People, myself included, frequently wonder why police are often so tollerant of the sometimes unjust actions of their fellow police, and why so often internal investigations turn up “no wrongdoing.” Retired police Captain Ray Lewis took up the question, and wrote the following response:
NOTE: This is NOT A JUSTIFICATION for police behavior. It is merely a partial EXPLANATION.
The work conditions of a ghetto cop are constantly confrontational. It is the cruel nature of the job. Even such an incident as a traffic stop is confrontational to different degrees. Did we ever thank a cop for giving us a ticket for speeding, or going through a red light. . . “Thank you officer, for making me aware of my reckless driving. You may have saved my life.” Let me share a response I received from a woman to whom I had given a ticket – “Eat me on my period, and suck my son’s big dick.” I kid you not.
Cops don’t get hired to photograph weddings. However, they do get called to weddings. When? To break up alcohol-fueled reception brawls. They are not hired to entertain frolicking children at birthday parties. When do they often see children? When investigating child abuse scenarios. And trust me, they are most difficult to deal with. They don’t get hired to entertain Senior Citizens at Nursing homes. However, they have much interaction with poverty-stricken Senior Citizens, dementia suffering, starving, and lying in their own waste.
The most prevalent call for a cop is a “Disturbance, House,” almost always fueled by alcohol. It is where one or more of the residents, are in combat. The cop is invariably asked to get the abusive one, out of the house. Seldom do they go willingly, even after repeated respectful requests. In addition, I had more than one bloody and bruised woman pound me on the back, while “escorting” her abusive boyfriend out of the house. She had changed her mind, about having “her man” arrested for assault.
No need to give specifics about the confrontational aspects of cases involving assaults, burglars, armed robbers, carjackers, child abusers, rapists, murderers, etc.
Ghetto policing is a dirty hardcore job. My time as a Capt., Lt., and Patrol Officer, were all spent in the ghetto. Only my four years as a Sgt. were in an affluent district. It is psychologically impossible for these daily conditions to NOT have a hardening effect on an officer’s psyche and sensitivity capability. It is the mind’s auto defense system. The same mechanism that protects us from being paralyzed with acute empathy, to the unconscionable suffering, which we are fully aware of, and surrounds us on a daily basis.
I will put forth ways to deal with this dire predicament, in a future post.
Although this is an important Micro issue, we can NEVER take our eyes off the Macro issue. Which is that ALL street crime is caused by the white collar crimes of the obscenely rich – oppression, discrimination, and exploitation.
There is no other job that creates the camaraderie that police work does… Not even close. Often times cops work in very close proximity and even together, in patrol cars, police wagons, foot beats, SWAT teams, eight hours, on all different shifts, day, evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. In such intimate settings, there is a lot of time to talk… To share personal stories of self, families, dreams, and fears. Cops work together on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, Easter, Thanksgiving, children’s birthdays, anniversaries, Halloween. All the special bonding times that the public shares with their families, cops spend working with their “families.”
Now let me relate several examples, that are quite traumatic, and when shared with other cops, form and strengthen bonds. Cutting down an 11 year old girl, who had hung herself from the home’s bannister, on Christmas Day. . . walking in on, and having to remove a victim, face down, on the dining room table, with an axe still stuck in the back of his head, on Thanksgiving Day…. you and your partner doing CPR together on a 10 year old boy, in the back of a Police Wagon while with lights and sirens, the wagon races to the hospital. Your efforts prove futile. Your partner has a 10 year old son. You spend several hours after work, watching him drinking away the trauma. You end up having to drive him home. These are not normal experiences. On a subliminal level, they create a strong bond, with the one they are shared.
Now, if you understand how that can form a bond, can you imagine the bond formed when on a frequent basis, you are in physical confrontations, and need the help of your partner?
Keep in mind, over a career, a cop has numerous partners where camaraderie and loyalty are developed. And this is IMPORTANT, there is a TRANSFERENCE OF LOYALTY from those you worked with, to those you have never even seen. The only fact that matters is – they’re a COP!
No other non-combat profession – plumbers, teachers, doctors, mechanics, lawyers – face violent encounters, where the help of another is imperative, to surviving to see another day, escaping without serious injury, or hopefully, ending up totally unscathed. In addition, there is NO other profession, that experiences such NUMEROUS physical and violent confrontations of police work, that necessitates the help of a fellow officer, and creates/reinforces, a personal bonding.
Many times a cop working solo, gets into a physical confrontation, or a shootout, where they are overwhelmed physically by a combatant, or by their weaponry. It is at this time, when no other options exist, that the officer will put out the call – “ASSIST,” followed by their location. At this call, every officer in the district, immediately stops what they are doing, and with lights and sirens, speed to their fellow officer’s cry for help. As the one needing help, there is no more of a comforting sound, than hearing those sirens getting louder and louder. The anticipation reaches a crescendo, upon hearing the loud, nearby screeching, of numerous sets of tires, and seeing flashing lights everywhere. Every cop has been on both sides of this adrenaline producing scenario – more than once. You don’t think this forms a cemented, impenetrable bond?
Of course, it is more than just a bond but also the result of internal policies (both official and unofficial). Reducing the level of violence and restoring public trust [check out this article on the subject about how Internal Affairs works, with input from Ray Lewis] in the line of work that we once more commonly called “peace officers” will require more empathy and reflection, especially on the blue side of the line.