Imagine A Day in the Life of a Cop

by | Apr 23, 2021 |

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As Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), describes it, ‘‘So, you know, getting up every morning, putting on your uniform and sort of thinking out loud, ‘What’s today going to be like?'”

”All I can tell you is that we need humane, good police,” Wexler says. ”But we also have to think about the cops themselves who get up every morning, put on that uniform and have to deal with some of the most difficult problems in society, risk their lives, risk losing their reputation.”

So, imagine yourself in the day of a police officer, regardless of your skin color, gender, educational, or military background.

Nationwide, there’s about a 15% likelihood that you’re Black (compared with 12% of the overall population) and a 13% chance you’re female.

More than half of all police hold a 2-year associate degree, nearly a third hold a 4-year degree, and more than 5% hold a graduate degree. Slightly more than one-third (35%) of the general public hold a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.

In addition, you’ve probably passed at least 20 weeks of state-sponsored police academy training tests.

About 20% are military veterans, compared with only 6% of the general population.

There’s a good chance that you’re married. If so, it’s also likely that you have a family that you love, are proud of, and who look up to you.

Your kids probably think you’re brave and that you help people. Your spouse likely worries when they hear about a violent incident in your community, wondering if you are still okay.

When you leave your house in the morning, you don’t know what to expect, either.

You’ve seen it all: horrendously gruesome human traffic wreckage; neglected, endangered children of absentee parents; depressing physical and psychological spousal abuse; incoherent, unruly alcoholics and addicts; carjackings, home burglaries, and armed robberies; victims and perpetrators of gang violence; people in every conceivable variety of medical and criminal threat distress calling out for an immediate response from you.

You will often be among the first to witness the event — the first dispatched to the scene — the one whose ”job” it will be to respond decisively, correctly, bravely, compassionately, ”by the rules,” every time, and every day.

Sometimes things go terribly wrong. Sometimes people are even tragically killed through wrongful, accidental, or necessary use of deadly force.

Bad, life-threatening situations happen fast. Mistakes happen in split seconds.

Maybe it’s not your fault, not even another police officer’s fault. Nevertheless, in either case, it reflects badly on you — on the way the public treats you — perhaps even on the way your children are being influenced to view you.

Premised most particularly upon ”systemic racism” charges fueled by political opportunists and media pundits, rampant anti-police sentiment and condemnation have rapidly swept through broad areas of many great American cities. This is occurring despite the fact that many of America’s most prominent crime-incidence cities have Black mayors: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New Orleans, Newark, and San Francisco.

In addition, 21 of 50 of the largest U.S. cities have police departments headed by Black men and women chiefs.

Expansively televised protests and riots following lethal police actions against racial minority individuals — whether or not ultimately confirmed by the evidence of error — have provoked a response termed the Ferguson effect. This phenomenon occurred following the justified 2014 police shooting of a Black man in Ferguson, Missouri, when a police officer who was beaten by an unarmed Black man used his firearm in self-defense. Protests and riots ensued afterward.

The Ferguson effect is attributed to causing responding officers to hesitate and question their judgment in situations where the use of deadly force would be both proper and vital.

Hesitation to respond inevitably causes police to become the victims. Many worried spouses’ worst fears become confirmed.

National police deaths are on the rise. Last year, 358 police officers were killed in the line of duty, the deadliest year for police officers since 1974. That is more than double the number of police officers killed in 2019.

Overall, U.S. crime rates, including homicides, are also soaring… particularly in cities that are inexplicably slashing police budgets following protests over the death of George Floyd. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges connected to that tragic occurrence.

Speaking of Minneapolis, homicides skyrocketed over 270% between July 2020 when the city’s police budget was cut and this past February compared with the same time period last year; Portland, Oregon, reported a 1,600% increase in murders during the first two months of this year over 2020 when its police budget was cut; New York City murders are up 11.8% year-to-date as of March 21 after its City Council slashed $1 billion from NYPD’s budget, and Los Angeles murders are up 28.3% as of last March 13 over the same 12-month reporting period last year.

Defunding police means that fewer of them are available to protect us — that those who remain become overworked – that reduced numbers of young, and that more diverse new hires will spark changes within policing cultures.

Police morale, overall, has also taken a hit.

The NYPD, for example, saw a 411% increase in police filings for retirement over the previous year between June 29 to July 2020.

Sgt. Betsy Smith with the National Police Association reports that movements to defund the police are scaring away new recruits: ”We have a shortage of police officers in America because who would want to do this job anymore.”

And, after all, who would?

Why would proud people wish to endure or watch fellow officers be spat on and cursed as ”pigs” by ”peaceful protesters” carrying ”ACAB” (”All Cops Are Basxxxds”) signs — watching vandals, looters and arsonists they arrest immediately released back to the streets without charges or bonds by spineless politicians and feckless courts — worrying whether they will be the next individuals to be featured on the next viral YouTube video using excessive, potentially lethal force when their own life is endangered?

Why would anyone choose to be a cop today?

Maybe because there really are lots of brave and compassionate people, just as their children and spouses believe to be true.

Maybe the rest of us should also deeply respect and appreciate those dedicated professionals we first call on when situations get urgent.

And maybe it’s time to show that we defend them in return.

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Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the space architecture graduate program. He is the author of several books, including "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), and "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles."

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