes have sought other avenues of employment where the chances of being prosecuted or murdered are less likely. Police and sheriff departments are screaming for candidates who can meet the stringent hiring criteria and often have had to lower standards in order to fill vacancies.
I have stressed that public safety, particularly police work, is a “people-dependent” endeavor…performed by people for people. The quality of life in our communities and the life-saving services we depend on are inextricably reliant on the quality of the people in the patrol cars and manning the paramedic vans. You can’t make up for inferior personnel with new gadgets, creative policies, stricter procedures, or burdensome supervision. Lower employment standards mean deficits in quality personnel and substandard performance on the street…when it matters.
The immediate consequences are severe, but the debilitating long-range aftereffects boggle the mind…even for those capable of clearheaded, multifaceted, forward thinking—which is demonstrably not in every civic leader’s skill set. Unfortunately, much of it is irreversible now and will have to play out. Ultimately, I fear for the honest cop with a brain who clings to integrity and ethically sound principles. There will be so much emphasis on self-centered promotion and individual career survival that compromises will be made in the wrong places. Misconduct and corruption will become much more prevalent, especially when multi-tiered compensation systems for newer officers fail to satisfy personal expectations and perceived private needs. The so-called “code of silence” will find legitimacy among those who grapple to keep their jobs under ridiculous rules of engagement and refuse to abandon the source of paychecks that keep them afloat at home.
Domestic struggles will increase for those in a profession already hostile to healthy intimate relationships and plagued by divorce. Suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, stress related disorders, emotional instability, and a whole host of physiological maladies will likely skyrocket…the cost of which will be incalculable in work-related injuries and disabilities, not to mention lives broken or lost. What happens when the cop responding to your emergency is off his or her meds that day? At the turn of the Twentieth Century, when corporate and governmental apathy was particularly commonplace, people with these problems were kicked to the curb and left to fend…or not…for themselves. Not in today’s world of ADA, worker’s compensation and employer liability. You think budget deficits are problematic now?
What does it mean politically to the average police officer or deputy sheriff? I guarantee you there are those who will disagree with me, but relief could come from any quarter. Officers and deputies have already experienced abandonment from both political parties. Currently, the Republicans seem to be making an assertive move towards wooing public safety backing, but I wouldn’t count out the Democrats quite yet…not with their history of labor support. As sailors are fond of saying, “Any port in the storm…”
The more serious question is what will it mean to law enforcement personnel on a personal basis…spiritually, philosophically, and morally? Will any of those considerations endure the challenges and be considered particularly relevant in the future? In a dog-eat-dog world, hard times have often brought on unimaginable responses by those affected for the sake of survival. Even the most virtuous have been forced to compromise in order to prepare for the worst. Jesus found it necessary to make an extraordinary declaration in order to brace his followers for the difficult times that he knew would come with his arrest and subsequent crucifixion:
“And he said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And he said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to me has its fulfillment.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’” (Luke 22:35-38)
At what point do we say it is enough?