Whether this comes in the form of a spoken phrase or a ’10 code’ number over the police radio, it is the worst thing an officer can hear and also among the most dangerous situations to which he or she might be responding. We saw this again in Dallas, TX last evening where the officer death toll now stands at 5 and may increase over time since more were wounded. These officers went to work on their shift as they had done any number of times before and their families mourn their loss today. They responded to a call and that was the last to which they’ll ever respond. Their families mourn today and politicians pose for ‘holy pictures’, some well-meaning and aligned with their police departments, but others who see police departments as a poor use of tax dollars.
Baltimore, MD is an example of a city where police officers have been treated as suspects by the State’s Attorney. The cases brought by her so far have resulted in the officers accused being exonerated…but only after their reputations were dragged through the slime by the person who sought to make her name at their expense. How many future attacks on police officers will have been caused at least in part by that action in Baltimore or the actions in Ferguson, MO? Did these Dallas snipers react to one or both of those situations in forming this terrible pact?
Not all police departments are run by people who ought to be in command of a police department, but those are fortunately very few and very far between. There are some small communities that simply have little choice in whom they’ll employ as an officer and those situations can breed issues but one officer out of four is very easily seen for what he or she is, so it is not easy for a bad actor to hide there, either. That is reminiscent of the old Barney Fife character. There aren’t many Barny Fife’s around at this point and there will be fewer and fewer over the years.
Are there officers who we’d prefer were not behind a badge in some communities? Yes, but their departments most often work diligently to get them removed from the force since the other sworn members of those departments want nothing to do with a rogue officer. There are typically several disciplinary steps that must be taken to assure that the rights of each person are protected, but the force will ultimately be rid of the officer who does not deserve the honor of being an officer.
I would venture to say that the ratio of poor officers to good officers nationally is less than 1/100th of 1 percent if that high. As the older officers retire, the younger officers hired to replace them in the ranks will have been much better trained, and their leadership skills will likely be much better.
Will there be a case of a police officer who is proved to have been a bad actor? Yes. The small community in Northern Illinois had just such an officer but he and his complicit spouse were ultimately found out.
If you ever have the opportunity to go through a citizens’ police academy in your community or if you can make arrangements to be involved in a ‘ride-along’, I’d encourage you to seize that opportunity. You might also have the ‘privilege’ of experiencing a Taser shot as I did in such a training program.