I’m a former law enforcement officer, having served 30 years with Miami-Dade, rising to the rank of captain. Cops are often questioned by wannabes about what to expect as a rookie on the job. They are concerned about joining a career path in a profession that is highly scrutinized and sometimes vilified by citizens and the press. They want to know what they’re getting into, if the risks are worth the effort, if the job is too hazardous and how serious the chances are for getting into trouble.
Twenty, forty or sixty years ago, my advice was always very simple. I would tell them:
- Don’t pass up the opportunity. You will be considered a bona fide hero for serving citizens in many ways. You will be honored to protect the community and to know you’re playing a role in keeping people safe.
- Know that you will often face dangers, instantaneous, unexpected and deadly while you’re also expected to maintain calm.
- You will save lives, including victims of crime and, occasionally, lives of criminals.
- You will be respected by men and women in and out of uniform who stand up for you and your loved ones. Why? Because it’s their job.
Alas, times have changed. Whereby police heroes were always welcomed by citizens to maintain order and repress crime, cop haters have managed to create a new animosity toward the profession which, I believe, is unwarranted. Thus, many communities are now more unsafe for citizens as well as officers. Violent crime rates are exploding around the nation, whereby some prosecutors and attorney generals have issued pro-crime policies that make it easier or attractive for criminals to commit crimes, violent and non-violent, without being held accountable. The messages are clear: Disregard cops, take what you want, set fires to cars and buildings, loot and destroy.
It’s party time for the crooks.
More than ever, police officers are standing down in the midst of violence because the powers to be who disarm, detest and defund cops are dictating policies that aid and abet criminals with no regard for the victims of crime. It’s not the cops fault. It’s not necessarily the fault of earnest politicians. It’s the fault of ignorant voters who have been blinded and manipulated into believing police officers are our enemy. They are not.
In some places, hatred toward police lies in spewing the false premise that cops are systematically racist. It’s a way overused term. Nothing can be further from the truth. Not in 2022, or yet, 2000. Those days are long gone. But there are those who continue stirring the pot of hatred. I was in Miami starting in 1960, when systems were, in fact, racist to one degree or another. But those (systemic) attitudes are long passed.
I was the captain in charge of major investigation into the death of Arthur McDuffie, a black man who was caught speeding at night in 1980 on a motorcycle. He had been apprehended and beaten to death by a group of out-of-control cops. It was my responsibility to investigate, arrest and jail five officers who were charged by State Attorney Janet Reno.
Who said, “It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it?”
Following, the Arthur McDuffie murder, Miami-Dade managers (and many other agencies) looked into every aspect of racial discrimination in the police agency, from testing, to hiring, to training and deploying. Other police agencies in America, then and now, have upgraded policies that have put the “systemic” issue of racism to rest.
Does racism still exist? Well, it’s possible that we may find a stand-alone relic of racism here and there among the 800,000 cops in America. But it’s not even close to “systemic.” Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
To police wannabes, I offer this advice: Go for it. We need you. America needs you, much like needing soldiers to fight wars. Sadly, there are those who wish to see our government fail. Cops are at the front line to prevent that.
We need heroes.
(This Op-Ed Article appears in today’s issue of Florida Today, 1-19-22)