And when all else fails, the police apologist may say something like, “But they have to put up with so much out there on the streets. I’m not saying that it’s good, but for the amount that they have to deal with, I can’t say I blame them for snapping sometimes.”
The point trying to be made is that the police have been dealt a tough hand and have to go through so much without being able to do much of anything about it.
It may sound good, but it’s a load of garbage.
What is actually being said is that the police have no obligation (or at least the obligation has been severely narrowed) to take any accountability for their actions and their jobs. It places the burdens of the job on everyone else. In almost any other profession, someone expressing these opinions about themselves would be told to shut up and make their lot in life better if they are unhappy.
I am not suggesting that being a police officer is easy. I have never been one, but I do know that every job has its difficulties and every employee gets frustrated at work. Most employers would never tolerate their employees lashing out at the customers—it would likely lead to discipline or being fired. If you often feel like you’re ready to verbally or physically assault your coworkers or clients, you had better find another kind of job. Maybe you’re not cut out for a certain line of work. I know that I would not be good in jobs where I was the punching bag for angry and indignant customers. I could only take so much before returning some choice words.
Likewise, if you are the kind of person who would not be able to handle the stresses and frustrations that come with being a police officer without assaulting the citizens you’ve sworn to protect, then being a police officer is not the right job for you.
Of course, the response to this will be “But a lot of people just don’t like the police and don’t respect them!” This is where the next step of personal accountability comes into play. Do we honestly think that people wake up one day and decide that they want to hate the police? Sure, there may be some people who will just hate the police no matter what, but as the old adage goes, you reap what you sow. Maybe if the police treated the people in their communities a little better, they might get treated a little better in return. If a person’s experience with the police is mostly bad, any future interaction is going to be expected to be bad as well. This does not excuse a person from being rude or nasty to a police officer who doesn’t deserve it, so those bad interactions do not help a police officer’s expectations of how the next one might go either.
More significant than the annoyances that police work entails is the higher potential of being involved in violence than many other occupations. But again, asking others to keep you safe is a recipe for being put in harm’s way. In my own life, my job also has the potential to be much more dangerous than the average job. My company does a pretty good job of doing its best to keep me and the rest of their employees safe, but at the end of the day, it is up to me to make sure I’m not in dangerous situations. If confronted with a dangerous situation that I cannot correct myself, I tell my superiors about it. If they were to ever refuse to do anything about it, I would still do something about it.
The police’s bosses, local governments made up of politicians and bureaucrats, are the people who are responsible for creating the laws that the police are tasked to enforce. With many of these laws, there is no victim when the law is broken, so the only thing “wrong” with breaking the law is that you broke the law. This creates criminals out of otherwise harmless people and makes more opportunities for confrontation. Any time a police officer engages someone, he increases the chance that a violent situation will occur. For the sake of argument, let’s say that there is a 10% chance that someone will pull a gun on a police officer during an arrest. If a police officer arrests 10 people in a month, the likelihood that he has a gun pulled on him is significantly lower than if he arrests 100 people in a month. They should let their local governments know that they are not comfortable with being put in dangerous situations unnecessarily.
But we know that in all likelihood the local governments will not listen to them (they’re probably making too much money off the enforcement of victimless crimes). In this case, police officers should just not enforce laws that unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way. A good rule of thumb would be if you’re not preventing someone from being harmed or are not tracking a person who harmed someone, it’s best to let it alone. Now there is a good chance that doing this would mean disciplinary action or even losing your job (especially if you are doing this on your own), so you have to ask yourself the following question: what’s more important, your job or your life?
The police should be treated no differently than anyone else. If police officers want positive change in their work lives, then the first people they should look at to make that change happen is themselves.