What do police officers feel about the growing adversarial relationship with the public at large?   no comments

Answer by Tim Dees:

I have said this before: there are over 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States, and I don’t pretend to be able to explain the behavior of every one of them.

I have no difficulty believing the account described by the OP, as I have witnessed similar displays myself. Like teenage punks, these guys feed off of one another’s energy. Alone, they may be well-behaved, but when there to reinforce each other, they can behave very badly.

I occasionally saw officers in my own agency act in the boorish and threatening way the (NYPD?) officers in this scenario did. If I tried to get them to straighten up, they would turn on me, call me a pussy, and suggest I file an Internal Affairs complaint on them. They weren’t being serious, of course. If I had done something like that, the retaliation would have been savage. More often than not, these were politically favored cops who could get away with almost anything and emerge unscathed.

Now that I’m out of the industry, I’m less tolerant of this sort of thing. I’ll ask an officer if he’s aware of how he’s coming off to other people, and whether he would act this way if his supervisor or chief was standing there. I haven’t done this a lot–I don’t see all that many episodes of police misconduct. In the couple of instances where I have spoken up, the response is usually something like, “Who the fuck are you?” I show them my retired police credentials, and at the time, my business card identifying me as the editor-in-chief of a police website that most cops know. From there, we had a meaningful conversation.

Cops who are shouting “He cried like a bitch!” are probably not going to be receptive to a citizen tuning them up on their behavior. If you see cops acting badly, call their employer and ask to speak to a supervisor. No well-run law enforcement agency wants their cops representing them this way. It is unlikely you will be destroying anyone’s career. If that is the case, the officer has already done the necessary groundwork himself.

Law enforcement is a service industry. Like any other service industry–say, a restaurant–management can’t fix problems they don’t know about. If you order food in a restaurant and it arrives cold, or burned, or otherwise prepared incorrectly, you’re perfectly justified in asking your server to take it back and make it right. The proprietor might even thank you for making them aware of the problem.

Most law enforcement agencies work the same way. Police officers are directly supervised maybe 5% of the time. The rest of the time, they operate autonomously, and most of them perform honorably and admirably. Supervisors don’t know about most of what their cops are doing unless someone tells them. If a cop does something that was exemplary, it’s appreciated if you let his supervisor know. If the conduct is not so exemplary, it’s your duty as a citizen to let the police know about that, too.

I resent bad police conduct more than most citizens. I am passionate about law enforcement as a profession, and know that every act of misconduct colors the opinion of every citizen who knows about it. I think most cops feel the same way. No one wants to see disgrace brought onto a line of work that is noble and honorable when done right.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014