There’s a disturbing trend developing in the police profession: Parents in law enforcement don’t want their children following in their footsteps.
A February 2015 survey by Calibre Press found that of nearly 3,500 officers surveyed, 81 percent of them would not encourage their children to seek a career in law enforcement.
The No. 1 reason? The lack of public respect for the profession of policing.
Eighty-six percent of those surveyed felt strongly enough about public perception that they would not want their children to follow in dad or mom’s footsteps.
The second biggest reason given was media and/or political cynicism. The constant bombardment of negative portrayals of police officers takes it toll.
I recently spoke with a friend who is a retired police officer and works as a therapist specializing in counseling police officers. He spoke candidly of the challenges of counseling officers who are dealing with stressful jobs. The stress they feel is being compounded by the constant bombardment of negative news stories regarding police officers.
His prescription for reducing stress? Stop watching the news and reading the newspaper — something even the best of us would have trouble doing in these days of instant news alerts and smartphones.
As for myself, I didn’t always want to be a cop. I was 12 when I saw my father put on a uniform for the first time. Prior to that, dad was driving a trash truck so it was a night-and-day difference. He spent 34 years as a police officer and finally retired when his health couldn’t handle the job anymore. Police work for him wasn’t a job. It was a calling.
Being around my dad and later his coworkers as a police explorer scout, I developed this great desire to put on a uniform and be a superhero with a badge. I started in law enforcement in my 20s and served for 30 years before retiring. Honestly, there is nothing else I think I would have rather done.
Dad was proud of the fact we decided to serve and spent no small effort trying to get the rest of my siblings to follow suit.
One of my younger brothers followed some years later and is still serving.
But I have to weigh that against the fact I haven’t been involved day to day in the profession for nearly five years now. I am not experiencing what police officers are going thorough in the field every day.
I haven’t endured profane abuse at the front line of protests, suffered verbal abuse while responding to mundane calls or been videotaped by half a dozen bystanders waiting to capture their moment of YouTube fame.
A patrol officer I spoke with recently conveyed how he’s had to become a police apologist. Seems every alleged act of police wrongdoing anywhere in the country somehow demands he be able to account for police officers’ actions.
This is not only occurring while he’s working but at the kids’ soccer games, church and any social gathering where he’s pointed out as a cop.
It’s not just officers in the field who feel this way but at every level in the chain of command.
During an executive course I facilitate for police command staff I have been conducting my own ad hoc polls. The results are very similar to what Calibre Press found. It seems even the guys and gals running departments aren’t keen on their kids becoming police officers.
My hope is this sense of malaise and frustration passes. But given the sustainability of modern media and the number of cheap seats in the stadium, I don’t think it’s going to be anytime soon.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org