Author: Toye L. Sanford, Ph.D
As we see a constant barrage of news media flooding the airways with news of the most recent police brutality incident, one may ask, “where do they get these officers from?”
The answer: they come from the same communities where you and I live!
Contrary to what some may think, there is no “super-secret” pool of special people that police agencies frequently tap into to fill organizational vacancies. They are normal people who bring with them life’s experiences, be they good, bad or indifferent. None of us escapes a lifetime untouched from life’s experiences.
These experiences are rich with information that make us more relatable to those who have similar experiences, and I’ve found this was critical to my success when relating to the communities I served. Here’s the negative rub, most of us understand that people don’t call officers when things are going well; police tend to see the worst side of humanity throughout their careers. That constant exposure, although exciting and an adrenaline rush at times, has it’s downsides that can be fraught with depression, poor health, broken relationships, and a host of maladaptive behaviors as a means of trying to cope with it all! And when someone comes into the law enforcement profession already with some established “questionable” behaviors that are not detected in pre-screening processes, those behaviors more often than not get worse from the type of exposures consistent within the profession.
Sometimes the signs are clear from the beginning, and at other times they emerge over a period of time. Either way, the behaviors need to be addressed at the onslaught. When supervisors or organizations delay in addressing the behaviors, they run the risk of increasing organizational liability, while allowing maladaptive behaviors to continue and possibly worsen. The stage is then set for a “black-eye” on the officer, the organization, and the profession as a whole. Ironically, it ‘s a small population of officers who tend to be responsible for a disproportionate number of administrative investigations. This has an uncanny similarity to the same small demographic of offenders in society who are responsible for a disproportionate number of crimes. Hmmm?