LE Athlete on the State of Policing

Note: In our July 15, 2021 Newsletter we asked LE Athletes in the MTI Community questions about the state of their work and how they felt about it. Their answers are below, – Rob Shaul

Why are you still working in law enforcement? Is it because of job security, benefits, your colleagues, idea of service, close to retirement? Please be as descriptive and honest as possible.

– I’ll hit my 25 year mark and start my 6th year as a homicide detective in November. I’m still here because “if not me, then who?”  I love my work, or more appropriately my vocation, feel called to do it, and I take great pride in serving families through the worst season of their life, but it’s horribly stressful.  Last year we hit an all time record of homicides in Denver, and this year we’re on pace to surpass that.  I hear that something like 8% of our department has retired or quit since September.  Sure, some of those were old heads who’ve crossed their finish line, but many more are guys with just a few years on who can’t/won’t do it any more.  So not only are we doing more work than ever, but we’re short handed, and operating under all sorts of new rules and mandates.  And obviously, even if there was money to run back to back academies, they can’t keep up with the exodus, and our applicant pool isn’t what it used to be.  (As an aside, I tested with over 2,000 people in 1995.  They ran one lateral academy of 14 and a basic of 52 out of that testing pool!)-  I continue to work for several reasons. I have been doing my job for 20 years, I’m good at what I do, and I still enjoy the work and the challenge. I am about 5 years away from retirement eligibility, so I want to stick it out for the retirement. Most importantly, the work I do is important. Evil exists, and I believe I have been put in a specific time and place to fight evil in the tiny sphere in which I exist.

– I continue working because regardless of what other think there are communities that would burn over night without us. I have searched high and low to find something I’d like to do other that Law Enforcement. Truth is, I was born for this. Saving a woman from an abusive spouse or a man from a lying wife. Patching up shooting victims and saving kids by checking on them.

– I still believe in the role I play for society. I’m not usually one for motivational memes but frankly if I’m not going to do it then who is, there is a lot of people entering LE lately based off of false perceptions about what it is we do and are coming in unprepared physically, mentally etc. These folks need a lot of mentorship and guidance. Money is a factor as my adult life has been military / LE but it’s certainly not the only thing holding me in. 

– I have been a police officer in Philadelphia for nearly fourteen years. I am also a reservist in the military. I undertook both professional endeavors to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather who raised me. He served in World War II and then served as a police officer in Philadelphia for nearly fifty (50) years. When I entered the profession, I received a very simple but profound piece of advice: “If this life is what you truly want, make the most of it, be the best at it, and don’t let anyone take it away from you.” I have never aspired to be wealthy – if I did, I would be doing something else – so it stands to reason that the only things keeping me in the profession ae the memory of my grandfather and the notion of being of continued service to the city where I was born and raised.

– The pay, the benefits, and a sense of duty. I have a bachelor’s degree in Sociology & Criminology. I don’t have any other real work experience (besides being a janitor and working in a warehouse as a kid) other than LE. I simply cannot make the same amount of money that I’m making now, in another field. I also have long term health issues, and NEED health insurance in order to survive. I see what’s happening in society, and I see the recruitment numbers falling, and I feel like if I leave too, who will be left? Eventually there won’t be good cops left. It will just be badge heavy idiots if all the smart, good officers leave.

– I enjoy the work and I like to serve the community I live in. It is very rewarding despite the growing dislike for LE.

– Job security is certainly one factor as well as being less than 7 years away from a full retirement.  I also have a belief in what we are doing is right and that the vast majority of my colleagues are working to do the right thing.

