There are many jobs which require people with certain personality traits or skill sets. Take a surgeon for example. I want a person who is calm and cool-headed, and of course has steady hands. Another perfect example of a job requiring certain skills is that of a police officer. I’m sure in your own life experience you’ve heard someone utter the phrase, “I could never do that job” or “It takes a special kind of person to do that job” when talking about cops. Because of the nature of the work, being a police officer definitely takes someone very special. Police officers need to have the characteristics of an alpha. They need to have a strong personality and a large presence. I would even go so far as to say it’s important they are intimidating. This intimidation factor reminds people that the situation is serious, and keeps them safe since people are less likely to challenge and more likely to obey an officer who is “the authority”. This is vital in emergencies. It’s also important when people’s lives are on the line that an officer is able and willing to engage any threat. However, if you look at the misguided narrative marching front row on “The War on Cops” you will see that much of the criticism against police is that they are TOO violent and use TOO much force. This has led to a trend among law enforcement agencies to be gentler and more passive. Departments would rather have their officers out on the streets handing out donated school supplies, rather than looking for crime. Officers who typically would engage a suspect are now reluctant to act, because they know they could be moments away from being splashed across every television screen in America.
Compounding the now-reluctant-to-act alpha problem is police departments changing their selection process to identify and select officers whose first instinct is to smile at people involved in a fight rather than to yell commands. As a result, some of the officers who are now being appointed are people that will likely not engage when needed. With the proliferation of video cameras, we can find more and more examples of police officers not taking action. The video at the top of this article went viral on Facebook this week and involves a sheriff’s deputy from San Joaquin County. Many comments about this video have had a similar tone of “looks like he should have picked a different job” or “he shouldn’t be a cop.” Yet had the officer tackled and used more force to subdue the suspect in this incident, those same people would be typing things like, “Police brutality!” and “There was no need to punch that guy. Cops are dicks!” It’s classic, 'Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.' I believe the masses would agree today that the pacification of police officers is a good thing, especially after being barraged with headlines daily from the media. Of course, I disagree. I’ve seen how the pacification of police officers really affects the community. I know of officers who were hired despite being too passive for the job. These are the same officers who continue running radar, while an emergency call for help comes out a few blocks away, because they don’t want to get involved in the fight. These are officers who never seem to show up first on a call. These are officers who purposefully delay their arrival to in-progress calls, so as to avoid confrontation. They would much rather take a report, than have to go hands-on with a suspect. I don’t think I need to explain or argue much further to illustrate how a passive police force directly translates to you being less safe. Especially if you should find yourself in a position where your physical safety is threatened and you need an officer to come save you. Understand that NO use of force by a police officer is ever going to look good on video. Even justified use of force is not pretty in any way. But that should not negate the fact that it’s sometimes necessary. That’s a tough dichotomy to rectify. The hiring of more passive police officers, is going to be a problem for this country. Departments should still be identifying and hiring people who will do what is necessary when needed. Equally as important (and currently not being done very well or often) is that police executives and city officials should be quick to publicly defend and articulate the circumstances and use of force to the public, in instances after officers have to do their job and make the difficult, split-second decisions. When it comes to the type of officer you want out on the street, the choice is simple—when it’s you or a loved one that’s in a fight for your life or you are trying to get an assailant off of you, do you want the officer who is going to come and save you or the one who is just going to take the report afterwards?
**Steve Warneke is a retired Denver Police sergeant, police expert, consultant, speaker and author of From Boy To Blue. Find more from Steve at www.SteveWarneke.com.