Imagine if your job description involved dealing intimately with the very worst of humanity, day after day, day in and day out. People that the rest of us go out of our way to avoid.
Imagine if your job required you to witness violence and death up close virtually every day. The taking of innocent life. Abused and murdered children. Imagine if you had to deal personally with the assailants of those children, and maintain a professional demeanor while you did so.
I don’t know about you, but my job description doesn’t involve the very real possibility of being killed every day I show up to work.
Is it any wonder that police have high rates of PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and marital and relationship problems? They are human beings who are expected to be superhuman. If they do their job correctly, no one cares or even knows, because after all that’s their job. If they don’t, the world knows about it.
On top of all this, police have to be ever cognizant of the constantly evolving constitutional rights of the individuals they come into contact with. In every situation, they have to quickly assess, “Okay, such-and-such a court decision says I can’t do this, or I have to do that.” Name one other job that requires you to make life-or-death judgment calls AND be a constitutional scholar. All in a matter of seconds. There isn’t any.
The wrong decision vis a vis a person’s rights can make all your police work for naught, no matter how guilty the person may be. Try explaining that to a victim or her family.
As we have all seen, there are cops who abuse their power. I was horrified by the excessive force used in the Eric Garner case in particular, and in the Freddie Gray and Laquan Macdonald cases. Clearly there are issues with training. Some of these cases seem to be ones where cops just “snapped,” which is not entirely shocking given what they are continually exposed to.
Racial diversity is essential on police forces and especially in leadership positions, if police are to command the respect of the people they serve.
I’m a lucky person, or maybe just a very boring person. I’ve never been a victim of violent crime. I’ve never been arrested and thrown in jail. I’ve been yelled at by cops, spoken to sarcastically by cops, that’s pretty much it. I didn’t like it. I guess if I had ever been mistreated by the cops, I would dislike them too. It all turns on your experience. They say a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested, and a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.
For the record, I do not come from a police family nor am I related to any police officers. I do know that I want them there if I need them. We talk out of both sides of our mouths when it comes to the police. Out of one side we say, “Go away and leave me alone.” Out of the other side we say, “Why did it take you so long to get here?” We want them to be nonexistent except when we’re in trouble.
They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They can’t be too aggressive, but if they’re not aggressive enough they’re accused of not doing enough to keep us safe from crime.
I’m not sure of much when it comes to all the police controversies, except this: It is not a job I could do. I do not have what it takes. All the good retirement benefits in the world would not be worth it to me.
I understand that for a lot of people, it’s difficult to feel sympathy or empathy with the police. They carry guns, they wield power, it seems like they can and do get away with doing anything they want. But let’s at least try to have some empathy for what they have to go through. Unless we think we could do better.