One of the things that I am not is a harbinger of doom. However I feel it is necessary that I bring my summations for the future to the forefront to prepare my readers. There are some unsettling trends that are catching on throughout the country that in time may change the job as we know it.
Who does not recall Wiley E. Coyote and his devices to capture the Roadrunner? All were made by the Acme Company and were flawed at best. Throughout the country there is a move afoot of regionalization of police services. Some if well thought out can work in some circumstances. Regional jails are a good example, several counties enter into a regional jail agreement, one county may serve as the controller and the shared expenses are great budget savers. These often have a down side of prisoner transportation and related expenses. One arrestee has to be transported many miles taking that officer and car out of service. However, these are calculated costs and risks.
Other regional police services schemes have worked but at a cost. Often these officers are the lowest paid and have weak benefit packages. Good for the municipality and bad for the employees. Often these are basic services only, reactive with little or no investigations, crime prevention or other traditional police services. Call 911, get a report and that’s about it. As one chap told me, this style of service does not do follow-ups on most all property crimes for they assume all victims will be recompensated by insurance. I despise this bloody idea for it validates criminality. Bad guy does not get caught and continues with crimes, more reports but who cares. You are setting a dangerous precedence for free-range criminals. They will work traffic enforcement for this is a moneymaking project, tickets equate income. Maybe I am a traditionalist, for I cut my teeth on the professional model, you know where putting the bad guys away was a art form. Be careful of nomadic speakers coming to your area taunting the money saving ideas of allowing criminals to run free all to save a dollar.
Benefits for Savings
With the advent of the new National Health Care (aka Obamacare) there are outs for employers to shift the burden of purchasing health care for employees. If you have 50 full-time employees or less, then you as the employer can opt to pay a fine and have the employees on their own seek out health care. Look around at your local community departments; they could conceivably follow this plan.
Again, review your retirement benefits; many departments now both in right-to-work states and union states are changing their defined benefit plans for future employees. Granted this may be a money saver for the municipality’s future but let’s grab the crystal ball. Cops (firemen as well) do not like to be treated differently, what one gets then all should receive as well. I will predict that even if a future hire comes on with this benefit package, in the future as they observe how the previous generation of cops are rewarded, the jealously factor will swing them into action. Now these are supposition on my part here but stop and imagine. Once an old defined benefit plan officer retires and their package is discussed over retirement party cake and ice cream, the wheels will spin. This backlash on benefits for the future will cause some to readjust the pendulum.
What’s in your job description?
There is not a day that goes by without another added line is put in your job description, often under the ‘and others tasks as so directed’. Now the very design of emergency services is an unforeseen variable that this phrase is intended to address. However as some municipalities are redesigning their workforce (scale-down) many of the remaining absorb unfilled gaps in service. More often coppers are serving as animal control, code enforcement and so forth. I spoke to one officer who stated now they are reading water meters for the local water authority. For many police are often considered the S.N.E.W. Unit, or the Stuff Nobody Else Wants. The guilty party of this will be the smaller departments; if you want to keep your job, then you will do this. I understand in today’s financial climate protecting your job is paramount. I also understand that if you are being tasked jobs that you are not trained or equipped for will soon haunt someone. The department’s insurance carrier may be the voice of reason here to these added jobs. They want to protect their exposure and risks so it is in their interest to add to what you can and cannot do. You have the right to refuse an unlawful order, go wisely into the future.
There are several remedies for these and other pending issues in our profession. One, if you are a young officer, read the fine print before taking the job. Understand what your benefits are and visit your Human Resources to gain a full grasp of all. Whenever HR posts those flyers in the workplace that the law requires posting, but nobody reads them, you read them! You need to compare the changes to your current situation. Know your rights, benefit and job descriptions. If you have a local officers association (fraternal or union) get involved. I hope my crystal ball is off but as I see these clouds forming, I know it is going to be stormy on law enforcement’s future.