The modern police officers of today are certainly poles except the cop of twenty years ago. For one thing, many claim the progressive police are much more specialized and educated than the dinosaurs that walked the streets two decades ago. That may be true, but is that what the public wants?
Currently, I live in the Phoenix, Arizona area and have been teaching criminal justice students who reside in the valley of the sun. In the last five years, I have instructed over 1500 students while discovering their attitudes towards the police is less than distasteful. In some situations, the information hate comes to mind. These students are from all walks of life and all ages. They are not felons or they would not be in a criminal justice program. They are members of the general public.
So, let’s differentiate between the public in general and the criminal component of society. In the world of policing, these two categories are certainly separate. The public in general mostly commit crimes of domestic violence, disturbances, and a traffic violation or two. But, in the world of the criminal, he or she commits crime after crime, probably on a weekly basis.
consequently, the above facts places the individual students of criminal justices programs in the group of general public and not in the category the police refer to as the criminal component of society. One would expect the criminal component to hate the police because they are the individuals who strips away the freedom of the shared criminal. So, why this bad taste for the modern cop of today from many members of the general public?
The today cop lacks the three most important traits a police officer must have to survive, shared sense, compassion, and a sense of humor. All these characteristics should be stressed in every police academy in the country. I am not generalizing that all modern police officers do not posses these necessary traits. I certainly claim many do enjoy the gift, but many have not however begun to already open the wrappings.
The number one problem of today’s modern cop is simple. They follow the law to the letter. I once saw a friend arrested for D.U.I in front of his house during a birthday party. His car was parked on the street and he and some friends were getting some ice from the trunk. An officer arrived, asked for the owner of the car, and if he had the keys to the means in his pocket. He did, but had no intentions of leaving his party. Because he was in the area of the auto and the officer said he had control by having the keys in his pocket, he was arrested. The whole incident cost him three thousand dollars for an attorney to beat the ticket. Now, that is one member of the general public, not the criminal public, who does not like to the police. The letter of the law officers are slowly letting the politicians and police administrations distract a treasured value the old time cop cherished, Discretion. Giving up this right is a big mistake in my view and in the view of most criminologists and experts in the criminal justice field. By not employing this precious gift it is obvious that the “Letter of the Law Officer” will undoubtedly unprotected to more arrest. So, what is this officer accomplishing? Certainly, by not making discretionary arrest would give the officers hundreds of man hours of street time to answer calls and patrol in general. It has been shown time and time again; the insignificant presence of the police deters crime (O.W.Wilson, Cal. Berkley). The truth of the matter is these officers who are wasting their time by following the letter of the law and making minor arrest are truly putting the general public at risk because their presence in the police stations for hours causes other officers to cover twice the amount of beat space.
But, let us not put all the blame on the beat officer alone. Every arrest must be approved by a supervisor at one time or another, either on the field or during check out time. So, why are these supervisors, during some arrest, not recommending the officer re-think his or her choice, if ever there was a choice at all? It all boils down to the mighty buck and the without of aggression by the field sergeant. Questioning officer’s decisions, or without of a decision, might make groups and that is the last thing a sergeant wants on his personnel record. Why? The main goal of all sergeants is to get promoted to lieutenant, no matter what the age. An exception, one has less than one year to retire. The pensions of all police officers are always based on the amount of salary one earns during the last three to five years prior to retirement. I suggest there is a large percentage of sergeants that posse the traits I mentioned earlier in the article. But, being a sergeant is like being in limbo; one cannot wait to get to those pearly gates of lieutenant.
Another reason for the tamed attitude of supervisors and policy makers concerning letter of the law police is probably the main and most important one. It is the money. Eight-five percent of all arrest in this country are settled by plea agreements. In every agreement money is involved. It may be in the form of restitution to the victim, court cost, fines, and fees paid to sub- contracted agencies for the purposes such as anger management, drug testing after conviction, and so on and so on. Many cities and states now charge incarcerated people in jail waiting for trials and guilty parties in prison a dollar amount a day for the pleasure of their stay. Where I live you already have to pay to be on probation, parole, or a diversionary program out of your pocket.
Now, some might say who cares. They committed the crime, admitted guilt to the crime, and now they have to pay for the crime. Those who think in this manner are over looking one crucial issue. If not one person visited a probation department funded by our tax dollars for six months, would that probation officer nevertheless get a paycheck. The answer is yes. Why, because the salaries of all public employees are mandated in the appropriate budget prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. The money is already there and a portion of that money has already been paid by the convicted taxpayer. So, if the convicted are now required to pay so much a month for probation or parole, where does the money go that was already budgeted? Oh, that’s right; they give it back to us. Yeah, in your dreams. This money goes into the general fund. The politicians are responsible for the general fund and they use it as if it was their own. So, the next time you letter of the law officers are making an arrest and acting like robots, just think how thrilled your local politicians are for your donations.