I’ve written this draft at least four other times because I wanted it to be seen as well written, professional, and easily understood, but at least four times I have deleted the entire article. I deleted it because what I’m writing about doesn’t come across the same when it’s written with heavy articulated words, it’s only understood through the emotion that’s felt behind the article. The emotion that is fueling me to write this is anger, I’m angry.
I’m angry at what leadership has become in this profession in at least the last five years. Somehow the leaders in this career field have allowed themselves to transform from someone who stood next to the rank and file and helped carry the load to someone who adds to the heavy burden that weighs on the rank and file every duty day. Before you even get the idea, no, this isn’t the same kind of complaint we always hear from officers, but rather a direct complaint concerning your lack of leadership abilities.
There was a time in the profession when you knew that even if you made a mistake, your leadership would stand next to you while you took your punishment. Nowadays, it seems as though you as leaders would rather ensure that you and the agency are seen as faultless while you simply hang your officers out to be judged, ridiculed, and condemned, not just in the court of public opinion but within the agency as well. There was a time when you as a leader stood for something more than just yourselves, but I can tell you, from the rank and files view, we haven’t seen that leadership in a very long time. You’ve all become so disconnected from us, that you truly have no idea what it takes to do this job anymore.
Sure you understand what it means to be in an administrative position, what it’s like to have to shuffle endless piles of paperwork, how to field the next citizen complaint or assemble the next budget proposal. But, you have no idea what it takes to operate as a beat officer in today’s law enforcement profession. You no longer have the understanding of what it’s like to work your 10-12 hour shift, work during the holidays or special occasions, missing your children’s ballgame, concert, audition, etc. Your minds can’t grasp what it’s like working each call and trying to ensure that the case fits into the nice neat box that you and society have come to expect. You’ve lost connection with your beat officers because you’ve forgotten what it felt like to feel as though you were not a valued member of the team and that your opinion had no value to the organization.
You’d rather sit in your office and dictate what needs to happen on the street than see how your new ideas and policy actually affect the officers during his or her duties. You’re more interested in the shiny new things that the agency has acquired than building the moral, camaraderie, and esprit de corps that your officers are so desperately needing. It’s easier for you to assume that with every complaint filed from an angry citizen, that your officer was automatically wrong than to give the officer the benefit of the doubt until you have the opportunity to view the facts of the matter yourself. You sit in your tight-knit groups and chatter amongst yourselves about the flaws and failings of the beat officer, completely void of the fact that the beat officer is truly the backbone of every agency, yet treated like the lowest bidder.
With all of this, I will give you some credit; it’s not completely your fault. It’s not your fault that your position prevents you from staying in touch with your officers, that it causes you to forget how dynamic the job truly is with the changing winds of law, policy, and social climate. It’s not your fault that you have forgotten how the requirements to be a law enforcement professional in the 21st century affects the officer’s home life. These things are not your fault until you are aware that this disconnect exists, you can’t begin to make the changes needed to bridge this gap. But you no longer have that excuse, from here on out; it’s your fault. You can’t say you didn’t know because I’m telling you now.
We, the heartbeat of your agency see you. We see what you do or don’t do. We see you make the exception for some but not for others. We see you enforce the agency’s policies on some but not others. We hear what you say about us. We notice the lack of training in the areas where you say we mess up the most. We know that you expect more of us without giving us the proper training and equipment to perform the task. We feel the difference when you require more from us without giving us the incentive to want to give more. We feel the pressure you place on us when you tie our hands and expect us not to crack. We see when you and your counterparts target our brothers and sisters. Most importantly, we know now more than ever that the only people in this job we can count on are the ones we trust to have our backs as we charge into the darkness to fight the evil that humans are capable of bringing.
It’s a sad day as a cop when we see our brothers and sisters die nearly every day and still refuse to fear death, but rather the administrations we work for. More than ever, we all are now asking ourselves, “Is the cost of doing this job worth the price that we must pay?” As it stands today, for this cop, the answer to that question is no. But, this doesn’t have to be where the story ends. You now know what we see, you now know how we feel, and you alone have the ability to change this, if you want. The choice is yours, as a leader, to make. Will you stand up for the beliefs that you once so richly held, or will you continue to pat yourselves on the back and smile as you fail us as our leaders? I hope for the generations of cops to come you choose wisely and you choose to stand. We want and need you to be our leaders; we need you, as our leaders, to be our guiding light through the darkness so that we too can find our way home.
– Sgt. A. Merica