Why I like cops

I admit it. That headline, which once would have tasted as bland as yogurt,  has assumed the aura of racism, so I have to explain.

(Photo: PoliceOne)

I mean good cops.

I also like good doctors, teachers, truck drivers, accountants, farmers, even journalists. I don’t like bad ones.

But liking cops seems different somehow. Why?

Because, as then-Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson told me, on any given day, a cop may be called upon to save a life, give a life — or take a life. It is the last of the triad that has brought us to where we are today: The taking of life. it is an enormous responsibility, and it has been abused.

That is why we need only the best to wear the uniform and the badge, and that is where some police departments have failed, but not all of them.

If you reflexively hate all cops, you are as bigoted as you imagine them to be. And you are probably operating off bad assumptions.

In 2015, the last year for which the U.S. Bureau of Judicial Statistics has stats, there were 53.5 million contacts between police and civilians. That 53.5 million figure tells us the number of contacts where something goes wrong is tiny, but not unimportant. 

The Defund Police movement, that came out of the dizziness of nowhere, has become a national bone to chew on, even though a poll revealed only 16% of Democrats want to go there. (And 15% of Republicans!)

Arguing against destroying police departments is a waste of time, especially since so many who scream “defund police” say, no, that’s not what we mean. As I said yesterday, if you have a catch phrase that has to be explained, you need a new catch phrase.

So let’s remain rooted in reality and take a look at some of the reforms that have been suggested. These ideas can be discussed.

There are many ideas. These include creating a national police misconduct registry, to prevent cops who were fired by one department from being hired in another; prohibit no-knock warrants; banning choke holds; mandating drug testing after a shooting; changing arbitration procedures; tighter guidelines for drawing a firearm; banning tear gas and rubber bullets; change “qualified immunity” to make suing cops easier; anti-bias training; hiring more minority police; restricting military-style equipment; stronger discipline in cases of misconduct; shifting funds to social services.

Do I agree with all of these? No, but it provides a basis for rational discussion.

Let me discuss one idea that I know something about — hiring minorities to join the Philadelphia Police Department.

As African-American Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told me at the time, You think we haven’t tried?

Ramsey tried recruiting at black colleges and universities.

Guess what?, he asked me, as we sat in his office in the Roundhouse.

Black college graduates don’t want a career that pays less than they can get elsewhere and which can end in death. Becoming a cop is not the easiest path to tread.

Police used to have to live in the city. In 2012, they gained the right to live elsewhere in Pennsylvania after five years of service. Nonresident applicants who are hired are given six months to move into Philadelphia. This was done in part to expand the employment pool.

At one time, having a minor conviction — let’s say for drug possession — would be enough to bar you from the force. 

Today, it would not. That bar was lowered primarily to help minority candidates who were more likely to have had minor scrapes with the law, according to Ramsey. The general idea was that a mistake made as a youth should not be a permanent blot.

A police spokesman said he could not provide great specificity, but that decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, “while also in alignment with standards set by the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission.”

Factors considered “include the recency and amount of drug usage,” he said.

That means ex-cons can be cops in Philadelphia.

I am not complaining, I am giving an example of how hard PPD has tried to attract minority recruits — and it has had success.

In 1987, 19% of the PPD force was black, 2% Hispanic.

By 2015, black representation doubled to 37%, Hispanics sextupled to 13%. Asians were 7%, and whites were 42% — and those stats are good for big-city police departments. They come close to reflecting the community they serve.

Are there bad apples in the police barrel? Yes, and I have written about them, but that is a subject for another day.

The vast majority are good, and when I say I like cops, I mean them.

