An Ideal View: The Police
From what it seems, the current police training method is designed to remove a “sense of self” from the recruit. The previous identity is stripped away and replaced with a personality that can be much different from who they were as a civilian. With the police badge, uniform, and gun being universal symbols of power. When an individual puts on the uniform, they assume all of the authority that comes with it.
This is an alarming amount of power for any person to have. Most people are already compliant with the law because the law often coincides within what is moral. Even though the law is no substitute for what is moral and what is moral is no substitute for the law; still there are many parallels, so that much “force projection” is overkill most of the time.
With that being said, because of their line of work, police officers cannot gamble on the chance that a person is not dangerous. If 1 out of 20 people are not compliant or dangerous, then the officer has a 5% chance of running into someone who may harm them or someone else just to avoid a sentence. If the officer makes 10 stops a day and is without adequate “force projection”, then they are most likely severely injured or dead within 2 days of work…so while it may be overkill, it is completely necessary.
Which brings me to this, cops need to be screened more vigilantly and trained more thoroughly. Police officers have the duty to keep the peace, enforce the law, protect people and property, and investigate crimes. In order to do that efficiently, they require a certain amount of obedience and cooperation from the public…so it becomes paramount that the police officers themselves be exceptional. The behavior of a police officer should reflect what he/she would find to be the ideal behavior of the public. An officer should exercise caution with the application of the power they have been given.
In my opinion, every police officer should be slow to anger, quick to react, and in control of their own fear/insecurities. They should be highly trained, and should only respond with lethal force if the threat of lethal force is present…and this should be the standard.
If a recruit thinks that they cannot operate under such standard, then they should not seek to become an officer. If an officer has shown poor judgment which results in a civilian or officer being needlessly harmed, then they have proven themselves incompetent, and they should be removed from further service. If an officer has misused their authority and influence, then they have abused the trust of the public and have failed to “keep the peace” by creating a state of unrest.
Donning the police uniform and wielding the power that comes with it contributes to what is known as the “police personality”. Some officers leave the police personality at the job, others take it with them everywhere they go, all the time.
This fosters a certain type of camaraderie between officers because they’re united in a common goal and face similar risks. In many ways, the police personality serves to insulate officers from the rest of society. It creates an “us versus them” mentality. Officers must trust each other to provide assistance and back each other up in their efforts to maintain control. They develop strong bonds of loyalty to ensure that they will be there for each other.
As it is written, this could lead to serious problems. The mentality of “us versus them”, while true, is often correlated with “good guys versus bad guys”…with the police being the good guys, and everyone else is a potential bad guy. This can be taken one step further by mistakenly simplifying it into “good versus evil”.
This is dangerous because of the aforementioned police insulation. It assumes that a police officer cannot be a bad guy, and therefore can do no evil. Currently, as a country, the U.S. has adopted somewhat of a “get it done” culture. We’re getting away from morality for the sake of generating results…so it makes for turbulent times when the police believe that societal order depends upon the good guys winning — at any cost.
This sentiment is what pushes “good cops” over the edge. It is tragic and at the same time beautiful in a sense — to be so passionate about your mission that you become delusional. But it is that same delusion that makes “corrupt cops” potentially more dangerous than criminals, because they often aren’t aware that they’ve become a part of the bad guys; but they still operate under the guise of a benevolent officer. The police force has difficulty handling officers and situations like this, again, because of insulation.
Because the police have a responsibility to maintain the peace, they’re often subject to public scrutiny despite the limited authority they may have. With the interest of protecting each other, they’ve adopted some sort of Code of Silence…they either don’t talk about it — offering no transparency for the public; or they rationalize his behavior, and say that he was stressed out, under a lot of pressure, or that he’s only human or something along those lines. Anything to exonerate him/her from public scorn and keep the trust of the people.
What I believe is this, a sense of brotherhood is important…but it should only extend to those who serve well. The moment an officer is found to be corrupt or abusing power at the detriment of the public, is the moment they are no longer a brother in arms. They have in fact betrayed the brotherhood, founded on the fundamental axiom of utilitarianism from which the modern police force is based: it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong. The sense of loyalty shouldn’t extend to the person per se, it should extend to those who haven’t broken their oath. It is the oath, the sworn promise to uphold your duties, that should unite the officers.
This ties in with the statement that I made earlier: the behavior of a police officer should reflect what he/she would find to be the ideal behavior of the public. I worded it this way because I felt it important for the reader (you) to understand that a police officer shouldn’t receive any special treatment that a civilian wouldn’t get…so the “code of silence” should be null. An officer who had erred in their service should be tried as a civilian, and the public should know about it, just as if they were a criminal. If the infraction is not major, then they should be punished accordingly and fairly, but they will be barred from further service no matter how serious the offense.
It sounds harsh, but in my opinion being a police officer should not be easy. I believe that the majority of recruits and people currently serving as officers, shouldn’t be officers. It is truly a job for the select few. In those regards, it becomes important to retain those select few because they are such a minority.
This is why I move for a service schedule that operates similar to a soldier’s “tour of duty”. I believe that all officers should be informed of the present status of affairs, but shouldn’t be actively serving at all times. Constant service is constant pressure, and it will eventually lead to anxiety, which eventually leads to mistakes. It doesn’t behoove a police force, to keep their officers in the field constantly…so I think they should only work the field in predetermined time blocks and have other assignments issued to them in the meantime.