Policing is Hard

This is more of an open letter written to police. A kind of “I appreciate you a lot even though I criticize you heavily.”

Today in class we analyzed “Reinventing American Policing” by Cynthia Lum and Daniel S. Nagin. This was our most recent reading (of many) that offers proposals on how to make policing better. We began our conversation as we normally do, criticizing the suggestions offered and arguing why they are flawed. Evidently this essay was not a godsend solution to our criminal justice issues, and this dialogue of “how to make police better” will persist. It is only normal that sociologists, historians, students, etc. continue to argue about what they think is the best way for cops to do their job. And I can’t help but think that is infuriating for police to hear. To be constantly berated for not doing enough from people who have never been in your shoes, whether or not those people are well informed, has to be frustrating. Especially, if you are one of the many cops who are doing their best in spite of the those who earn all of law enforcement their racist, corrupt, and inefficient stereotype.

One of the main premises of this essay is to concentrate police in “hot spots” of crime, to deter and ultimately prevent many crimes from happening. The authors conjecture that this is a very effective way to implement crime prevention and is thus essential to law enforcement. A few days ago, a man in Cleveland, Ohio named Steve Stephens filmed himself shooting a 74-year-old man named Robert Godwin Sr. in the head seemingly because he was the first person he came across in his car. Apparently, Stephens “snapped” after having trouble with his girlfriend. How do you prevent such horrible and unanticipated criminality? You can’t. Police and academics alike know it’s impossible: there is not a “hot spot” for insanity. Cops often face the worst, most unpredictable sides of humanity, and are constantly told how to combat it more successfully. Even if proposals are not promising perfect, crime-free environments and are solely aiming to make things better, it must be exhausting to fight crime that can never fully be stopped while listening to the recommendations of people who can never be satisfied. How often do the boys in blue hear sympathy?

Of course I am a fan of reform, there are undeniable issues and prejudices ingrained and present in the system. But we cannot forget about the good men and women who operate in such a criticized and critical position. So to everyone in law enforcement who puts on their uniform with the intention to serve and protect everyone fairly and truly, thank you. You’re appreciated, despite the fact that you will be constantly disparaged and advised on how to do your job from people like myself who only read about what you do. It is a seemingly obvious statement, but it is easy to forget in the fray of politics and in the realm of academia, so I think it is worth saying here…

Policing is hard.

2 thoughts on “Policing is Hard

  • April 24, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    I think this is really important to recognize, and probably something that we didn’t recognize enough in class. While it’s necessary for us to remember that we cannot fully understand the perspective of the police we criticize, I also think it’s important to note that police and other law enforcement officers were a part of creating Obama’s Task Force Report on Police. I can’t imagine this makes it any easier for police to be criticized, especially if they are not directly involved in some of the programs that need the most reform. At the same time, though, the police did have some input in creating reform efforts, suggesting that there was knowledge of what the police face behind this reform.

  • April 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for writing this – I agree that all too often, we criticize police without recognizing how much they do for us. They are the ones who run straight into danger for us, and the ones we call on when we need help, no matter how much we berate them. It’s important to recognize their flaws of course, but we should definitely remember how much they risk for us. I’d love to see more programs or appreciation shown for the police!


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