Mimesis Law
3 April 2020

Blame Misconduct, Not Scrutiny, For Police Recruitment Problems

Apr. 19, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — You should always act like your grandmother is watching. Why? Because if your actions would survive grandma’s scrutiny, they probably won’t cause you too much trouble. It’s a good rule and applies to just about everybody.

Not everybody likes scrutiny, from grandma or anyone else. Police in particular are growing fed up with being called out about their missteps. Whether it’s paralyzing a man or shooting a man in the back or manufacturing evidence, seems like the public is always complaining about little mistakes by the folks in blue. And now that everybody carries around their own little video camera, those complaints are turning into actual facts.

A report in the Post and Courier this past weekend discussed the effect this scrutiny is having on the recruitment efforts of law enforcement agencies around Charleston, South Carolina.

With controversial deaths and high-profile allegations of brutality nationwide, policing has had a rough few years, and that’s starting to show in recruitment of new law officers in the Charleston area, officials said.

It sure has been a rough couple of years for policing. Of course, based on those same stories, it’s also been a rough couple of years for the policed. It’s one thing to be accused of brutality or unnecessarily killing someone who got in the way of the new militarized police force. But it also sucks to be on the receiving end of the beat down or the hail of bullets, so it’s not really fair to say this is only affecting law enforcement.

The problem certainly isn’t limited to the lowcountry of South Carolina. Nationwide, police morale is feeling the effect of hit after hit from the public and the media. Chicago, in particular, is suffering from severe morale problems in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. Laquan was shot in the street for no apparent reason, so at least their morale is not as low as his.

What’s going on? Are the police really being treated so unfairly they can’t get people to even apply to join their ranks? According to the Chicago Tribune reports, it’s just an unfair perception.

The release of disturbing video of a white officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, exposed decades of simmering anger over police mistreatment and abuse of Chicago citizens in some of the poorest, most disadvantaged areas. The officer was charged with murder, the police superintendent was fired and a federal investigation was launched.

The result has been a precipitous drop in morale among Chicago police officers, according to Tribune interviews with numerous officers of different ranks. The cops described confusion over how they are supposed to do even basic police work, frustration over mixed messages coming from bosses and concern that they will be the next headline.

“Those of us who really care and are trying to do something for the city, we’re walking the tightrope,” said the gang officer, who ordinarily would have patted down the driver who cursed him out but decided not to risk a complaint of harassment. “Everything we do is perceived as rogue right now.”

In a nutshell, that is the problem with policing right now. There is an utter refusal to take responsibility for anything. Chicago police are concerned their name will be in the next headline? How about concern for the person who didn’t need to be gunned down in the middle of the street? That’s not a “perception” problem. It’s a “bullets hitting someone for no reason” problem. Read the headlines. These aren’t heroic cops who are being martyred in the new liberal, criminal-friendly media. These are agents of the government who decided to kill someone, beat someone, or lie about someone for no reason.

Low morale could understandably come from unfair accusations. But low morale from accurate accusations? That’s just whining. South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy spokesperson Florence McCants blames the people, not the police.

“It’s also really hard to be a part of the profession that we love so much but hear people criticize,” she said. “Why would they want to do this job for people who don’t appreciate it?”

She may have a point. There is lot people aren’t appreciating about the police these days. Shootings. Body cavity searches. More shootings. Lying. More shootings. Beatings. And yes, more shootings.

The solution is pretty simple. Stop shooting people. Stop lying in court. Stop searching people in a manner more in line with a rape than a frisk. Guess what happens then? People start to think of you the way you want to be thought of. People stop being scared and start feeling like you are part of the community. Maybe be a bit less Barney Fife and a bit more Andy Griffith.

Instead, police throw around terms like the “Ferguson Effect” and talk about how they can’t do their job now that they are being filmed. That’s sad. It’s unlikely the rash of police misconduct we have seen lately mysteriously appeared at the same time cell phone video cameras appeared in everybody’s pockets. It’s far more likely police abuse of citizens has gone unchecked because it was never scrutinized.

Now it is being scrutinized. That’s a good thing. Because scrutiny is never the problem. It’s what it reveals. And if revealing the bad is hurting morale, the wrong people are policing us. More importantly, if it’s hurting recruiting, the wrong people are being recruited.

Tyrece Mitchell, the police recruit at the center of the Post and Courier’s report, says he is ready for the difficult job of law enforcement.

Mitchell knows the dangers and criticism he could face in his new job. But he’s ready. Besides, he said, his mom taught him the morals to deal with it.

That’s a good start. Mom’s morals surely can’t steer you wrong. Act the way she taught you to, and all that scrutiny won’t reveal a thing.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • DaveL
    19 April 2016 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Yes, blaming the people calling out bad behavior, rather than those actually behaving badly, didn’t turn out to be a winning PR strategy for the Roman Catholic Church, and it’s unlikely to be more successful for police in America.

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