Policing as an Avocation

I ran into a High-School special education teacher that applied to the LAPD. During the police academy interview, he was asked why he wanted to join the force. In response to the reply “I want to help people lead safer lives,” he was told “Don’t quit your day job.” My friend was later apprised that most of the LAPD saw itself as manning the front lines in ethnic and criminal wars. Rather than a culture of public service, they saw themselves as warriors.

Most warriors come back after a couple of years with severe psychological trauma. Considering a career of twenty or more years under similar stresses, we would expect most police officers to have side effects. John Violanti summarizes some of the health statistics for The Conversation.

Also today I came across a piece by Redditt Hudson, a minority police officer, sharing an insider’s perspective on police misconduct at Vox. Police work and disciplinary practices may allow aggressive officers to become progressively more aggressive as their testosterone levels rise through successful confrontation. Hudson observes that 15% of the force create the problem of misconduct, and their aggression draws others into dangers that force them to emulate their behavior.

A senior sheriff once told me that his principal role was to rein in the younger officers. It’s important that civilian authorities recognize the link between the tough and aggressive conduct that safeguards the public and the descent into psychopathic aggression – such as manifests in faces slammed against walls. In Ferguson, where this was allowed to rise unchecked, the only way forward was to fire the entire department and start over from scratch.