– The past few years there have been a number of challenges for LE throughout the nation, some areas greater than others. I am blessed to be in a state that is overall supportive of LE compared to others, so my point of view might be slightly skewed from the get go. ……. There are multiple reasons for me to stay in the LE profession. These include the obvious ones like job security and benefits and continuing to be able to provide a good living for my family. This state has never made it a possibility to reduce numbers through these challenges which gives me some reasons to keep putting out. Due to the overwhelming support from the majority of the population, I still have the drive willingly sacrifice to do jobs that need to be done. ….. One of the more outlying reasons I believe a lot of LE are still in the profession despite pushback from the population and politicians is as simple as the challenge it gives us. As a general rule, people who join LE don’t do it because we think it will be an easy job; it’s a challenge. We tend to be type A personalities who like a good challenge, and this environment provides that challenge to succeed despite the odds. As a result of this mindset, I’ve never even considered quitting, despite inquiries of this from family and my significant other.

– I’m still working in LE because I have approximately 1.5 years left until I retire and I’ve already given 33 years to this profession. Still believe in the profession. …. Can’t wait to retire. Been doing this gig a long time and I’ve had to deal with the worst of the human race for decades.

– I work for DSS and the situation is pretty different from what a lot of officers are going through nation wide.  The challenge of this job working around the world and investigating transnational crime or protecting diplomats is as very interesting to me.  I am also close to retirement.  I do believe in the idea of service but working in the federal government and especially the Department of State can be the hardest part of the job.  As they say, the job is 90% routine and 10% excitement but that 10% is really exciting.    

– I continue to work because I am a hunter. I hunt the wolf. Politics can’t change that. Therefore, I shall train. It’s that simple.

– I can say the main reason I have stayed is because i’m close to retirement but other reasons include service and working with great officers.  Retirement may include some other type of LE but definitely not in a large city due to the reason stated above.

– I saw the “Help Needed” questions and wanted to respond. I am a retired Green Beret with 21 years in the Army. I did a year of contracting post retirement and I will start my job as a Sheriff Deputy in my county on August 2nd. I chose to work in law enforcement because I felt I could no longer effect as much at the federal government level. I feel a personal responsibility to continue to give back post-retirement and feel I can make the most effect locally.

– To put it simply if I had a degree or training in something else I’d do literally anything else. 

– At 8 years of time on in a major metropolitan city police department I hate my job, most of my coworkers, the supervisors, and the city at large. I spent all of the Summer and Fall 2020 looking at Indeed.com and seriously considered quitting. I’m still working in the same area but I’m waiting on a transfer to somewhere nicer in the city and the Detective’s test sometime near December. Due to a lack of current staffing, high attrition, and an inability to get large enough academy classes through I don’t know when this transfer will come through and there’s no promise they’ll promote enough detectives that anyone aside from the top 30 out of over 1000 will get made. This transfer also can’t come soon enough. We don’t do transfers as they get put in so I have to wait an indeterminate amount of time before I can just leave. This wouldn’t be an issue if my supervision and coworkers were good people, they’re not. 

– I have a commanding officer who has been fired and locked up multiple times while on the job, an indirect supervisor who filled a power vacuum using their friendship with said CO and has it out for my partner and I who also was on the chopping block for racking up a litany of complaints and being kicked out of every previous assignment. This supervisor has been sent to the same toilet as me and now there’s only a slight chance she will leave. Until then my partner and I will be victims of her hypocrisy style of command, vindictiveness, and relative incompetence at being a patrol supervisor. 

– At the beginning of the riots last summer I hurt both of my hands because of my coworkers failing to back my partner and I up so those two are literally dead to me. I ended up having a 9 month vacation at the cost of ongoing hand pain but they’ll never know the exact amount of disdain I have for them. If they were the only jerks that would be one thing but now it seems like 1/3 of the squad is alright, 1/3 are suck ups to above mentioned supervisor, and the final 1/3 are the lucky few who can keep their heads down. Should I quit, transfer, or promote I’m saying bye to about 4 to 5 people and then I’m disappearing. 

