This was recently sent to The Armstrong & Getty Show...
Borrowed from a former local Sheriff. Another one of the good ones saying what many of us feel ...
"I am deeply profoundly sad that we aren't good enough”
I’m willing to talk about my opinions and experiences. For many of my friends and family, I know that I’m the only cop you know.
First, some caveats. I can only speak for myself, not my department. I won’t even be using my agency’s name, or the names of surrounding agencies, because frankly, they’re not relevant. With a few notable exceptions, I haven’t seen many people expressing opinions about specific agencies; instead, I’m seeing a lot of generalities being applied to “all cops.”
Second, I’m going to do my best to remain objective but I have to be honest: it’s a lot harder than usual right now not to get emotional. I’ve made it a point my entire career to remember that no matter how horrible the things that someone may be yelling at me are, they’re talking to the badge and not to ME. But it’s a little harder to not take it personally when it’s some of your oldest friends calling you a murdering-racist-by-proxy. Especially when working BUCKETS of overtime trying to keep a city from burning down, while also trying to make sure that the righteous message of the protest is heard.
Because, of course, I believe in the underlying message. Most cops believe in that message. We swore an oath to that message: that EVERYONE’S life matters, and that that is especially true for those who have the least and are the most vulnerable. That means that, yes, undoubtedly, Black lives matter. And most of us remember that oath, and most of us live it.
No one hates bad cops more than good cops. This isn’t 1933. Corruption isn’t rampant, there isn’t some grand nationwide conspiracy. There’s just guys and gals, trying to do the impossible job that y’all keep telling us to do. You keep sending us out there, with more and more confusing mandates. You keep cutting our funding, and asking why our training isn’t better. You keep cutting mental health services and then asking why we, the ONLY PEOPLE who are absolutely required to respond to a call for help, are the ones to respond to a call for help for a mental health crisis. You keep letting people out of jail and then being surprised when that somehow doesn’t lower crime. You keep telling us not to “generate revenue” by making traffic stops, and then wonder why the roads are so dangerous. You keep calling us for problems that are OBJECTIVELY not police problems, and then being angry that we either (a) cannot provide a solution, or (b) provide a police solution.
You keep insisting we be everything to everyone at all times, and you keep getting mad at us when we are merely human.
So yes, let’s talk about police reform. Because I AGREE. WE NEED IT. We need to fund teams of crisis workers who can be called to deal with homelessness and related petty crime – crimes of SURVIVAL, rather than convenience or malice. We need to fund mental health services AND fix legislative loopholes and roadblocks so that we can provide help to those who need it… and we need to have a serious discussion about providing some of that help against their will.
We need ASTOUNDINGLY better social services. We need many times the number of child welfare caseworkers and caring foster homes, and we need detailed, ongoing follow-up systems for every interaction. We need those systems to braid with schools at all levels, and, while we’re at it, we need to fund schools to a much, much greater degree.
We need a parole and probation system that isn’t just a “gotcha” program to incrementally jail people, and instead is a real opportunity for caseworkers to work collaboratively with convicts to better their lives. We need much, much less stick and much, much more carrot. And that’s just scratching the surface of the things we need.
But here’s the thing. Police agencies are already critically understaffed. We don’t have the personnel to do all the jobs you ask us to do. And you keep asking us to do jobs that we really aren’t trained for, and most of us aren’t temperamentally suited for. And you keep insisting that every single one of us, like some sort of factory-produced drone, be equally good at all the things you want us to do. That’s ignoring basic human realities. To use just one analogy, a good school doesn’t insist that the English teacher also teach chemistry, math, history, and orchestra; coach soccer and football and run the AV club; and act as the nurse and entire cafeteria crew. And yet you keep insisting that street cops be medics and social workers and soldiers and detectives and counselors and therapists and surrogate parents and lawyers and…
…and we can’t.
We just can’t.
So please. PLEASE take some of that away from us. Please find someone else to respond to the homeless man on the corner. Please find someone else to respond to the suicidal ex-soldier. Please find someone else to make the death notification to the parents of the teenager who just killed herself in a car crash on her way back from prom. Please find someone else to go check on the child who usually plays outside at this time of day but you haven’t seen since his dad got home slamming-doors angry. Please find someone else to help his battered wife escape her relationship. Please find someone else to keep that troubled pre-teen from slipping fully into a life of crime before he can even drive.
I’m begging you. Please.
But until you do… until you do, we’ll keep coming. Every time you call. And we’ll keep doing our best with the tools you’ve given us, in the system you’ve built for us. We’ll keep showing up, because no one else…
NO ONE. FUCKING. ELSE.
…is *required* to. We are the only ones in our entire society who are duty-bound and sworn to show up when you call, no matter how little we want to or how poorly we are trained for that situation. And I am deeply, profoundly sorry that we aren’t good enough. I am heartbroken when one of us makes a fatal mistake or has a catastrophic lapse in judgment. And I am ashamed to my core that some of us turn bad, or maybe always were bad and the rest of us didn’t catch it in time.
I wish we could be perfect. I desperately, painfully wish we could be everything you want us to be. But we’re just human, and I know that isn’t enough. So please, WORK WITH US to improve the systems. The systems, plural, not just “the police.” We didn’t underfund your schools and we didn’t shut down your mental health systems and we didn’t approve your shitty foster parents and we didn’t hand out those wildly disproportionate prison sentences and we didn’t crash the stock market and we didn’t sit on the college admissions boards and we didn’t gerrymander your voting districts and we didn’t disenfranchise so many of you and we didn’t pass any of those drug laws.
We’re working in the system you built for us. We know it’s broken. For fuck sake, we probably know it’s broken BETTER THAN YOU.
Yes. We have to do better. I know. Most of us do. Most of us WANT to! But so do you. Yes, you. We all do, and we have to do better TOGETHER.
Otherwise, we’ve wasted this. And all of this passion and all of this energy and all of this hate and all of this destruction and all of this terror and all of this momentum and all of this bleak bitter poisonous wonderful HOPE will be for nothing.
And none of us can afford for that to be the case.