“A policeman’s first obligation is to be responsible to the needs of the community he serves … the problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. We create an atmosphere in which the honest officer fears the dishonest officer, and not the other way around.”
Frank Serpico, former NYPD undercover detective, in a statement, to a police commission formed to investigate corruption in the NYPD in 1971. Nearly 50 years ago and it still seems very much true and not just in New York.
Let me be clear, the following is my perspective and mine alone. I did not consult with any of my former colleagues to write this piece.
In the mid-2000’s, I was accepted into the state police academy. It consisted of para-military style training that from Day 1, emphasized US versus
You Them. Any interaction, seemingly no matter the context, was treated as potentially dangerous with a possibility of death. A nearly 600-hour cult-indoctrination course to teach you that you cannot trust anyone except other officers and that citizens were victims or threats…or both. It is not anywhere near enough training time before you’re thrust out into the street. A minimum two-year course might be a vast improvement, but the department wanted boots on the ground because numbers are what seemed to matter most.
The requirements for being accepted into the academy included a one thousand question psych exam spread across 5 tests (including the Wonderlic Test), that was used to measure job-related behaviors and personality traits. You also had an appointment with a psychologist after they analyzed your responses. I was, and am still, at a loss as to how some of the people I worked with got hired when they did not seem up to the job emotionally and/or mentally.
A study was conducted in the 90’s which estimated that approximately 40% of police officers participated in domestic violence in the previous year. That is a rate 15 times more pervasive than the general population. That percentage is considered a low estimate in present times. If this is the behavior officers exhibit with their own families, what would you expect their conduct with a stranger in a law enforcement encounter to be?
I personally knew officers that committed such acts with no repercussions. A few also got popped for DUI’s. Some of them were allowed to leave on their own and some were driven home by other officers with no citations issued. Bringing up these instances, even in an unofficial capacity, would get you labeled as not a “team player”. In a few cases, it would get you “managed” out of the department. Frank Serpico got shot in the face for his efforts.
The first 5 years or so on the job, no one listens to you. You’re just the FNG, until the veterans think you can be of help to them. You get to take the calls for service that they don’t want. You usually get to work at night when you first start because the older officers wanted family time and to work regular daylight hours. Working nights was a grind for me in those first few years because I was a new father on top of it all. Ultimately, and fortunately, my children were the catalysts to my figuring out I was in the wrong place.
Law enforcement personnel are first, and foremost, human. Just like the civilian populations they lord over. As a police officer, getting upset or angry during an interaction made it about you and not the law or protecting the community. I strongly believed this before the job much like I do now. An oath is sworn to uphold the law and for too many, it is just words to say with your hand on a bible and not necessarily something of which to adhere. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know or think.
Social media has not changed much in the way that LEO’s conduct themselves. Long before George Floyd’s murder, we had Rodney King’s beating. The mainstream population’s response and attitude towards LE has changed and yet the very public murders continue.
Mango Unchained has a pro-law enforcement attitude and I feel that it’s due to the mostly negative affect it has had on black and brown communities. Much like his response to Covid-19, he doesn’t seem to care about the problem since it has primarily harmed the groups in which he does not belong (humanity included). This is why, I believe, we still see police officers seemingly not giving a shit about being recorded committing unnecessarily violent acts. They have the full-throated backing of the Idiot-In-Chief and the wide-reaching power of their unions. This shit needs to be changed and it cannot be soon enough.
I left the department because I had found the answer to the question: Was I a Black police officer or a police officer who was Black?
I will share the answer soon. In the meantime, be safe out there and wear your mask. Thank you for reading.
McSquirrel yada, yada, yada.