For all those engaged in the current orgy of cop-hate, I don’t think that you are considering the long term, second and third order effects of the changes you would like to see. The future of policing is apparently that all uses of force are going to be judged in the court of public opinion, and the officer will be personally and professionally ruined even if the force they used was justified if “the public” finds it distasteful. Here is a preview of where that will lead.
– Right off the bat, good cops are going to quit working. They’re not going to stop showing up or collecting a paycheck, they’re just going to cease doing ANYTHING that can expose them to liability or bad publicity. Here is a dirty secret about civil service; you can’t get fired for doing nothing, but you can get fired for doing the WRONG thing, or the RIGHT thing if enough of the wrong people don’t like it. Lesson learned, don’t do anything. Answer your calls, and if possible handle them without any enforcement action. When you can, don’t follow up, just write “no apparent suspects” on the report and move on.
– The best officers are going to move to the lowest crime, highest paying jurisdictions where they are least likely to be exposed to a career ending incident. Why would an ambitious young officer stick around in Cleveland, facing the possibility of a career-ending incident with every radio call, when the same person could work in Pepper Pike, get paid significantly more, and the probability is that they can make it to retirement while entirely avoiding any type of controversy?
– Older Cops who can are going to retire as soon as possible, leaving police departments with younger, less experienced forces. Right now, an officer can retire at 48 with 25 years of service from the date of hire. Most officers stay into their late 50’s; most often they make up the command staff and supervision of an agency. Officers with the longest service have the most to lose personally and financially. Why stay longer than you have to and risk it all? What you will see now is younger, less experienced and prepared officers at every level, with a correspondingly lower level of service.
– Avoiding liability in police hiring is already ludicrous and will get worse. Most citizens have no idea the level of scrutiny a police recruit goes through, or the things that can get a candidate disqualified. Why would a rational person agree to submit to a full investigation of their entire life, including credit history, a full-scope polygraph, full disclosure of their medical history (including any mental health counseling) and interviews of relatives and neighbors, if all of that private information can be displayed to the world at the request of the media? This “higher standard” for police officers that we keep hearing about already disproportionately eliminates minority candidates. It will either push minority hiring down further (if these standards are equally applied) or set up a system with two sets of standards. That will manifest itself in increased animosity between people who have to meet a standard and those who do not. Veterans in particular are being hard hit by the focus on avoiding potential “problems”, since a history of exposure to violence/potential for PTSD is such huge potential liability for a city to take on that the easy choice is to select a different candidate. Being a veteran used to be a huge plus for a police recruit; it is now one of the biggest “red flags” because if an officer who is a veteran uses force, his past military service is scrutinized as closely as his police service. Police managers look at that and are now saying the equivalent of “Thank you for your service in the battle of Fallujah, but we don’t need that headache if you get in a shooting in our city.”
– Liability-driven policing is rapidly becoming a “one and done” profession, sort of like professional sports, except that instead of career ending injuries in the case of athletes (which also happens to police), an officer’s career is now over if they are ever disciplined or use force. Discipline or involvement in a previous use of force now makes an officer too big a potential legal/financial liability for a city to take on. Why would someone go into a career knowing that if they ever make a mistake – or even receive an unfounded complaint – they will be not only unemployed, but unemployable? Here is another “secret” people don’t want to talk about; people who break the law and get caught will use the system to get out of it if they can. Charges are often dropped by prosecutors in exchange for criminals dropping complaints; a smart defendant will file a complaint against an officer who arrested them if they can. Maybe the FOP should offer insurance to officers in case they lose their job when they’re cleared of misconduct but become a political liability and are forced to resign or are let go. The alternative is that, like pro sports, cities are going to have to pay officers as if each year is potentially their last. How much would you want to be paid annually if you reasonably believed you and your family might have to live off of this year’s salary for the rest of your life?
– Cities are paying garbage collector wages and competing with law school for recruits. Why would a rational person become a police officer if they can go to law school, work 9 to 5 in an office, make significantly more over a career, never expose themselves to any violence or trauma, and keep their privacy intact? Nobody has to take a full-scope polygraph to be lawyer, let alone one that is “public record”. You can have a DUI, go bankrupt, have a messy divorce, or even be convicted of most misdemeanors and still practice law. You just can’t can’t do any of those things and enforce it.
History teaches us that society gets exactly the policing it deserves. Maybe, fellow Romans, we should consider that before grabbing a fiddle and matches.