34 thoughts on “Why I like cops”

  1. I like cops, too. I try to imagine how scary it must be to be a cop, making a traffic stop at 2:00 AM in any big city center, especially in this age of unbridled hatred toward all authority. The idea of a society without some force to watch out for and contain the bad elements is beyond ludicrous. As I said in a previous post, if we defund the police, how long before we hear the call to defund the military? After all, the military is just a giant, federal police force, protecting us from the bad guys of other nations. I remember one incident where I was pulled over at 3:00 AM in California on my way back from a radio studio where I had hosted a talk radio show and I was very tired. The two policemen approached my vehicle, one on each side, and asked for my I.D. I reached for the glove compartment and the cop on the passenger side said, “Nice and easy now.” I told him I was just reaching for my owner’s card. After checking everything out I asked why I had been stopped. The cop politely told me, “You were driving too slow and there was a good chance some drunk would plow into you from behind. Try to maintain the legal speed.” Imagine that! Being told to step on the gas! Good cops, thinking of my safety.

    1. Vince – your stopping story reminds me of another similar one closer to home. One of our engineers, who lived in PA, but commonly came into NJ to shop, and who, at the time was into his early 80s (what can I say – he loved to work!). Well, about 20 years ago, Kings Highway in Cherry Hill still used to be a two lane road. Now it’s 5 lanes. Anyway, one Sunday, he was pulled over by the Cherry Hill Police for going 25 in a 45. No ticket, of course. He was reminded that, while it was a great day for a Sunday drive, his holding up nearly a half-mile of traffic didn’t count as “nice” for everyone else, and could possibly cause a rear-end or passing accident. The police were as nice as they could be, while urging Bob to hurry his butt along at least at the legal limit.

  2. A Philly cop saved my life in 1977. I have had only good experiences with them, and in fact once dated a Philly cop.

    Fast forward many years later. Living in NJ, a power tripping cop in a small town there decided to zero in on me as a new resident and homeschooling parent in a town people kill to move into…so I must be up to no good since I homeschooled instead. 🙄

    It got so bad I turned him in to internal affairs, who told me privately they had many complaints about this cop. In the end nothing was done because it turned out his family “owned” the town. It took a lawsuit from someone else a few years later to get rid of him.

    I could’ve become anticop bc of that experience, but I didn’t bc my past experience in Philly taught me that cops can be good friends, and lifesavers.

    1. Annette – your story reminds me of a somewhat similar situation in NJ. This story goes back to the 1980s. I had a friend in the security business at the time, who was friendly with police in various depts. in the area. One of them was a policeman in a town that bordered Route 295 in Camden County. I had gotten to know him socially at my friend’s gatherings over the years. Nicest guy in the world, I thought. He would give you the shirt off his back, or more, if you really needed it, and was knowledgeable about many subjects. But I was also eventually warned about his dark secret – he had an anger management problem, esp. when on the job. He felt that every police command he gave during a stop must be obeyed to the hilt – even if they were no quite Kosher. It took 20 years, I don’t know how many disciplinary actions, several lawsuits, and at least several people being beaten senseless for the local dept to finally get rid of him. It made the news about 12-15 year ago. He was indeed the rotten egg compared to those all around him – and who protected him as well. I just had a hard time believing I was in the company of a true-life Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type of person. After I learned more about him over the years, I kept as far away from conversation with him as possible, hoping that eventually he would get his comeuppance.

  3. I have had more than my share of bad experiences at the hands of cops. Also had a vehicle damaged by a cop who slammed my sons friend unto the hood of my sons car. We went to report this incident and were treated to the blue wall, very unpleasant to say the least.

    That said, the idea of defunding a police force who already had their hands tied is ludicrous. There needs to be serious reforms, that was possible during Kenny’s first term, but he failed miserably as all the politicians in this one party town have failed on so many fronts. Before they speak they need to look in the mirror.

    We need to clean house, but these “progressive” leaders are not the answer, they speak in hashtags with no real solutions, just like the term defund the police. In the end, they will throw some money at the connected and tout the expenditure as a solution.

    We need a leader, not a follower.

