Don’t be A Cop?


Don’t be A Cop?

Anyone who follows criminal justice news on a daily basis knows that there are dozens of newspaper articles focusing on the problem of recruiting police officers. The one cited below is simply the most recent.

As one commentator stated after the indictment of six police officers in Baltimore after riots pertaining to the Freddie Gray case, “Every wife and girlfriend, every husband and boyfriend is telling their loved one’s to get out of the Baltimore City Police Department, and to get out now.” Similar conversations are happening in other cities.

I note that an article on this site states that Baltimore now has the largest growth in homicides of the cities measured by recent US Department of Justice funded data. Rising rates of homicides and violence are happening in cities throughout the county.

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Why Others Don’t Write About This?

I fully understand that as soon as I say the above, there are endless racial, political or class considerations that cause many (most) of us to retreat into our corners. See new research from Pew at, but race is just one factor in an issue loaded with endless interchangeable parts.

For some, the indictment of the officers in Baltimore was an unethical, illegal, crass move to make a political statement that completely disregarded human rights and the US Constitution.

For others, it’s a righteous proclamation of power to address and rectify endless inequities within our criminal justice system.

I’m tempted to offer further qualifiers as to why I’m not an evil, uncaring SOB for writing this but in doing that, I would spend 1,000 words in justification and completely lose track of what could be one of the most significant social problems of our time, rising violent crime and the possible destruction of our cities.

Rising rates of violent crime are linked by many commentators (including the head of the FBI) to cops not willing to take risks. The inference is that officers are sitting back while they contemplate new careers or transfers to police departments or communities where, they believe, their role is supported.

The animosity regarding the above statement will come from all sectors of society accusing me of ignoring one of the most pressing social problems of our time to others who will insist that cops aren’t “holding back.”

So What Do We Do?

We condemn the stupid or brutal actions of bad cops, and after being a police officer, I can assure you they they exist.

But are we willing to paint all police officers with a broad brush? It seems that we are. Citing recent statements from people in the entertainment industry condemning cops would take another 1,000 words.

Gallup reported in 2015 that public perceptions of police officers had reached its lowest point in 22 years.

So given the current climate, why would anyone be willing to be a police officer?

If people refuse to serve as officers or are reluctant to meaningfully engage in our cities, the consequences are enormous.

Time for a Conversation?

We always say after uncomfortable social problems that, “It’s an opportunity for a new conversation.”

Good luck with that. Once you get through the role of race and class, the proper role of a police officer, what you want cops to do, where you want them to do it, the role of the community in crime control (I thought that my criminological training stated that crime was principally a community, not a governmental responsibility), cops as warriors or guardians (we seem to insist that they be both) and endless other factors, the mud pit will be wide and inescapable.

My Solutions

If we want cops to do the impossible (warrior/guardian/facilitator/unbiased arbitrator/unquestionably fair and polite social servants), we had better be prepared to do the following:

Recruit police officers with exhaustive tests for integrity, fairness and intelligence

Pay them a minimum of $50,00 to start, quickly reaching $75,000 within five years and $100,000 within ten

Provide a minimum of six months of basic training

Allow them to opt out of street enforcement due to stressors in their life

Provide a minimum of two months of vacation a year

Provide them with four weeks of retraining every year

Have a written contract with every community in the US as to what they want cops to do and how they want them to do it


If we are really serious about cops being held to a standard that few of us would be willing to undertake (which is why we can’t get people to be police officers) then we better be prepared to pay for the service we demand.

If not, the viability of our cities is threatened with new waves of violence.

To suggest that thousands of lives hang in the balance is an understatement.

As Police-Community Relations Wane, Fewer Seek Officer Jobs

Because fewer young people in Delaware are considering policing as a profession, police departments are placing a stronger emphasis on recruiting, reports the Wilmington News Journal. “There’s a decrease in applicants in general, and it’s not just a Delaware problem,” said New Castle County police Capt. Laura O’Sullivan. “Twenty years ago you were competing with 1,000 people for 15 spots, and today you certainly have to push harder to get more applicants to come in.” Some departments have lowered standards because of the smaller applicant pools, like Philadelphia’s, which is about to remove college education requirements. Steps like this have prompted concerns that the quality of officers will suffer over time.

“It’s not really a leap of logic to say down the road you could have a problem,” said Nelson Lim of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies police recruiting for the Rand Corporation. Interest in policing has waned as relationships have soured between cops and residents and as private sector jobs became more abundant with the end of the 2008 recession. Jeffrey Horvath of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Association said nearly every department statewide is facing some kind of recruiting challenge, whether it is attracting enough applicants or enough recruits who match the racial makeup of the area they will patrol. “When I was hired in 1984, I think there were 200 people for two openings. Now you might get 40 or 50,” he said. Wilmington News Journal

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  1. […] recently offered an article titled, “Don’t be A Cop?” at where we addressed the impact of protests, the willingness of people to be police officers, and […]

  2. […] recently offered an article titled, “Don’t be A Cop?” at where we addressed the impact of police protests and the willingness of people to be police […]

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