– I know I’m not the only one who would say this but I wouldn’t recommend this line of work to anyone. I get 6 weekends a year off and in the private sector many companies are adding benefits and pay to retain employees but policing is unique in the sense that the employer and city are actively trying to cut benefits. Even health benefits are on the chopping block, again, even as we are coming out of a pandemic when many of us used said health benefits to receive treatment. Obviously we can’t work from home with patrol drones but would actual maternity/paternity leave be too much to ask!? All of these cuts aren’t because the city is going broke from lost tax revenue but it’s punitive because we are all racist white cops. Are my coworkers racist? No. Are they paid only at the median nationwide, wannabe tough guys, and undertrained? Yes. Strip the benefits and pay and there’s no incentive to stay. 

– If it weren’t for my wife, family, and partner I would’ve lost it by now. My wife being the biggest help because she’s letting me put entire paychecks towards my student loan debt so that way in a little over a year from now I can be debt free and we can seriously talk about a career change. Even if I stay I have no intention of staying past year 25. I am not staying long enough to watch the pendulum swing back to America being pro-police and pro law and order. Heck, half of these hypocrites who were waving thin blue line tags last summer took them down after January 6th! I see where we stand. 

– Thank you for giving me space to air out my grievances and feelings about the job. I release I went on quite a bit. It used to be super cool and an adventure but now it’s more like a tedious slog where I get $200 a day and a bit more lower back ache at the ripe old age of 31. At least I have what matters in good working order: my marriage, my dog, my finances, my family life, my house and my ‘92 Miata.

Have you considered quitting? If so, what is the primary reason?

– And yes, I have considered quitting, but I won’t.  However, because of everything going on I’m now planning on leaving sooner than I expected to.  At this point, if I can, I’ll hang on until 55, which is 8 more years, and then go find another job to keep me busy and make me feel like I’m contributing to doing God’s work.  Sadly, my whole unit is making similar plans. 

– I have never considered quitting, yet I am looking forward to retirement and a complete change of careers. Due to the “Ferguson Effect” I no longer work investigations that require a lot of time in low income, high crime areas. I stick to the white collar fraud as much as I can.

– Quitting, I want to quit everyday. The amount of hamstringing that happens is detrimental to officers. The hate and danger this job carries now is draining. The constant fear of being charged criminally and departmentally is polarizing.

– Yes, I honestly felt betrayed through the summer of 2020. We are not perfect and we have to understand that, but to see how quickly the politicians just dumped us and ran was astonishing. Considering the influence politicians have and that they create and demand laws be enforced I was angry to see them just leave us and run like they have no part to play as we’ve seen over that latter part of last year. I stayed for the community and reading some history. This isn’t the first time we’ve been left out to dry and it won’t be the last.

– Yes. Absolutely. I recently planned and executed a warrant service where I had every reason to believe 1) my target was inside and 2) he would be armed. For such jobs, as a matter of principle, I go through the door first. The service went smoothly with no force required, but I cannot help but think to that moment in time – a half second in reality, but a subjective eternity – right before I knocked and announced. I thought: my wife and children may be about to lose me in me one of two ways. First, they may lose me to injury; he may fire at me and hit me, rendering me dead or disabled and thereby depriving my family of the husband and father they knew. Second, I maybe be forced to act in self-defense, either pre-emptively or reactively, and my family will lose me to criminal prosecution, loss of freedom, destruction of reputation, and capacity to earn a living. I remember thinking: when this is over, I really have to think about whether my family deserves this risk?

– Yes, every day that I work I consider quitting. The primary reason is my agency doesn’t have leaders, we have managers. They don’t know the first thing about leadership, or teamwork. It feels like it’s every man for himself now. They have never once acknowledged any of the good things I’ve done. The people I’ve helped. Nor any of the officers at this agency.They only acknowledge when you do something wrong. The secondary reason is I feel like no matter how right I am, society will still think I’m wrong. I can make a split second decision, that was the best decision at the time, and I’ll still be looked at as a criminal, and potentially have my life and livelihood taken from me.