      1. That was the wisest sign I saw a protester carrying in some city or another — the cops have to police themselves.

      2. Stu,
        You probably know as well as I. Philly has done a lot to clean up the police department. It’s a two sided fight. Politics on one side, citizen groups on the other and the former Police Commissioners caught in the middle. I don’t put much stock in this new one. That’s not prejudice talking. That’s the voice of reasoning and experience whispering in your ear.
        As for policing themselves. When a character shows up in the precinct house, he/she is quickly checked out. Good cops don’t want to partner up with the trouble makers.

  4. Not all police are bad, and the national protest brings attention to the BAD ones, and to their systemic culture of racism. The whole Defund Police thing is a distraction. It’s all speculation because frankly, we NEED good and effective police protection. Here in Milton, MA where I live, the police department gives quick response, is measured and fair to all, and is community minded. A club that I belong to, The Milton Woman’s Club, which promotes and has funded community projects, just sent over a big appreciation gift of food and refreshments to the 50 officers and staff of the day and night shifts at our police department. To make the protest wholly anti-police is wrong and distracts from the real issues.

    1. And yet you mention a “systematic culture of racism,” which you don’t find in Milton. So maybe it is not systematic.
      DOJ studied Philly cops, found them brutal but not racist. Was that good news? 😀

      1. A cop is one of most difficult jobs in country.Average pay.Crazy working hours, Possibility of getting killed.Dealing with brutal criminals.Like Stu said it’s not very appealing to most people.

        The key to the mint is you need supervision to keep them in line.And you need supervision to get rid of the bad ones,And you need to prosecute criminal behavior by cops.

        The cop who killed Floyd should have been off the force a long time ago or at a minimum off the street..He had over 15 complaints against him.

        As I posted many times Amy Klobuchar let him slide through many possible criminal actions on his part.

        It’s easy to sit here and criticize cops.Most of their critics never ever dreamed about being one.

        I hope this column doesn’t get Stu banned from linked in. Ha Ha Ha But I guess linked in isn’t the NYT.

  5. If you need to explain your post, perhaps it wasn’t a good post to begin with. And “But that is a subject for another day”. . . no, it is the subject at hand. This exact subject. and how the system protects bad apples. Even the good apples know that.

    1. I did not explain my post, which was perfectly clear to anyone with average IQ.
      Effective columns are like rifles, hitting a narrow target. Shotguns are less effective. The topic I mentioned will be use in a future column. Incidentally, if you want another reply, use an actual name, as I do.

  6. I agree there’s no sense to the argument to abolish police forces! But changes in procedures are needed. In my opinion there needs to be ongoing training regarding sensitivity, race relations, LGBQT issues etc. The blue code of silence also has to be challenged. Will there still be issues? of course but change is needed like what has happened in Camden,NJ. Is Camden perfect? Not by a long shot but community engagement is key!

    1. Barry – I agree with you regarding a change is needed in the blue code of silence. But in addition to the police, it also needs to be applied to the medical field, lawyers, and religious institutions.

      1. Please don’t make assumptions about me since you don’t know me. I initially thought Klobuchar was a solid candidate until I examined her record on police abuse cases. She just kicked the can down the lane and let the Grand Jury’s handle it when she should have stepped up and did her job as a prosecutor.As far as joining the force, at my age, I don’t think they would consider me. Just as in my professional life, I’m sure I would do a good job.

        1. You claim you dislike bad cops.

          Does that include Obama’s dirty cops in the FBI who tried to destroy General Flynn’s life.

    2. Barry

      You should join the force.It would give you the opportunity to apply all your theories on police work.

      I keep pointing out Klobuchar could have prosecuted the cop who killed Floyd. I guess you don’t feel Klobuchar deserves any criticism.

      1. Please see my reply in Randy’s post. I mistakenly posted on his comment instead of yours! Thanks!

    3. Camden had about 100 cops.Philly has over 6000 cops.

      Comparing Camden to Philly is ridiculous.

