An Absolutely Terrible Idea

The other day I saw the headline of a newspaper article saying that recruiting police officers had become so difficult that the solution most contemplated was reducing standards. I will admit that I never got beyond the headline. My reasoning is that the “solution” was so inane why would I bother to read the article?

I’m atypical of most liberals in that I pretty much defend street cops. Being a front-line law enforcement officer is one of the toughest jobs in America. We have a policing problem in America. Too many people end up being the victims of police shootings. Major portions of our society (and it is far from limited to inner city Blacks!) have lost respect for the police locally, at large and in many cases both. In defense of the vast majority of street cops who are trying to do a good job the major problem is that we are asking those guys and gals to do too many things including things they were never adequately trained for. Remember they are almost always operating in stressful situations. (I’m ignoring the problem of police culture for today’s article.)

Only someone who was willfully ignorant of reality would say that we don’t already have a policing problem in America. So, I ask you: if our present police force isn’t performing up to desirable standards how are we going to make that better by lowering the standards and letting in the candidates who we now reject? I think the answer is obvious: We are not.

Defund the police was not only a bad slogan it was an even worse idea. If anything, our street police need more, not less, resources. Better yet is the idea of reallocating (along with funding) many of the functions we ask our street cops to do and transferring them over to specialists who are actually trained in those areas. We need higher, certainly not lower, standards for street cops. I’d start with education. At minimum a street cop should have an associate degree in criminal justice. Are we going to meet a recruiting crisis like the army did? They recently dropped their educational requirement of a GED because it was proving too high if they wanted to meet recruiting goals. I get the argument that front line troops don’t have to think, just follow orders. I can’t say the same for street cops who often work alone or in very small groups; in fact, quiet the opposite is true.

Now I admit there is an economy of scales issue with my basic plan. It is relatively easy for a large police department to have several teams of specialists on hand 24/7 that can be quickly dispatched. In a small town that is impractical if not impossible. This is where counties and states can step in and form a mutual aid team of specialists to take a lot of calls off the hands of regular law enforcement.

Two interesting asides: In most states the certification requirements for the unarmed specialists (i.e. social workers) are already much more stringent than for armed police officers. Also, to make street police work less dangerous getting guns off the streets and tighter possession laws would help. I’ve talked to tons of street cops in different sections of the country and one common theme they express is that when they stop a person, they have to assume that the subject is armed until they prove otherwise. (Tip to all: if you are stopped by a police officer make sure they can see your hands and ask for permission to reach for anything like your wallet in your pocket or glovebox. They are just regular guys and gals who want to go home alive at the end of their shift.)

While this is a rough outline it is based on something lowering standards isn’t – common sense.

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One thought on “An Absolutely Terrible Idea”

  1. Ban the private possession of firearms and raise the pay of the police. Seems simple, eh? To paraphrase a quote from racing car owner Andy Granatelli, ‘Safety costs money, how secure do you wanna be?’

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