When I entered the police academy in 1989, I was one of the few cadets who didn’t have a familial connection to the law enforcement profession. After graduation, I worked with several officers who had relatives higher up the rank structure. Most were men, but as the years ticked by, more than a few children followed in their mothers’ career footsteps.
Calibre Press, a well-known police tactical and survival training company, recently conducted a poll that asked the question: Would you encourage a son or daughter to go into law enforcement as a career? Of the 3,500 responses, an overwhelming 81% answered no. The number one reason cited was a lack of public support.
This contrasts sharply with a recent Reuters poll that showed 75% of Americans approved of the job performed by their local law enforcement agency.
This dichotomy between how officers are supported and how they perceive they’re supported will have serious downstream repercussions. Are there bad apples in law enforcement? Absolutely. Policing is a position of authority and with that comes the possibility that it will be abused. But if law enforcement is no longer considered a desirable profession by those inside, the quality of recruits and the ability to retain professional officers will suffer.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has spearheaded a wonderful website aimed at prospective officers. The site is a resource that seeks to demystify what policing is all about. It doesn’t sugarcoat the dangers of the profession, but it also points out how to mitigate job hazards through professional training and agency support systems.
I have often been thanked by grateful community members for performing my job. Occasionally, that gratitude was not for something I personally did, but merely for the uniform I wore. I have also been spit on, cursed, attacked, and denigrated for wearing the same uniform. I chose to remember the former, but the latter refuses to be forgotten.
Policing is a noble calling. The majority of communities have strong relationships with the men and women tasked with keeping the peace. We need to continue to recognize the challenges faced by officers. It is the only way to ensure that the type of people we want to respond to our emergencies are actually the ones who show up.