    This survey is courtesy of Sate Rep Margaret Houlahan. Your favorite dimocrat legislature puppet !
    Survey: Justice in Policing
    Serving as our representative in Congress, it’s my responsibility and honor to listen to and act on the needs of our community. The tragic and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have reignited critical conversation about and action on systemic racism and racial inequalities in our nation. The vast majority of Americans agree we need police reform, and I want to make sure your voice is heard as we consider legislative actions to address this systemic inequity.

    Will you take a minute to complete the short survey below and sign up for my periodic emails updating you on the work my team and I are doing?

    In light of recent events, has your opinion on the need for police reform changed?*
    No, my opinion hasn’t changed
    Yes, my opinion has changed
    If you selected other, please explain.

    The House of Representatives in considering many legislative priorities at the federal level. Which of these issues is most important to you? Check all that apply. *
    Working to end racial and religious profiling
    Saving civilian lives by banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants
    Limiting military equipment on American streets and requiring body cameras
    Investigating police misconduct by granting the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division subpoena power
    Allowing civilians to recover damages in civil court in cases of police violence
    Empowering our communities to reimagine public safety in an equitable and just way by supporting community-based programs
    Changing the culture of law enforcement with training to build integrity and trust based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing
    Improving transparency by collecting data on police misconduct and use of force by creating a nationwide police misconduct registry
    Making lynching a federal crime
    The House of Representatives just introduced the Justice in Policing Act. How familiar are you with the bill’s provisions?*
    Very familiar
    Somewhat familiar
    Slightly familiar
    Not familiar at all
    First Name*

    Last Name*

    Zip Code:*

    Email Address*
    send it to her. I wont.

    Good work, as always, pallie. You see the article above from the wunderful and glorious Houlahan. The only thing that I can say nice about the woman, is that she’s a Vet, and I thank her for her service.
    I used to tell people, in conversation, when talking politics and Washington, D.C., watch “West Wing”. It’s as accurate as a T.V. show can be. They take you down the corridors, and behind the scenes, to where the every day deals are made. Now, the show to watch is “Blue Bloods”. The life and times of New York’s Commish and his family. Same deal. The real down and dirty as only permissible on T.V.. They cover all of the greatest and the latest topics. The big thing, is that they deal with the issues and try to correct the problems, while hoping to win/keep the trust of the public – and the politicians.
    As you all pointed out. There are a million cop stories in the naked city. Of course, I have more than my share, from working around the country, to the heavy politics of Trenton, Camden and Philly. Dogging bullets in Newark, to talking down a bunch of thugs in Camden. Been there, done that.
    For sure. Most of this is all crap ! Brought to you by the dark side and the fringe fake news. You hear of the numerous violations of the police, but not of the hoods. I wrote earlier that over 100 cops answered their last call, or EOW, as it is known. I’m not about to start looking for the numbers of the damaged. Philly, as I said, has an above average police force. Mayberry and Barney and all of the clowns are alive and well out here in the counties.
    We don’t need to cut the budget of the force. We need to improve on the capabilities of the people that make up any police force. Philly starts there cops at about $63, 000. That’s not too bad a deal, until some drug crazed giant tries to rip your head off because “God told me to”. or a jihadist wants to take you to the promise land. Many of the loonies are actually trained assassins. They know where the vest stops and how to minimize a life. There is a war taking place right under our collective nose, and we’re too blind to see it !
    Support our Cops ! It’s the very least that they deserve.
    I usually add, thanks, and be careful out there,

    1. Wasnt Blue Bloods canceled?

      Seattle…a bunch of baddies come into town like in a 50’s western and take over city hall and kick out the police….what the hell!

        Yo Donald Duck ! Staying dry ?
        Blue Bloods is in re-run mode. They’ll be back in the spring.
        Seattle: That was a fun town. A lot of history. Washington State really only has two big cities. Tacoma and Seattle. Kinda sorta like PA. We have five “big” cities.
        The President aimed a tweet at the Gov & the Mayor of Seattle. Clean up your problem or Mr Trump will do it for you.
        It’s just a little hard to grasp a city being handed over to ANTIFA ! Actually, no it’s not. Washington State likes ANTIFA. Now, they got ’em.

        1. Seattle is turning into a college campus with a six block ‘safe space.’ The tearing down of CC and confederate statues remind me of ISIS destruction of Syrian and Egyptian antiquities. Books will be next. Nancy is calling for removal of Capitol Hill offensive statues. HBO is pulling ‘Gone with the Wind.’
          There’s more and this is just the beginning! Total capitulation! It is not about George Floyd or BLM or cops. It’s a culural revolution blossoming at a most convenient time in history… DJT. I told my buddies late last year that there was going to be blood in the streets….this summer…. thinking violence because of him. But with the virus, the shutdown, the killing of Floyd, what a perfect time for insanity. I hope I’m wrong. I see no way out! And what can the man do?? What say, my friend?

          1. Thomas,
            Donald Trump isn’t superman. Close, but no cigar. If the young republicans don’t get off of their collective asses soon, the entire weight will be on the President. Couple that with more hate and discontent from the dark side, with the fake news kicking in their support. It is going to get more ugly. Right now, I see a close contention. Not because Biden is ” the man”, but because of the never Trumpers and the Trump haters. It doesn’t look good out here in Chester County. The dims kicked butt ! They had almost double the voters come out versus the republicans.
            I don’t like the ugly side of politics where you attack your opponent with cheap shots. Let Trump stand on his record ! Couple that with a strong recovered ecomy and the famous “rallies”, FOUR MORE YEARS ! MAGA !!!

  9. Words used by activists and politicians are always interesting to me. They rarely mean what they appear to mean and never come with a definition or at least a definition that cannot be manipulated. Defund is one that jumps out recently, but the popular Community Based ———-(fill in the blank) always baffles me. One of the policies being touted is empowering the communities to reimagine public safety by supporting community based programs.

    I have had an experience with Community Based Zoning, where I had to present my request to the community for support prior to presenting it to the Zoning Board. The “recognized community organization” toured the property and informed me what they thought I should do with the space, they were the only people to show up for the meeting and shot down my request with the threat that they would sue in court if the zoning board granted my request.

    Funny thing is, not one of the members was from the community, not one neighbor knew who they were or recognized thei4 names.

    My obvious concern with this terminology is the encumbrance of a secondary unelected political class ruling the police department with no accountability to the actual community. This is what we have with the RCO’s as well as the special districts, etc.

    1. Yo, Phillyborn….your first line sounds just like that famous expression: “How can you tell when a politician (or activist) is lying?” Well, you obviously already know the answer to that!

  10. Angela Underwood Jacobs: This is bigger than a white, black or blue problem, it’s a humanity issue.

    Jacobs’ brother, Federal Protective Services Officer David Underwood, was shot and killed during recent protests and riots in Oakland, California; Angela Underwood Jacobs is an in-person witness at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on police brutality humanity issue

    “It is a ridiculous solution to claim that defunding police departments is the solution to police brutality and discrimination because it’s not a solution. It gets us nowhere as a nation and removes the safety net protection that every citizen deserves from their communities elected officials,” Angela Underwood Jacobs said at the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on proposed changes to police practices on Capitol Hill

  11. Another great read. Thank you. Police Departments did not get the way they are overnight, and they will not be reformed overnight. Values change slowly, it might take a couple of generations to change them. Ex-cons in police work are nothing new. In the 1800s street thugs were recruited to keep order by way of blunt force trauma. There are cases where the badge was pinned on the day the officer was released from prison. Hiring was controlled by ward leaders. Then civil service came into play, ostensibly to hire the most qualified. The effect was to exclude blacks. The Republicans ruled until 1952 by circumventing civil service with “acting” positions. The Clark – Dilworth era put a stop to that. Then over the years the Dems figured out how to circumvent the merit system too. Ability to do the job is not the highest requirement, there are a lot of gods to be satisfied before an officer can be hired. Without regard to race or sex has turned into a system where those are the highest requirements. It got so bad they were teaching remedial reading at the police academy.

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