– I have considered quitting. There were new laws passed in my state that will make it difficult to get justice for victims. The laws seem to be more protective of the suspect and have no thought that there is usually a victim attached to each suspect. In the end the community and victims will suffer.

– Yes, or perhaps a more appropriate answer is the consideration that I would/will quit if support from upper police administrators and elected city officials falls below a threshold that honestly I have not yet identified.  That would be carefully weighed however due to the proximity of my retirement.

– I’ve never considered seriously quitting. Frustrated, yes, but quitting no.

– I’m in my 28th year as a Deputy Sheriff, currently serving as the Division Chief of our Operations Division. I have been blessed with a great career. I chose the profession, and continue in it, to serve others. I have been promoted several times and now my primary focus of service is supporting the exceptional men and women in our agency. I support them so they can do their job serving and protection our community.

– I have definitely considered leaving or moving agencies over the past year.  This is not related to the reckoning the city state and local departments are facing.  Leadership is a problem everywhere and that is no different in DSS.  Mission creep and interagency fights are also a problem in DSS as well as working for a department whose is not focused on LE.  Most of the Department don’t even know DSS is a Fed LE agency and only look at us as the locks and key smith or the folks you see when you get in trouble.

– I have never quit anything I attempted and do not see myself starting now.

 

How has your work become more difficult, and/or unexpectedly easier over the past year?

– The political/societal environment is absolutely making my job harder.  The guys are the street are understandably leery of making contacts for low level offenses, which means the people I need to talk to as part of my investigations aren’t getting stopped, and our criminal element as a whole is emboldened.  The lawmakers’ focus on us as the problem is disheartening.  Here in CO the past two legislative sessions have produced a slew of bills aimed at the police, and many more making life easier for the bad guys by decriminalizing, reducing penalties, and “reforming” jails.  All in all the message is clear-LE is what’s wrong with America and if those in power can just reign us in, everything will be fine.  Disgusting!

– In some aspects, the work has become easier because there’s a lot of things I’ve “figured out” and don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I have developed a skillset that is highly adaptable. In other ways, it’s become more difficult due to a significant reduction in force (my agency has 70% less agents than it did when I started 20 years ago) and senior leadership that is openly hostile to our mission.

– I think most everyone in this profession has considered leaving at some point for various reasons. Certainly the current political narrative is causing a larger number to give thought and/or execute on the decision to leave. I have given thought to it a few times. I was actually going to retire in March 2021 but was asked to stay a couple more years to assist our current Sheriff finish out his 5th term and the transition to a new administration. This decision has continues the sacrifices my family makes while I’m in his profession.

– The job is more dangerous than ever. More fatal encounters with police will continue to rise, for both officers and civilians. People want safety and less police at the same time. People will ostracize police and call them in the same breath. Instead of putting more money into training both initial and concurrent the public wants to defund us. BJJ training for officers is pivotal but is on the officer to pay for. With such a small salary it is outlandish to think someone can do that.

– Choosing what to get involved in is a big thing now. It used to be based on being legal and ethical, now you have to think and consider far beyond that. I’m very hesitant to get involved in a lot of proactive work now that I’m not ordered to do, vs a year ago I would be hunting all the time. Every police investigative body is looking to nail people right now, not a bitch, just a fact of the world we’re in right now. 

– It has become immeasurably more difficult. Full stop. There is more crime. There are fewer officers. There is less we are able to accomplish to address the surging crime. Yet the demand to “do something about it” from our supervisors and command staff  – themselves immune from the hazards of street duty – have risen proportionate to the crime rate. It is the Philadelphia Paradox.

– People question everything you do, people argue with everything you do, people flee and fight about 10x more (I looked at my agency stats, it’s about 10 times more). Society has zero respect for police, and automatically assume they know more than the police, and that they can do whatever they want because the police have zero power anymore. People call me racist just about every day when they don’t even know me. It’s almost like reverse racism in a way. I just had a guy call my partner and I racist, and we said that he doesn’t even know us. His response was that he doesn’t need to know us, because he knows “our kind.” How is that any better than racism itself?

