Has the law enforcement family created a victim bandwagon? After speaking to many seasoned veterans, I fear that is the case.
We—cops and our families—need to get off the victim bandwagon. Before you tune out or begin the caustic comments in reply, I declare that I love police officers. Moreover, there is no profession more revered in my estimation than law enforcement, particularly in light of our current culture. Yet there is a disturbing trend that has developed—too many people associated with police work have jumped on the victim bandwagon.
There is no profession more revered in my estimation than law enforcement.
I understand how and why it’s occurred, but we need to be aware that it’s giving us a collective bad rap.
What makes a hero?
We are not heroes for simply wearing a badge. Indeed we do heroic things, but heroes don’t need to demand attention and solicit fawning by the masses. I say this as a person who wore military and law enforcement uniforms for 31 years—and writing about police work for seven more. The Medal of Valor among other noteworthy awards are in my files for a slew of morose things that most cops go through. Furthermore, my name has been on medical charts during several job-related surgical procedures.
But I loved it. Not once did I ever feel victimized by my profession, even when the haters hate. We should expect it.
Yes, I know after the debacle known as “Ferguson,” some vile individuals are dragging police work through the mud more than any time in history. And some politicians and prosecutors are making life miserable for cops in the trenches.
Some politicians and prosecutors are making life miserable for cops in the trenches.
Yet simply put, it is probably our collective reaction to the venom spewing antagonists, along with the social media explosion, that has caused our victim bandwagon to explode. And it is not just individual cops. Some of the worst offenders (victims) are law enforcement friendly websites and social media groups. It’s to the point that I want to disassociate with them because they’ve become such crybabies.
Risks and enemies
My view is simple: No one owed me a thing. I volunteered for this line of work knowing the risks as well as its many enemies. It was always my belief that police work is a calling. As a result, it isn’t hard to tell those who see it as “just a job.” But it’s not. Law enforcement is a profession in need of professionals—now, more than ever! We need courageous leaders!
Part of the victim bandwagon is the demand for hero worship—even when it’s undeserved. Presuming everyone who wears a police uniform to be a hero is crazy. Although the percentage is very small, we have people who are compromised in our midst. Furthermore, we have cowards in uniform. Look no further than your own shop and I’m certain you can point to many people that fit the bill. If this comment ruffles your feathers, then you are not looking at objective facts.
Part of the victim bandwagon is the demand for hero worship.
In far too many organizations, the biggest cowards earn the highest rank; cowardice is not simply being afraid of the dark, but it’s exposed in the light. It is also being afraid to do the right thing for the right reasons because powerful people have a twisted view of what RIGHT should look like.
We have a dangerous job that encompasses significant risk. But stop the crying, already! We love it. If not, please submit your resignation. As a result, we should not demand a place on a pedestal. While it’s flattering to be placed there, it is not an entitlement. So stop asking for preferential treatment.
Police work is the greatest job imaginable. We get to do things for a living that are “made for movies.” That is why every cop who’s been around the block a few times can easily become the center of attention at a social gathering. Everyone wants to hear our war stories.
Rules have changed
Have the negative encounters turned into reasons to jump on the victim bandwagon? Indeed the rules have changed after Ferguson, but they also changed after Rodney King. We adapt and do our best. Fight opposing forces when necessary, but this collective whining and crying on social media about this or that has got to stop.
Heroes have character. Consequently, the back-patting and self-righteous indignation is unbecoming of a noble profession. We need to take the high road a little more often, particularly in print. We should be a profession that let’s our work do the talking; quiet professionals willing to go the extra mile regardless of recognition or fame. And we can always expect a certain element of society will hate us. If they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be doing our jobs very well. If everyone loved us, we’d probably be falling down on the job as well.
The back-patting and self-righteous indignation is unbecoming of a noble profession. We need to take the high road a little more often.
Good citizens who are rational will always love and appreciate our efforts. Bad guys will not. Not all bad guys get arrested. Not all good citizens are recognizable. In essence, cops will always have fans and detractors.
Great police work
It is nice to receive praise, but if the adoration of others is your sole motivating factor, you are in the wrong line of work. Actually, so much great police work is done in darkness and private places. If you need a feather in your cap to continue on, again, you’re in the wrong line of work.
So much great police work is done in darkness and private places.
Cops who seek feathers for the sake of a headdress are some of the cowards mentioned earlier. Don’t fall prey to the need for admiration from people who don’t understand what you do. Affirm your partners but don’t demand or expect it from the public.
Name-calling does not create support
There have been way too many examples of cops (in print) who’ve resorted to name–calling. It’s become fashionable to show outrage toward companies that are not law enforcement friendly. I get it. These things piss me off too. But it’s sad when an article about the latest company that refused service to cops gets ten thousand views while the officer who truly did something heroic is little more than an asterisk. The feigned outrage simply makes us look like whiners. Hate sells, even among cops. But we should be different!
It’s sad when an article about the latest company that refused service to cops gets ten thousand views while the officer who truly did something heroic is little more than an asterisk. … Can we please contain our venom and be the competent professionals who will rise above the gutteral fray?
Contain our venom
So, can we please contain our venom and be the competent professionals who will rise above the guttural fray? Actually, it is expected of us. Anything less makes us look like babies. Save the aggression for legitimate causes, which are many!
Take pride in the fact that 90 percent of the population does not have the ability to be an effective police officer. However, be humble about it. There are many professions unsuitable to people who thrive as cops. Therefore, get over it. We do not need the general public worshipping the ground we walk on. Where is our character? C’mon man, rise up!
– Jim McNeff
(Feature image courtesy Chris Yarzab via Flickr)
Jim worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-eight years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations.