Political expediency in officer safety issues stinks (feel free to fill in your more profane descriptive term)! Officer safety and survival throughout this country are being compromised by politicians. Sadly, in many cases this includes chiefs and administrators as well.
Let’s take a look.
Running for office or reelection, you’ll hear the promises; “I’m pro-police!” “More officers are what we need and I promise to hire more.” they’ll say. Promises of more training, better equipment, on and on – like the old campaign promises of “a chicken in every pot” all those promises will be soon forgotten or broken. Yeah, I know, the economy is tough and we all have to do more with less. As a law enforcement officer for 30 years this has been the continual mantra from those in power. The problem is that someone forgot to tell today’s criminal there is a recession and they should rob, shoot, burgle, and assault innocent victims less. Any yet, statistics are manipulated to put forth the notion that crime is down – just forget that last year more officers were killed in the line of duty than the previous ten years.
Amazingly we’re told by the politicians that more officers will not reduce crime. That’s its perfectly safe for officers to patrol solo, that they can cover more area and allow agencies to put more cars out. That low-bid safety equipment is “good enough” or that despite all the pet political projects they can find money for, they don’t have money to take care of the cop on the beat. On and on the stories are spun and the logic stretched and convoluted.
Internally many chief’s positions are more political than ever. Three to four year contracts have eliminated any job security for the top level positions. Want to keep your job chief? You got to go along with the program. Make waves, do the right thing and attempt to stand up for your troops and you’re out of there. The result is that agency heads become voice boxes of politicians. With no law enforcement experience and an agenda that is oftentimes contrary to a police officer’s (you know things like having enough, well-trained and competent officers on the job with the best equipment…) these politicians both in and out of uniform believe in the “warm body” rule. This rule simply states that all we need in a patrol car is a “warm body” the officer doesn’t have to be trained well. Matter-of-fact, training is training as long as they meet minimum standards. Leadership has given way to management and positions once held by “leaders of men” have become political with those occupying them looking out for their own careers and self interests over the troops they’re supposed to serve.
As an old deputy chief once told me, “The higher you go up in an organization the more you are rewarded for loyalty versus competency.”
The Police Union’s Role
Sadly what was once the role of department brass – looking out for the safety of the troops, has now become the increasing role of police unions. Where once upon a time the union was focused on pay and benefits they now have to focus on a variety of topics relevant to their officer members. Issues such as manpower, training, equipment, hiring, on and on have become issues in which the police union representing line officers has taken the leading role.
It is amazing to me that the police union is held in such negative light by chiefs and supervisors nationwide. When they were coming up through the ranks it was the union who protected them and obtained things under contract such as seniority rights and the like. It is still the union to which they rush when things don’t go their way or when their rights are affected.
I’m a proud member of the Fraternal Order of Police. According to the F.O.P., I’m one of more than 325,000 members in 2,100 lodges. The FOP has been instrumental in getting legislation passed and Examples include: