Growing up, I havealways had the desire to help others and be involved in the community. Aftergoing to community college for two years I felt as if I wasn’t doing enough inmy life.
I wasn’t contributing enough to my country and I wasn’t contributing enoughto my community. Once that thought crossed my mind I went to my nearestrecruiting station and began the process of enlisting into the Marine Corps.Fast-forward four years and here I am at another chapter in my life. I am dueto graduate in May 2018 and again I feel like I am not doing enough.
This ledme to research where I want the next chapter of my life to head in. To be a police officer means “To Protect andTo Serve,” pursuing a career in law enforcement aligns with my core values andfulfills the need to give back. Police officers protect life and property, andthis will be my way of giving back to my community. First and foremostto become a police officer, there are certain basic criteria that must be met.
The basic criteria are as follows: a minimum formal education requirement isthat of a high school diploma or equivalent, applicants must be at least 20years of age (San Diego Police Department), applicants must have a cleancriminal record, pass the law enforcement entrance exam, polygraph, physicalfitness test, oral board, medical/psychological assessment, drug screening, andattend and graduate the police academy. The police academy is where applicantsreceive the most training; training is six-months long and consists ofacademics and physical training. The curriculum can cover topics such as searchand seizure, criminal statues, traffic laws, firearms training driver trainingand physical conditioning. A police officer’smain job is to protect life and property through the enforcement of laws andordinances. The nature of their work involves the responsibility for performingroutine police assignments that are received from police officers of higherrank. Work consists of routine patrol, preliminary investigation and trafficregulation, and investigation duties in designated areas on assigned shifts.That involves an element of personal danger within itself because policeofficers must be able to act without direct supervision, and use their abilityto make independent judgments in emergency situations.
Police officers may alsoreceive special duty assignments that require special knowledge and trainingthat is typically acquired through experience as an officer. Other assignmentsinclude assisting other personnel of the police department in conductinginterrogations, searches, and related duties as assigned. The San DiegoPolice Department (SDPD) typically recruits through social networking, jobpostings, job referrals, advertisements, and college campus recruiting.
Currentlythe San Diego Police Department is not only struggling to recruit officers, butthey are also suffering from retaining officers. “Despite recent compensationincreases and stepped-up recruiting efforts, the number of officer vacancieshas increased from 170 to 207 since October” (SD Tribune). According to the SanDiego Tribune, applications are down 36 percent over the last two years andjust over 600 of the 1,832 are eligible to retire in the next five years (SDTribune).
In 2012, the San Diego Council approved a five-year plan to increasethe number of police officers in San Diego by 300, which historically had fewerofficers per capita than the nations other larger cities. Because numbers hadonly increased by 30, last year the city delayed its deadline from fiscal year2018 to fiscal year 2021. Though historically the use of job postings, jobreferrals, and advertisements have always been common, currently SDPD isutilizing social media to advertise and are hard charging at conducting campusrecruitments. As for the future, SDPD Police Chief, Chief Zimmerman stated sheis considering hiring an outside entity to help look for solutions. The SanDiego Police Department is also partnering with Health and Sciences High Schoolin City Heights to groom young officers (SD Tribune).
In San Diego County,an entry-level salary for a Police Officer I is $49, 254.40 (Salary.com). Themedian local national pay for Police Officers is $52, 597 (Salary.com). Policeofficer pay varies greatly by location, for example a police officer inMississippi makes $31,600 whereas a police officer in New Jersey can be making$84, 930 (BLS.
gov). Benefits for police officers include paid vacation, sickleave, medical and life insurance, as well as uniform allowances. The Bureau ofLabor statistics projects job growth of 4% nationally for police officers from2014 to 2024 (BLS.gov). The projected job growth is relatively low consideringthe nature of stability within this kind of employment, but it also dependsheavily on city and state budgets. Recently, the City of San Diego offered toboost pay up to 30 percent for San Diego Police Officers. Promotionalopportunities depend on the individual and come with time and experience.Depending on the department, typically after a year or two a police officer maybe eligible to make a lateral move into a specialty post.
To obtain asupervisory rank, a police officer has usually put in anywhere from 5 to 10years to become a police sergeant. Once an individual picks up sergeantpromotions may come quicker depending on the individual’s performance. Often,only 1 year in time in grade is required in order to begin picking up in the”middle management” ranks. Upper ranks including majors, lieutenants, andcolonels have anywhere from 15 to 20 years experience and ultimately to beconsidered the highest-ranking officer an individual will need to have 20+years of experience including several years in management and upper managementpositions before even being considered (The Balance). Most policedepartments in major areas require officers to gain experience by working inpatrol before they can become eligible for transfer to specialized positions inlaw enforcement. Once these requirements are met, officers are offered a wideopportunity of choices to lateral move into such as, detective, mountedofficer, SWAT, as well as other focused units depending on the size and needsof the department. Officers that are looking to make law enforcement a careercan also choose to seek promotion and move up in the ranks. First-linesupervisors include sergeants, lieutenants, and captains.
They are responsiblefor training staff, scheduling shifts, and supervising and coordinatinginvestigations all while ensuring procedures are being followed. Part of therequirements to be eligible for promotion to take the competitive promotionalexam within law enforcement typically require 3 to 5 years of experience, butit is also depending on the department. How the officer scores determines howquickly his or her promotion will come. Another requirement for the promotionprocess is an oral interview. The process continues through each promotion theofficer seeks. After an individual reaches the rank of Captain, promotions thenare based by appointment of department of chiefs as opposed to exams. There are numerousrelated professional associations and entities that aim to assists lawenforcement with policies, standards, analysis, training and education, andtechnical assistance. The National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center underthe Bureau of Justice Assistance U.
S. Department of Justice lists many links towebsites of organizations and entities that are relevant. For example, TheCommission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) was created in1979 as a credentialing authority. The purpose of the accreditation program isto “improve the delivery of public safety services, primarily by: maintaining abody of standards, developed by public safety practitioners, covering a widerange of up-to-date public safety initiatives; establishing and administeringan accreditation process; and recognizing professional excellence” (CALEA.
org).Another related professional association listed is the Internal Association ofChiefs of Police. The association was founded in 1893 and its goals are to”advance the science and art of police services; to develop and disseminateimproved administrative, technical and operation practices and promote theiruse in police work; to foster police cooperation and the exchange ofinformation and experience among police administrators throughout the world; tobring about recruitment and training in the police profession of qualifiedpersons; and to encourage adherence of all police officers to high professionalstandards of performance and conduct” (TheIACP.org). The mission of the IACP is”dedicated to advancing the law enforcement profession through advocacy,outreach, education and programs” (TheIACP.org). One issue that hasbecome of concern in law enforcement is the use of military style policing andequipment in law enforcement. In Norm Stamper’s book “Breaking Rank” he says,”Many Americans view their local PD as an occupational force—repressive,distant, arrogant.
It’s no wonder: their police department operates within theframework of a paramilitary bureaucracy a structure that fortifies that imageand promotes that behavior ” (Stamper). People don’t want their neighborhoodsto be treated like war zones, and there is an immense blurring distinctionbetween the police and military institutions and between war and lawenforcement. The U.S.
military handles external security through the threat ofthe practice of war. The civilian police handle internal security through theenforcement of federal and local laws. Leaders in law enforcement have to be cognizantand wary of the implications and potential consequences of this convergence.Failure to clearly distinguish the two results in repressiveness and lack ofdemocracy.
The growing tendency by the police and other segments of thecriminal justice system to rely on the military/war model for formulatingcrime/drug/terrorism control does not work for policing in America. The images in thenews of police wearing helmets and masks, dawning assault rifles and riding inmine-resistant armored vehicles are not isolated incidents, “they represent anationwide trend of police militarization,” states the American Civil LibertiesUnion (ACLU). Lately, law enforcement agencies from all over the country havebeen facing a lot of scrutiny and backlash on how situations have been handled.According to an article by Tobias Winright of “Sojourners Magazine” whom is aformer reserve police officer that has taught ethics at two police academiessays, “When the think blue line resembles an occupying force, it exacerbatesracial tensions in neighborhoods and communities, making things worse foreveryone, including the police” (Winright). Because of the militarization ofthe police cities are beginning to push back. In Davis, California, the citycouncil directed its police department to get rid of a mine-resistant ambush-protectedvehicle. Radley Balko’s book, “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” he says, “No one madethe decision to militarize the police in America.
The change has come slowly,the result of a generation of politicians and public officials fanning andexploiting public fears by declaring war on abstractions like crime, drug use,and terrorism” (Balko). The issue with police using military style equipmentand tactics is that it creates the image of the citizens being the enemy. Inturn, the likelihood of police brutality and excessive force has increased. Today,law enforcement practices have strayed away from community oriented policing,and it needs to be brought back.
Placing police officers back into thecommunity to create a presence, working with citizens, and treating each otherrespectfully can highly benefit society. Currently, thereare numerous problems and issues that employees in law enforcement are facing. Dangerouspeople are a threat to police, those are the people that refuse to comply. Insuch circumstances, how the officer interacts with the individual will oftentimes determine how the encounter will play out. Then, there are people who areout there with every intention on hurting or killing police officers. Accordingto the Federal Bureau of Investigations, on average 64 police officers per yearwere killed by criminals between 1980 and 2014. In 2013, nearly 50,000 policeofficers were assaulted, which equates to 9 out of every 100 police officers.
These statistics mean every citizen interaction can potentially pose a risk tothe officer. Traffic is also a big threat to police officers. Trafficfatalities have been consistently the number one leading cause of death forpolice officers over the past several years. Because officers spend a lot oftime driving and working from their vehicles, this naturally increases the riskof being in an accident. Health risks also adversely affects police officers. Thenon-traditional working hours produce poor sleeping habits, which then lead tofatigue. Combine stress and the nature of work it contributes to poor eatinghabits that are then associated with health issues, which are also a danger topolice officers. Stress is a major hidden factor for police officers, especiallypost-traumatic stress from involvement in dangerous incidents, witnessingdeath, and negative encounters with citizens.
This can potentially lead to depressionand suicide. Often time’s police officers result to self-medicating withalcohol, which then leads to even more issues such as domestic violence,driving under the influence, and self-harm. Traditionally theway police department’s function is through a rigid authoritative top-downmethod. This style has largely dominated the field and focuses on a managementsystem in which actions and policies are initiated at the highest level. In2012, the National Institute of Justice linked the way organizations aremanaged to the way they are organized.
These systems are built on hierarchies,traditions, and formal rules and procedures. There are three leadership stylesthat are used in law enforcement. The first is the authoritative policeleadership style. This style is based for order and a hierarchical,military-like approach.
The authoritative model’s idea is “you do what you aretold to do”. The second is the transactional style of police leadership.Transactional leadership resembles authoritative leadership, except that itrelies on rewards-based system to motivate subordinates. Rewards and reprimandsare based on the performance of the individual. Lastly, the third style ofpolice leadership is transformational.
Transformational is a “people-centeredapproach” that aims to inspire, empower, and motivate employees. The use ofthis approach strongly focuses support towards his or her employees andconstantly asking what they can do to make the working environment better. Italso focuses on each employee’s needs, skills, and motivations. As mentioned,traditionally the use of transactional and authoritative leadership hasdominated law enforcement. Though, now attitudes are changing and theseapproaches are slowly being moved away from and more so leaning towards atransformational approach, there is no one approach that is more effective thanthe other. The role these 3 aspects play in a particular agency or organizationis vital because you need different styles for different situations.
One of theimportant things is recognizing which is necessary for the type of situation.According to former Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Sheehy, now an instructor at theUniversity of San Diego, he gives an example of being a mid-level commander incharge of 5 or 10 officers that are sent out on patrol everyday. While in thefield they are going to run into certain situations and are going to need a wayto communicate with you. Ideally you would follow a transformational leadershipapproach to deal with such issues by talking them through situations andremoving obstacles so they can do better at their jobs.
However, if yourofficers call you and there is a critical situation, you would have to switchto an authoritative role because there is no time to talk through situationsand you have to take command of the situation. I believe this is one of thebest examples of the use of different leadership styles and how each of themplay a vital role in an organization as long as you can determine when to usewhich approach. In relations tothe wider justice system there are efforts to move away from the authoritativeapproach and reintegrate to community policing. Violent confrontations betweenthe police and the public have since sparked conversation to closely examinethe relationship law enforcement has with its communities.
State lawmaker’s arenow participating on task forces and are considering enacting laws addressingthe policy. The community policing approach law enforcement is using is aimedto develop community partnerships and problem solving techniques to proactivelyaddress public safety concerns instead of using the reactive approach. Ratherthan using a specific set of policies, community policing will work differentlyin each community and will be based off on needs of the police in eachjurisdiction. Former President Barack Obama created a Task Force on 21stCentury Policing to identify and recommend best practices for “fosteringstrong, collaborative relationships between local law enforcement and thecommunities they protect”. The idea is building strong relationships,communities and police that are able to respond to and communicate duringcrisis situations. When it comes tothe relationship to the broader community it is clear the authoritativeparamilitary approach especially with recent events, the way law enforcement isviewed in the eyes of the public is very disconcerting.
For example, the eventsof Ferguson and the non-indictments of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner caseshave shined a light on a problem that has deep roots and goes far back. OnAugust 9th, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a policeofficer in Ferguson, Missouri (NY Times). The ruling of the incident was thepolice officer that fired at Brown faces no charges in a decision by the grandjury on November 24th, 2014 (NY Times). Angry residents took to thestreets and staged the Ferguson protest. As early protest grew violent, policeresponded with heavy-handed tactics that consisted of military-style weaponsand equipment. The image of a mostly white police force in a predominantlyAfrican-American community aiming military-style weapons at protestors andfiring tear gas and rubber bullets resulted in unrest by the citizens of thecommunity and skyrocketed tensions between the community and local lawenforcement.
In the case ofEric Garner, he was placed in a chokehold by police officers and suffered neckand chest compressions during his arrest that ultimately lead to his death. OnJuly 17, police officers approached Garner and questioned him in belief that hewas selling untaxed cigarettes, a charge he had been arrested several times forprior to this incident. As police officers tried to make an arrest one of theofficers placed his arm on Garner’s throat and wrestled him to the ground (LATimes). Garner died due to the incident and the autopsy was ruled by a medicalexaminer that the case was homicide by chokehold. The two officers were placedon modified and desk duties. The President of Patrolmen’s BenevolentAssociation issued a statement in support of the police officers noting that”Garner’s poor health played a part in his death,” and that, “If he had notresisted the lawful order this tragedy would not have occurred” (LA Times).
Because policinghas become so rigid, law enforcement has become desensitized to the public andthe way they perceive who the real enemies are. To transition from “community policing”to giving our local law enforcement military equipment and seeing them marchingthe streets in full gear induces fear and mistrust upon the public. It does notfollow the motto of “To Protect and To Serve”. This tactic creates separationbetween the community and law enforcement.
Law enforcement isa unique profession and from what I see few, if any, from the outsideunderstands what it’s like to be on the inside. In the Marine Corps I learnedwhat is was like to be apart of such a tight knit organization. Much like themilitary, from research and speaking with police officers, law enforcementbuilds a sense of belonging and a family that you will not find in any othercareer. It’s an organization of a band of brothers. I had that in the militaryand now I am seeking to pursue the same core values and mission in the civiliansector as a law enforcement police officer.