The concept of “de-policing” has been used in the media to describe a de facto police strike, where the police withdraw an aspect of their crime prevention services. It has been suggested that NYPD is engaging in this practice as a result of the officers who were assassinated following the public outrage of the deaths of unarmed, black offenders.
De-policing is a product of morale and morale is a living and breathing animal that is always influx.
For each one of us, there have been times in our careers where we have felt disengaged and disenfranchised because of something that has happened to us personally. My morale has suffered over the years as a result of bad leadership, inequity, and the pressures of the job. When it happens individually, it’s hardly recognizable. If we are resilient, we pick ourselves up, stop feeling sorry for ourselves and move on.
However, when morale affects the collective whole, it is difficult to ignore. In this moment in time, police officers are struggling with the notion that public trust has been eroded. This, along with the very real threat to their lives (even greater than on a typical day) means that officers are suffering an internal struggle that begins with the question, “Why should I even bother?”
Let’s face it, police officers are acutely aware of their image problem. They are responsible for enforcing laws and if you happen to be on the offending end of that scenario, you probably aren’t adding cops to your Christmas card list. The police typically show up when things aren’t going particularly well so they aren’t associated with rainbows and butterflies.
Police don’t enter this profession for recognition and I can promise you that responding to a domestic violence call and thwarting a violent offender rarely results in a thank-you card.
This is why it’s so important that officers find ways to show the community their softer side. By engaging with all members of the community in times of peace, citizens will understand that we have a job to do in times of crisis. When we educate our community by engaging in dialogue with them about our mission and our methods, they better understand why we do what we do. When they understand the “why”, they can accept the “how” while still holding us accountable.
It has always been my philosophy that those with negative views of the police are usually those who are breaking the law. In the aftermath of Ferguson and New York, it suddenly seemed as though the entire world turned their back on us and painted every law enforcement officer with the broad brush as a murderer.
And now, officers are being targeted and killed for no other reason than the uniform they wear.
Why should the police risk their lives for people they don’t even know when even the good citizens question their intentions? The easy answer is that police officers may disengage in some areas but ultimately they will go back to their default. They will get back to work because they understand that the work they do is not for their bosses, but for the citizens of the community that they swore to protect. They will get back to work because they are guardians of the community.
I will speak on behalf of every police officer and say that even though pro-active production is down at NYPD, there is not one cop who won’t rise to action when it’s necessary. Law enforcement officers are people of action and they will not sit idle when duty calls to protect life.
Officers in New York City and all over the United States must realize, however, that the little things will turn into big things if they are ignored for too long. With that, officers have to get back in the game and re-engage. It is in this darkness that we must glow.
The police must rebuild trust with the community one contact at a time and the community has to be reminded that the majority of police officers are selfless human beings committed to upholding laws and protecting the people they serve.
It is not an option to give up. The safety of our respective communities depends upon finding our way through this together.