Public Safety Officers
A few progressive city councils, nearly thirty years ago, realized that maintaining a city police and fire service was not fiscally feasible long term. An analysis of service revealed, for instance, that a city of roughly 20,000 residents generated policing activity that could be as high as one hundred times greater than that of its fire service. Both operating budgets were nearly the same. The idea was that if cops could be cross trained to perform the fire function instead of having to fully staff a fire department could save millions of dollars annually; hence the Public Safety Officer concept was born. The fire department will not be happy with this recommendation, but the truth is who are the first responders to fires (cars, houses, whatever) or to medical emergencies when requested? The police. The idea is not all that bad. Those cities that did combine their police and fire departments would put the displaced fire fighters through the police academy, recertify them as cops, and then transfer the personnel into the newly formed public safety agency. Other officers were certified as EMTs or Paramedics and then paid handsomely for having to maintain a boatload of certifications.
Mandatory Retirement Age
Federal law enforcement does it, so does the military. The fact is policing is a young persons game. Some would argue that the notion that cops usually die within five years of retirement is nothing more than an urban legend while others say the true concern are the health issues not causing death but high rates of disability. Regardless of your position on this issue, just look around your agency and see who is doing the lions share of aggressive street policing. In my experience, those with gray hair did the minimum if they were still assigned to patrol. I'm not knocking that, though. Those officers certainly earned those gray hairs (if they still have hair) because of all those years of chasing crooks (or more realistically fighting with the police administration). It happened to me; the first ten years of patrol work I stopped everything when working patrol-drug interdiction. After stints in supervision, investigations, and other assignments I found myself back doing what I did nearly two decades prior and found that I did not have the same assertive zeal I once had. I was burned out. I'm not saying that veteran officers are not valuable, but I am saying is that officers who have retired, and then returned to service to collect both a pension and salary are not (in my experience) working twice as hard.
These three major topics are just a sampling of issues that need to be addressed so that the viability of our policing service can continue, unabated by historical and fundamental changes. I admit there are many facets to our national economic situation and even if what were mentioned above were solved for the better there still remains hundreds of local issues facing our local and state agencies. There is no perfect or easy solution, but waiting for the bottom to drop out is not the answer either. There are approximately 600,000 police officers in the U.S. and we can either become involved in the active role of trying to determine our future or many of our Brothers and Sisters in Blue will be directed to an unsightly end. Let's get our politicians to start listening to us rather than us being told what they decide without our direct involvement. But, first, we need to talk to one another about the tough choices.