Dear America – cops aren’t the bad guys. In fact, here are some ideas to make them even better.


This article submitted by guest writer: Jeremy Scharlow. It includes editorial content that is the opinion of the writer.

‘So why did you go into law enforcement?’


“I had a powerful desire to keep my community safe.”

“I see sorrow all around me, I wanted to make a difference.”

“I wanted to protect those who could not protect themselves.”

The reasons one becomes a police officer are boundless. However, most echo the same sentiment- a fervent desire to do good and make their little corner of the world a better place.

I have worked for three departments, was assigned to a multi-jurisdictional SWAT unit for 9 years and earned my Master of Art’s in Legal Studies.

It is fair to say, being a police officer is more than a career choice, it was my identity.

Bombshell DOJ Report: 54 million police citizen contacts, yet only 2 percent involve force or threat of force
Copyright free stock image.

My reasons for becoming a police officer echoed those above. I t was my goal, my life’s work to help make the world a better place!

Unfortunately, the media and widespread police ‘haters’ would have people believe an officer’s motives are more malevolent. They have let hatred and anger demonize our heroes who wear the badge and protect us while we go about our daily lives.

The problem is clear in the rising line- of- duty deaths and suicide rates.

But what can we do to help?

Changes in our societal understanding of a police officer’s roll is sorely needed.

Change Expectations

As state governments shrunk, so did funding for government programs. This includes government programs in mental health and substance abuse.

Furthermore, society made a concerted effort to destigmatize mental health and substance abuse issues.

The harsh reality is that people struggling with these issues do not think or act in ways that are proper in our civilized society. This is not to say that it is their ‘fault’. But, rather, to say their actions and thought process are not that of a person not struggling with those issues.

The result: too many people running around with untreated mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues (often interrelated) who making poor life decisions. These decisions often result in contact with the police- and they are rarely pleasant.

Dear America - cops aren't the bad guys. In fact, here are some ideas to make them even better.

In Illinois, a police officer (statutorily defined as peace officer) is as follows:

(720 ILCS 5/2-13) (from Ch. 38, par. 2-13)

   “ Sec. 2-13. “Peace officer”. “Peace officer” means (i) any person who by virtue of his office or public employment is vested by law with a duty to maintain public order or to make arrests for offenses, whether that duty extends to all offenses or is limited to specific offenses, or (ii) any person who, by statute, is granted and authorized to exercise powers similar to those conferred upon any peace officer employed by a law enforcement agency of this State.”

Notice what is not in the definition of a peace officer?

The definition does not talk about addiction counselor, psychology expert or medicine specialists.

One does not call a plumber to fix the electrical.

One does not call a painter to fix your car.

A person struggling with a mental health issue needs a psychologist or psychiatrist, not a police officer.

A person struggling with substance abuse needs a substance abuse counselor, not a police officer.

We have set our officers up for failure, expecting those charged with upkeeping the law, to venture into social work. While obviously there is overlap, we need the right tool to fix the right issue.

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Dear America - cops aren't the bad guys. In fact, here are some ideas to make them even better.
When police officers team up, the community becomes safer. Stock photo.

Change Perception Through Education

We live in an age where people can look up whatever they want at the drop of a hat. They can read the law and some even make it to find case law backing up statutory law. However, most do not fully understand how the two intersect and the effects they have on the justice system or their ‘rights.’

All one must do to see my point in action is look at the number of people who still believe an officer MUST read you a Miranda Warning upon arrest, thus making the arrest illegal.

Our society questions authority, which is healthy. But they do so under a false understanding of the law, the consequences of violating law, and the justice system in general.

This is the reason most complaints against police officers are unfounded. People simply do not know the law or their rights.

This sets officers up to be the ‘bad guys’ as people continue to ‘know their rights’ without truly knowing them.

A concerted educational movement to educate those about their rights and responsibilities under the law, including interactions with police officers, could reduce negative interactions by those who feel they are above the law.

Increased Police Officer Access to Mental Health Resources

Police officers see the evil in our society almost daily.

They see the pictures the horrific pedophile took while molesting the 2-year-old baby, the outcome of every fatal DUI accident, and the viciousness one person can have against someone they ‘love’ in each domestic violence call.

Regardless of how much of a badass any officer thinks he or she is, this will take a toll.

Unfortunately, in our current climate, if an officer attempts to speak up about their struggles with depression, anxiety, or PTSD symptoms related to the job, they are cast out as if a leper.

Dear America - cops aren't the bad guys. In fact, here are some ideas to make them even better.
Police officer. Stock photo

The result, many officers refuse to admit they have an issue and suppress their mental health issues. An officer struggling with their own mental health issues may be inadequately prepared to react appropriately (hypervigilance), leading to increased negative interactions between (s)he and the community.

We need to create a body of law, allowing for an officer to seek mental health help without creating a fear they may lose their job, livelihood, and identity in doing so.

Allowing officers access to mental health recourses without fear of repercussion could help in three ways.

  • First, by allowing the officers a healthy mental state, the officer would arguably be more suited to make appropriate life changing decisions, especially under the high-stress situations.
  • Second, an improved mental state translates to better behavior, demeanor, attitude, etc. Simply improving the overall mental health of our police officer may equate to friendlier, more patient, and less aggressive officers.
  • Lastly, this could help stem the growing suicide rate among our law-enforcement brothers and sisters.

What can I do?

I speak to officers at all levels across the country. My belief there is a war against police is not mine alone. The pain we feel as we continue to lose our comrades to line-of-duty deaths and suicide resonate.

Many of you who read this may be law enforcement officials in leadership positions within your departments. If not yet, you may be some day.

We have sat idly by long enough while our brothers and sisters die due to the negativity spewed at us from all angles. You may think my ideas for curbing the violence and deaths against our heroes ill thought-out or underdeveloped. If so, please take what I have suggested, improve it, and IMPLEMENT IT!

We must do something because if we don’t, who will?

Jeremy Scharlow earned both his Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Art’s in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is medically retired from the Mahomet Police Department where he served as a patrol officer for over ten years and as a METRO SWAT member for nine of those years. After his on-duty shooting incident, he began advocating for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder awareness in the law enforcement community.

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Dear America - cops aren't the bad guys. In fact, here are some ideas to make them even better.

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