– Like I said in question 2, new laws making it harder to do our job and an increased work load.

– The difficulty lies in interacting with protestors/demonstrators.  Even if they’re full of shit, its no picnic to stand there while you’re being motherfucked.  I will say however the silent supporters have been very supportive.  I have not seen so many quiet donations of water/food to my dept on a regular basis.

– The operating environment has changed drastically in the past 10 years, even more so from when the more senior officers began their careers. We have to be more thoughtful and deliberate with our responses. We have to pay more attention to the details, that before didn’t matter as much, but today are make or break for a case. We have to return to the mindset of the beat cop, “winning the hearts and minds” of the local populace. For years we strayed away from this mentality for the most part. I believe this was due to using cars and losing the personal connection with the citizens, and just doing our jobs according to the job description. We need to focus on developing those relationships and showing how we really are here to offer service and protection in a courtesy manner.

– I work major crimes so the majority of my job doesn’t deal with the issues patrol faces every day. Just the normal changes to the laws because of legislative changes and case law.

– DSS managed this fairly well.  My office leadership was willing to have frank an open conversations and did not offer up agents to participate in any of the protests.  The misuse of federal agents needlessly put a lot of people and agents in harms way.  I believe the reckoning was due.  I present to foreign cops routinely how the US has 18000 police agencies and over 1 million cops.  The lack of standardization in hiring/training/jurisdiction drives a lot of the problems.  I started my career like you in the USCG and was a plank owner at the MLE Academy.  Many Coasties would gripe about feeling as though they were not “real LE” and that was due to the restraint and professionalism instilled into each boarding officer.  I still hold those lessons close today and think that approach should be mandated nationwide and we move to a national standard (this will never happen).

– I’ve worked in the 8th largest PD for over 24 years now and in the last few years how you do has become much more difficult.  The work and the laws are the same BUT what has changed  because of the politics involved are the department’s policies on how officers do their job.  Departments, who are controlled by politicians, can change their policies much easier than states can change laws and once policies change that will affect how officers operate. … LE is an awesome job giving you the ability to help people every day but the current political climate, that will impact LE for years to come, makes it extremely difficult to do your job effectively.

– I am currently working in LE. The question you ask is the very question I ask myself on a multiple occasions. I have been doing this job for over 30 years and regardless of what politicians are supporting and the rhetoric that bleeds into the those that wants to eliminate and defund the police, there are many who still support the police. Those people are still in need of police. Even those that want to defund us.  I also served in the military and swore an oath to protect this country against foreign and domestic enemies.   Regardless of the circumstances, I will not surrender to weakness. I consider those who are ignorant and gullible a weakness

– Law enforcement in the area I live in is still respected by most, but unfortunately things have slowly started to change over the – last year. People forget there are some 700,000 law enforcement officers in our country. If you take any population of that size you will have some bad folks, doesn’t mean the entire population is bad.

 

How has being a cop changed you?

 – Lots of things, both good and bad. I have a front-row seat to seeing the worst in people, which sometimes results in trust issues. I have seen too many bank accounts and hard drives of “good” people to know that a lot of folks aren’t as good as they put on.  I am a lot more careful in public, and avoid crowded venues. I am protective of my wife and children, especially when it comes to what they view online. The biggest change I have experienced is that I have a very low opinion of single motherhood. For several years, I spent a considerable time working welfare and food stamp fraud, and the overwhelming majority of the perpetrators were women exchanging the benefits meant for their children and using them for alcohol and drugs. I am probably one of only a handful of law enforcement officers who has arrested more women than men as a result. One of the good things that has happened is that I enjoy talking to people. For every “bad guy” I deal with, I have talk to 3 or 4 “good guys” and it helps balance me out and keep me from being so jaded.

