AMU Law Enforcement Original Public Safety

Negative Public Narrative Takes Toll on Law Enforcement

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This has been a tough year for law enforcement. The actions of a handful of officers in some unfortunate deaths and disheartening incidents in 2020 received negative nationwide media attention that quickly led to mass protests and demonstrations against law enforcement. This civil unrest and the inaccurate narrative that all officers are bad has had an adverse impact on the hundreds of thousands of officers who do their job honorably and with integrity each day.

The Major Cities Chiefs Association, which is comprised of law enforcement leaders from 69 of the largest police agencies in the United States, examined the negative effects of the unrest that followed the protests this summer after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They discovered that more than 2,000 law enforcement officers were injured just within the first weeks of the unrest. Also, between May 25 and July 31, there were 8,700 protests nationwide with 574 declared riots with violence and various criminal acts.

[Related: Protecting the Right to Protest: Intervention and De-Escalation Tactics]

Just as it is unwarranted to label all protesters as engaging in criminal activity, it is equally unwarranted to label all police officers as responsible for the injustices that we all witnessed at the hands of a few police officers.

The Riots Have Subsided, But Negative Attention on Agencies Continues

Now that the riots have subsided, the movement to defund police departments continues. The movement undermines the opportunity to engage in real police reform and prevent the rare occurrences of police misconduct. The Defund the Police movement, if successful, would only diminish law enforcement’s capability to address crime in the community and would likely lead to communities becoming more unsafe. Reform can be accomplished only through increased training, improved accountability standards, and better field supervision.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to be another nightmare for law enforcement in 2020. Unlike many other professions, police officers cannot telecommute. According to the Council on Criminal Justice, homicides in 20 major U.S. cities increased by 37% between May and June, led by Chicago, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. There was also a 35% increase of aggravated assaults during the same period.

This rise in crime, coupled with the riots and protests throughout the nation, has led to a lot of interaction between the police and the communities they serve. This interaction might explain why the coronavirus has resulted in the death of more law enforcement officers in 2020 than all other causes combined.

This year no doubt has had a negative impact on police morale. A study this year of anonymous answers from one police agency in Indiana found that around 80% of officers have considered leaving the job this year and 40% felt that morale is as low as it has ever been.

Most citizens in the United States never have any significant interaction with law enforcement. Therefore, it is especially important now that law enforcement agencies throughout the country show true dedication and professionalism day in and day out to counter the media narrative and the negative, unfounded impressions echoed by the Defund the Police movement.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies at APU. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.

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