I joined the police department not too long before the Bush 43 Financial Meltdown™. At the time, the Chief was a fairly amiable man that some considered a moderate liberal. That’s cop-speak for being pro(police)-union, a people person, and he promoted officers from within the department. At the time morale was good and the pay was competitive for our department.
When the economy crashed he decided to retire. They brought in a retired former Deputy-Chief that was despised in his time. His racism and corruption was Bull Conner-lite. He proceeded to bring in his own crew of retired former Captains/Officers to fill out his executive staff. What that means is that each of them were double-dipping (receiving retirement money and an active duty paycheck). Nice work, if you can get it.
The Chief also promoted the biggest ass kissers and idiots you could imagine. Officers who had spotty records, but could pass a written test and knew the interviewers, were getting positions beyond their professional means. Merit didn’t matter as much. People that didn’t know how to lead were put in charge of squads and divisions. Why yes, morale in the ranks did plummet.
The Great Exodus began.
We lost 200 officers in the first eighteen months. Nearly 20 percent of the force made lateral moves elsewhere or just outright quit police work. The economic downturn caused the department to furlough or layoff employees as well. Officer hiring stopped for a couple of years too.
Q: What do you get when you have a limited budget and you need boots on the ground?
A: A lax hiring process that takes anyone that has a clean-ish record and a pulse.
The Chief’s grift went on for most of my time with the department. In that time, several officers with questionable mental acuity came and went. They would get hired with us and then take their newly acquired credentials to another agency. Lateral transfers are easy compared to being hired off the street. Our department was the easiest stepping stone.
For the ones that did stay, and due to what I would call criminally negligent supervision, the public complaints concerning brutal tactics went up. It became a sort of free-for-all for every stereotypical cop you’ve encountered or heard about. Command staff would find a way around it or ignore them completely. This was an open secret and if there is one thing police officers do, it’s that they gossip amongst each other constantly.
Some of you may be thinking:
You could report issues to your supervisor. You could go above them to a Captain. You could make an anonymous tip to Internal Affairs. You could tell someone in the media (but you’d end up needing corroboration for it to go somewhere). Or you could just quit. I tried three of those things and only the last one was successful.
This state of affairs didn’t last forever. The Chief was forced into re-retirement and each of his command staff got the boot too. The man hired to replace him came from another city nearby and had a reputation for being a no-nonsense old-school cop. His hire raised morale because anything was better than that last guy. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
I’ll cover that era, my last one, in the future.
McSquirrel yada, yada, yada.