A letter in this article was sent to Law Enforcement Today by an anonymous source. As you read, we are sure that you will see why this patrol deputy wishes to remain confidential.
Could be from hundreds of agencies across the U.S.
It was written about a day in the life of a Riverside Sheriff’s Department patrol deputy. Unfortunately we have heard the same, or very similar complaints from law enforcement officers across the United States. With many agencies reporting recruiting problems and manpower shortages, wouldn’t it make sense to address and improve many of these morale killers? One thing is certain, manpower shortages in numerous law enforcement agencies across the United States, creates an unsafe environment for everyone in those communities.
A Day in the Life of a Patrol Deputy
Many people have asked me what it’s like to be a cop. Each time I tell them that there is not another job in this world I would rather do. Most of my colleagues feel the same and truly want to go to work and make a difference. Sadly though, roughly 250 of these colleagues have left the Riverside Sheriff’s Department for greener pastures in the past year. To someone not associated with RSO, it may seem odd that so many of this department’s finest law enforcement officers are leaving. I want to share what the average day of a patrol deputy is like.
Each day you leave your house and family you leave knowing that you may never come back. I never really dwelled on this and just accepted it as part of the job but the knowledge is always there. Most of us know someone that has been injured or killed in the line of duty. If you spend enough time wearing the badge you will lose someone. Admittedly, the toll seems to be harder on the real law enforcement heroes, the families that wave goodbye to as we go to work.
When you get to work usually head to the locker room and strap on the uniform. Now in RSO, this uniform is grossly outdated and consists of pants that are a 55% polyester and 45% wool blend that have the breathability of plastic wrap. The shirt is another polyester blend that bakes you alive during the summer and does nothing for you in the winter. Salt colored sweat stains appear during the time it takes to walk to your unit to load the vehicle for the shift. I won’t even touch the gun belt and vest. More modern uniforms are available and have been adopted by allied agencies but for some reason RSO admin refuses to join this century. This is the same uniform that was worn by deputies in the 1980’s if not before.
Walking into a law enforcement locker room is like jumping into a shark tank with a bleeding wound. If you have a weakness it will be found and exploited. You have to grow thin (thick) skin or else you will be eaten alive. Now I’ve always maintained that you can tell how well a shift gets along in the first 30 seconds of walking into one. A tight shift will be laughing and making fun of each other while little will be said on a team with dissention. I’ve been on both types of shifts and the attitude found in the locker room directly impacts the results of the work on the streets. Many of the world’s problems could be solved if world leaders would listen to salty cops locker room conversations.
Once done getting geared up and loading the unit for the shift ahead you are treated to briefing. Briefing is where the whole weight of RSO administrative nonsense can be seen. The Sergeant or his/her corporal hold briefing and tell you about some new policy that admin has dreamed up because one deputy somewhere did something dumb, chastising you for being on a late report list, handing back the bucket report you turned in the day prior for minor changes that really don’t matter to anyone, and maybe some type of nonsensical training video from POST on the hot topic of the day. Sometimes staffing is so low that Sergeants are already asking for volunteers to hold over after their shift because the next shift already has people calling in sick. A shift’s leadership is on full display here. There are usually two types of Sergeants. Good Sergeants that take care of their troops, encourage them, motivate them, and seek to professionally develop their troops. Sadly these Sergeants are like baby pigeons, you know they exist but rarely see them. They normally don’t promote past Sergeant because protecting your troops from admin nonsense is frowned upon.
Then there is the other type of Sergeant. This type of animal has no desire to develop his troops and will often use phrases like “Your morale is not my problem”, “You are high paid secretaries”, or my personal favorite “If you don’t like it here you can apply somewhere else”. This Sergeant is generally a micromanager that sees the troops as a liability to their chance at promotion and a larger pension. Gone are the days of chewing a deputy’s ass, brushing them off, and letting the deputy lick his wounds and learn. They have been replaced with formal report kickbacks that haunt your I-File during promotion time, formal write-ups and PERS investigations that never get purged, and of course administration’s FAVORITE tool: RETALIATION! These Sergeants are the type that troops attempt to flee from when shift change requests are asked for. I can remember when we had an impromptu flow chart of where we thought certain Sergeants were going to so we could avoid the bad ones. A Sergeant can make or break your shift so we were sure to choose wisely.
Once briefing was completed it was time to do what street cops do, go 10-8 and clear the board of calls. To the motivated, this was the time to clear as many as possible so you could go do proactive work. To the less motivated this is a chance to find a reason to stay in report writing and pretend to do follow-up or cherry pick non-paper calls and generally screw over their partners. Every cop can instantly name those types and they are widely despised but will eventually become Administrators. Many times the board is jam packed and you can only roll your eyes and wonder what the shift before you actually accomplished. The citizens are usually very pleased to talk with the poor deputy that has to respond to the theft of their lawn gnome they called in five hours prior which they believe to be of such great importance that we should ignore the robbery or shooting that occurred at the same time.
As you power through your shift, you do your best to grab a bite to eat between calls. You take one report call after another but are unable to sit and write reports because the calls continue to flow in knowing that you will be on the dreaded late list again unless you violate policy and write reports at home. You wonder how in 2018, Sheriff’s Admin has not figured out how to utilize the internet to allow citizens to file an online report about a minor crime like a stolen lawn gnome like other agencies have done. You respond to assist other departments during your shift and notice that their equipment works, is not held together with duct tape, and admire their modern and seemingly comfortable uniforms. Sometimes the other officers encourage you to apply with their agency but you realize that you would lose your 3% @ 50 pension and know you are truly stuck at RSO. Around hour 8 you have a headache and are often left wondering how humans evolved past the Stone Age. Now is when the fun starts. The message light on your unit computer lights up with another request from your Sergeant asking for volunteers to donate another six hours to RSO because the next shift has all decided to call in sick. When no one answers the Sergeant “arbitrarily” orders a deputy to donate the next six hours of his/her life to making sure that minimum staffing is needed. The best is when the Sergeant offers no words of sympathy or thanks. You realize that you are nothing more than a warm body and a number to the county and the department and just thank the Lord you are one day closer to retirement.
This is the day of a Riverside County Deputy Sheriff. We see our best and brightest flocking to other agencies taking their training and experience with them.
Wouldn’t it make sense to address these Morale killers?
I’m not a big fan of posting anything from anonymous sources. But, this one grabbed my attention, for many reasons. Many of the things that this anonymous source wrote are the exact same complaints that officers had in the department I worked for, and that was from 1980 – 1992. Second, we hear those same complaints from law enforcement officers from hundreds of agencies across the country.
Again, with many agencies reporting recruitment problems and manpower shortages, wouldn’t it make sense to address and improve many of these morale killers? One thing is certain, manpower shortages in numerous law enforcement agencies across the United States, creates an unsafe environment for everyone in those communities.
– John “Jay” Wiley, radio show producer and host, Law Enforcement Today