A police officer opens up about the current state of police mistrust in the country
Pundits, news anchors, analysts, protesters and the entire Internet have all had the opportunity to comment openly about the current state of distrust between minority communities and the police force patrolling them.
With all of the noise accumulating in the echo chamber of the new media landscape, the public rarely hears from the men and women serving on the front lines — especially those who aren’t connected to these specific incidences yet still have to deal with the fallout from the negative media attention.
From the fear of having their families targeted to increased concern for personal danger, police officers are put in the uncompromising position of upholding a civic duty while facing growing animosity from the same people they hope to help.
We sat down with a female police officer who has been on the force for 9 years. She agreed to speak with us anonymously as to not speak on behalf of her department. Here is that conversation.
What’s your current title?
"My title as of now is an Impact Detective. Impact deals with all violent crimes and all other felony level crimes. We investigate all shootings, stabings and batteries that meet great bodily harm but don't end in homicide. We also investigate larceny, white collar and all other crimes that reach the felony level."
What made you want to become a police officer?
"I have always wanted to be a police officer. From a young age, I was intrigued with the law and providing justice. I wanted to do a job that I felt good about doing, but also included a bit of intensity and self guidance.
It's sad to think that now when I go out into public I don't want people knowing I am a cop because I don't want my family to be a target. If I'm in uniform it's one thing I am prepared for, but dinner with the family is not where I want to be confronted."
What do you think about the recent "epidemic" of police shootings? Is it your feeling that there's a real problem, or do you think the media is just now beginning to cover it more?
"There have always been more police shootings than people knew about or gave any attention to. The media has been a factor in projecting this topic into the spotlight, however, if the media reported only on the facts, we would not have the huge race battle and protests we do now.
When people look at statistics now, they think police are killing people left and right. But different police shootings are categorized differently. How many of the police shootings have been attacks on police officers? How many of the shootings have been suicide by cop? How many of the shootings involved persons with firearm who pointed or shot at police? What percentage of the shootings are unjust? Should the officer be held responsible for his or her actions? Absolutely, and so should the person they are dealing with. The world is a more demanding place now.
Our world has continuously become a more violent place. Police have to face the violence hourly, shift by shift. I would like to see someone complete a study on how many calls police respond to where it could have potentially lead to a shooting but resulted peacefully. How many of the police shootings could have ended differently if the person simply followed the directions of the officer?"
In light of the current climate, how is being a cop now different than it was a few years ago? What has changed both in terms of police culture and training?
"As I mentioned before, you now have to be aware that you are or maybe are a target of an attack. Officers have always had their heads on a swivel due to the nature of the job, but now things are on a whole new level of personal danger — it's crazy to think about. On a positive note, I still feel the support from the community. Most police supporters are silent however, they don't feel the need to be loud and voice their opinion every second they can. Their opinion is shown with actions of respect. Respect for police and respect for the laws we are sworn to uphold. They support us by not breaking the law, by not being disrespectful when approached, they support us by simply saying thanks and considering how difficult this job truly is.
Our training has increased; the more training the better. Officers are being taught more about de-escalation techniques, reading people's body language, community police outreach programs (meaning more involved in the community showing your face more, not just when your taking law enforcement action). This is helpful but people must realize as hard as one might try, you can never simulate real life. There are too many unknown factors that may occur — it's impossible. Only the officer that is in the moment knows what they see and feel — no one else. A video of an incident is only one very small piece to unseen puzzle."
What do you think of countries like Britain where cops do not carry guns at all?
"In Britain the justice system has been able to keep cops and the people safe. Here in the US it has failed. Time and time again people who have committed horrible crimes are released, only to become repeat offenders. Our government has failed us, only to support people who have no accountability for themselves. It's always someone else's fault. We have become a country who points the finger at others instead of taking responsibility for our actions. Until people restore their morals, police have job security and need to be armed while doing it."
Do you feel there is institutionalized racism within the force?
"I know there are police who are racist, however I personally have never worked with someone who was or with someone who made race a factor when conducting their job. Over all I don't believe there is a problem with race. There has been many studies completed that show the opposite (The Washington Post and Harvard have done studies just to name a few). The media has turned this into a race thing."
Do you think police these days are too quick to shoot?
"I think it's the opposite now. I think cops are scared to do their jobs. They are afraid that if they have to shoot someone while in the line of duty they may lose their job or be charged with murder. I think if anything they are more hesitant. This is my opinion from conversations I have had with many of my coworkers."
Under what circumstances are you trained to use deadly force?
"If someone is armed with a deadly weapon and they present themselves as a deadly force, it's our job to stop the action."
How have things like body and dash cams and other civilian footage changed the way you interact with suspects?
"No, I still do my job the same way I always have. The cameras are in my favor, until there is a malfunction. Then it's twisted into the crime never happening."
There's a growing criticism of increased police brutality in the US, what do you say to these critics?
"I would like the critics to look at each incident independently and consider every factor before making a judgment. Never jump to a conclusion without knowing the facts. Things are not always how they appear.
Go on a police ride along in rough part of the city, see what the police with everyday. It might give a new perspective."
Is there a solution to the current state of distrust between the police and the black communities?
"We just have to keep doing our jobs. We have to believe that good will prevail, that’s the reason we do what we do because we believe in what is right. The last few protests were incidents of black cops shooting black suspects; it's beyond race now."