The good cops haven’t gone anywhere, although they occasionally get fired for being good cops. I am concerned this might be happening more frequently as police forces across the nation continue to be paramilitarized.
However, by and large, most peace officers are good people, willing to work at a dangerous job to protect and serve you and your family. They are your neighbors; you see them shopping in the grocery store; their children are classmates with your children; their mothers live in the same assisted living center as your parents.
The individual peace officers committing the crimes you read about in police brutality cases are often just human beings stuck in a very bad situation. Yes, when you have authority, you should act better than that. But, sometimes I wonder if I could be better.
There are many examples of excellent American and foreign police officers going above and beyond to create a sense of belonging to the communities they serve. Fired Police Officer Justin Hanners of Auburn, Alabama is one such officer.
Officer Hanners did the math when told by new Police Chief Paul Register that he had to meet quotas of interacting with and, preferably, ticketing 100 citizens a month in the town of 57,000 residents. This 100 interactions/month/officer amounted to 72,000 interactions/year in a town of only 57,000 residents. When contacted about the quota system, “City Manager Charles Duggan acknowledged that a quota was ‘wrongfully conveyed,'” and the Police Chief denied it existed. But Officer Hanners had folks on tape discussing the quota system.
“I swore an oath to the people; I did what I was sworn to do. I just did my job.” That’s what Hanners had to say about getting fired in March 2013 for not fluffing up his ticket count by fraudulently issuing tickets to innocent citizens.
It is a serious risk for a young police officer to go against their superiors; the city is covering up, the police chief lying, the officer fired for failing to ticket every citizen he encounters in the town of Auburn. And, the officer has two young children to support on his salary, which is now gone–the usual fate of whistle blowers.
What should he have done besides expose the corruption in the police department? When peace officers are engaged in writing bogus tickets to citizens to meet quotas, they are not spending their time monitoring for crime. Did you ever watch Adam-12? It was about a patrol car, because police officers patrol their neighborhood. They become familiar with what is usual, and they can spot what looks out of place. By being aware and observing their neighborhood, and by being present, they both prevent crimes and are alert to catching and stopping crimes.
A police officers devoting excessive amounts of time to writing bogus tickets offends the citizens he or she is sworn to protect, degrades his ability to monitor crime in the neighborhood and interferes with identifying crimes in progress.
A corrupt police department, unknowing of their duty to protect and serve, is not an effective police department.