This column was originally published at Townhall.com on July 25, 2020.
Washington, DC – In the marriage of cops and their elected leaders, the police officer has become the battered spouse, and the cause of public service is suffering as a result. Across the country, law enforcement officers are reporting for duty despite increased risk to personal safety and less support from local officials. Today, all cops – who are much-needed public servants – are paying for the sins of bad cops, and many local leaders seem uninterested in the distinction.
There used to be a time when elected officials praised Americans who committed themselves to addressing society’s needs. Employees of local, state, and federal government were lionized and held up as examples of people who chose service over self. That was especially true for public servants who stood in harm’s way to keep our communities safe.
Last week in Chicago’s Grant Park, police officers defended public property while being pelted with frozen water bottles, rocks, and firecrackers. There were 12 arrests made and 18 protestors were injured. Among the police, 49 were injured and 18 hospitalized. Chicago’s mayor sent city workers an odd message by removing from the park – in the dark of night – the Christopher Columbus statue the police defended.
Less than 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton advocated for 100,000 cops on the street. Today, leaders of his party are taking hundreds of thousands of cops off the streets by denying or diverting their resources. New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Portland, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City are just a few cities which are slashing police budgets and redirecting thousands of officers from public service to public assistance.
The police uniform is today what the military uniform was during the Vietnam War era – a target for a liberal spitting contest. It seems that the character of the person attired in blue doesn’t matter, nor does the nobility of their calling.
In the 1960s and 1970s, an intolerant hippie generation spread their hatred of our military as far as they could and noble servicemembers suffered as a result. Today, police face a similar problem. Legitimate concern about bad cops has fueled widespread animosity against law enforcement for which good cops and innocent Americans are already paying the price.
The Wall Street Journal reports that homicides have increased this year in Milwaukee, Chicago, Kansas City, and Los Angeles, to name a few. Violent crime is at, or near, peak levels in major cities and too often police are told to look the other way.
This is one of many issues that reduces morale. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says officer morale in her city “is down ten-fold.” Joseph Imperatrice, founder of Blue Lives Matter NYC explained, “It’s a really hard time to be a police officer right now,” and said morale among NYC police might be “the worst ever right now.” Morale is imperative to easing tension in the community, maintaining high performance, and reducing mistakes.
Recruitment is another challenge and attracting new officers is getting more difficult. Pulling police from public schools sends the same message as banning military recruiters from campus. It tells kids that public service and military service are a waste of time. “I don’t know of a single police department that’s not having problems recruiting officers,” says Mark Leahy head of the Chiefs of Police Association in Massachusetts.
Retaining police is getting harder. New York City cops are putting in for retirement in record numbers, and the staggering quantity of requests is being met with bureaucratic delay – the police equivalent of the Pentagon’s Stop-Loss policy. When older cops retire in such large numbers, departments lose manpower, experience, and expertise.
Suicide is also a growing problem among police. Patrick Yoes, the National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, says statistics suggest “a police officer will experience more traumatic events in six months than the average person will experience in a lifetime.” This leads to more cases of Post-Traumatic Stress which can lead to more cops taking their own lives.
An estimated 228 current and former police officers committed suicide in 2019 according to the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P. That’s a 32 percent increase over the previous year. Last month, President Trump signed legislation to help authorities better understand this growing problem.
President Bush (41) described public service as a “noble calling,” and said, “we need men and women of character to believe that they can make a difference in their communities.” We’ve got them, and they’re serving with honor, but they won’t be for long if their elected leaders don’t give them the support they deserve.