– This question would take more time and space than I will bore you with. Maybe this will suffice. I have come to realize how blessed I am. The problems in my life are nothing compared to those we serve. My worse day doesn’t compare to that of a child being abuse by parents; sex assault victims, robbery victims, homicides, etc. I’m more empathetic and compassionate than I was when I started.

– The work is certainly more challenging. While the community we serve is overall very supportive there are a few vocal opponents who make life difficult for us and our deputies. I think a greater challenge I face now in my current role is reminding deputies to remember why they chose this profession and stay committed and strong. Those that have the determination and stamina to stay are struggling with staying proactive when the politicians and activists want less law enforcement presence – except when there is an active killer, or incidents that directly affect them.

– The usual for change, angry more often, everyones an asshole… I still have a soft side and I have a good sense of awareness about myself, so I just try and check in with myself to make sure I’m holding it together. Every cop should read “emotional survival”. I threw away my first copy thinking it wouldn’t happen to me. I read it not to long ago and it was almost humorous how much that was me. I started a degree to give myself options, not going anywhere but I think we saw what we’re worth in some communities so I want to have a plan B should that day come unexpectedly. 

– I was raised in a liberal, progressive section of the city. I labored to see the best in humanity. I do so no longer. I pray that my children will be strong enough in the event they must see and experience even a portion of that which I have seen and experienced. I see the world as a place where harmless creatures – children, animals, the elderly – are wantonly abused, exploited, tortured, victimized, humiliated, and ultimately murdered. I see the world as a place where heinous acts spare no one. I see the world as a place where our leaders lie, especially when they tell the media that “public safety is their top priority” as homicides surge and our ranks dwindle under the onslaught of career-assassination from our rear flanks. I see the world as a house of horrors, where evil-doers and politicians are working toward the same ends, but only one group is honest about it.

– Being an LEO has caused me to be more spacially aware of whose around me and what they’re doing. I’m more cynical. I don’t take people at face value. They have to prove their trustworthy and decent before I allow them anywhere close to my personal being.

– I see the bad in everything now. I forget that most people are good, normal people. When you spend enough time around shit heads, it’s easy to forget about normal society.

– I grew up in Southern California and now I work on an Indian Reservation. I was made aware of a culture I haven’t known before and my experience has been amazing. As far as dealing with people I work in a rural area and we don’t have back up for many of our calls. As a result you get good at the “verbal judo.” I have grown to be more patient with people and now I feel I can talk my way out of or into anything.

– I realized the level of bullshit and disgusting behavior people are capable of.  It has made me more jaded in my view of humanity.  It has made me less caring on some levels. I realized how completely full of shit the media can be.  I learned that people who say they really want change aren’t open to the realities of how things really are. It has also made me aware of what I need to do to maintain my mental and physical health as an individual.

– Ultimately, i believe being a cop doesn’t completely change a person. It merely brings out more fully who we are. It reveals aspects of our personality we may have been suppressing or pretending didn’t exist for years. Upon reflection, this is what’s happened for me over the last decade. This reality has given me more than enough to improve upon myself over the years. So, in a way, it’s ultimately made me a better more measured person. I believe this is true for all LE as long as the person is willing to look at how you’ve handled situations and how to make it better next time. This seems to be a common trend among LE that make it through long careers. ….. While times will continue to change, I believe the core of LE will continue to rise and meet challenges. Eventually the pendulum will swing the other way and support for LE nationwide will improve. Until that time comes back around, I will continue to enjoy the challenging work environment as a way to get better at my profession.

– I was a punk ass kid before.  After the USCG mellowed me out, I sought something more focused.  DSS gave me some of the best training in the U.S. Gov and it has made me a better human overall.  Having to face a room full of foreign cops and explain what my countrymen have done creates a lot of introspection.  The road continues but everyday presents an opportunity to grow and learn.

– Being in law enforcement will continue to allow me to give back locally, while remaining home (versus traveling as a contractor) in order to be around my kids as much as possible.

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