In choosing a career, options may be limited but they are not non-existent. Despite some careers offering lucrative compensation or prestige, there exist fields in which qualifications can neither be ignored nor expectations scaled back for the appointment of competent, civic-minded men and women to accept the hazards of public service. Law enforcement qualifies as such a position.
According to an article appearing in the monthly online edition of The Police Chief, William J. Woska, J.D., adjunct professor at Golden Gate University has revealed how the ranks of law enforcement have thinned dramatically and police departments nationwide are finding it increasingly difficult to re-place vacant positions to keep pace with retirements or otherwise early exoduses from the profession.
Predominant in his hypothesis for the lack of enthusiasm for law enforcement as a career: Negative publicity over high-profile incidents of racial profiling and excessive use of force.
Although brief, the article was both a blueprint to avert the coming disaster of decreasing applications into the field of law enforcement as much as a cri-de-coeur alerting the public of the devastating consequences of irresponsible critics of police, their tactics and police policy.
The taproot of the trouble rests in a series of police-related deaths of unarmed males. The high watermark was the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner; their deaths led to massive protests, rioting, looting and near lawlessness in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.
Aggravating the simmering air of crisis was the massive opprobrium hurled at police from presumed constituencies of conscience and both elected and appointed lawmakers. Negligence and bad judgment notwithstanding, while the string of unfortunate incidents resulted in fatalities, the response from critics, whether they are on the street organizing, penning editorial or opinion pieces, appearing on a cable-news program or involved in legislation, has heightened a climate of deep distrust between the public and police which impacts the next generation of those whose job is to preserve order on the streets. While their intent may be to stimulate consideration for relief of supposed police misconduct, their behavior has aroused suspicion from potential applicants for a career in law enforcement.
The critics’ first instinct is to take sides and assail the police: Through their words and actions they encourage lawlessness, cast scorn at police as foul, cruel and ill-tempered licensed bandits, stoke outrage, create an atmosphere of deceit rife with disinformation, fallacies and outright lies and express a noble quality to the exertion of protesters.
This antagonistic portrait is best typified most recently with the Black Lives Matter demonstrators howling: “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” Bent on toppling police authority and depicting law officers as renegades, protesters offer an endless string of YouTube videos, all of which capture on camera police consistently being described with vile slander or openly challenged in the public square with taunts. These videos frequently conclude with some form of celebration over legitimate police authority.
In the wake of these unfortunate incidents, what is most burdensome is the fact anti-police demonstrations persist in view of exhaustive inquiries where the official record either exonerated police or justified their actions in face of provocation. Further, careful examination also exposed the disgraceful actions of supposed witnesses to these incidents, many of whom delivered livelier re-creations of actual events and were eventually discredited. Of particular note, the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative of the Michael Brown incident was revealed to be utter fiction and was demolished by a Justice Department probe.
Above the fray on the street, we are treated with sympathetic portrayals of anti-police movements and curious interpretations of straightforward anti-police invective on cable or network television programs. By entertaining as guests those who clutch disreputable character, most reflexively anti-police, and allowing them to advance knowingly false narratives, further causes harm to the relationship between the police and the community.
In addition to social or political movements, popular culture’s role is equally deleterious: Hollywood films frequently present law enforcement as engaged in nefarious, conspiratorial deeds. Copland (1997) and Training Day (2001), for example, depict widespread police corruption as systemic and the venal or underhanded rarely suffer any lasting consequences. Hollywood typically propels awards and lavish praise at such depictions.
In no small irony, it is indeed Hollywood which is guilty for its obscene portrayal of minorities: The same Hollywood which rewards false representations of police in the modern era did not hesitate to portray blacks as deceitful and uniformly violent, constantly defying the law in 70’s-era television police dramas or on the big screen.
That so few find this trend troubling or difficult to recognize is mystifying. Statistics and research which reflect the restraint of law enforcement and police-related deaths are largely consistent with the past two decades is in abundance and would normally convince even the hardest of ideologues of the noble intent of law enforcement. In the interim, the profession suffers irreparable damage and dissuades those rare qualified individuals from considering law enforcement as a career.
24 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year alone. There is an impending disaster of failing to replace qualified candidates with the ranks of law enforcement on the horizon due in large part to the completely unjustified vortex of criticism leveled at police.
Masquerading as people of conscience, the contributors to this creation of distrust are often irresponsible critics of law enforcement. In their zeal to create a law-free zone and emasculate or eliminate police altogether through the tactic of legitimizing expressions of hate for men and women in uniform, they pollute the climate with venomous attacks and place at risk the justice and protection of citizens law enforcement provides.
By feeding the anti-police beast, these gadflys are removing the final check against disorder and discouraging the next generation of law enforcement from providing an essential element of our common welfare.
We are thus ever drawing closer to a public found wanting of civil order and precious justice.
[Police Chief Magazine] [Politifact] [Breitbart] [Photo courtesy il.ngb.army.mil]