William A. Gralnick
The Governor of Florida, Don DeSantis, Harvard and Yale educated, has come up with yet another ham-fisted, ill-prepared program to make Florida great again. This time the fully vaccinated, anti-vax governor is going to make policing better in Florida by paying bonuses to hire away cops who want a change.
There has been no running of the bulls crush to fill the offer. Worse yet, one cop omitted an arrest on his record. Another checked that he had smoked “MJ,” but then claimed he’d never done that. One was a former security guard, another had three years on the job. There is some important history here.
In 1976 Los Angeles instituted the first pyschological testing for recruits. It wasn’t much–lie detector, rorshach test, and the like–but it was something, a first. Twenty years later LA hired the first full-time staff psychologist in the country. It should be noted that there are 17,985 police departments across the USA; some have two cops, some have tens of thousands. That’s part of the problem, but also needs a separate article.
Great changes took place during that period. It was a period of great social turmoil and great social change. There was the growth of drug use, the Washington monument spike in addiction, sky-rocketing crime, urban unrest and riots. Different departments reacted differently but two things were clear. On the one hand, policing got harder for the cops and harder on the offenders. On the other hand, attempts were made to find “fixes.” Some were almost clandestine squads to infiltrate and break up the gangs and organizations responsible; community policing was tried by many. That took officers out of the car and had them walking their beats. It put bikes under cops. It placed cops in community centers and anywhere relationships could be built.
A continuing problem was getting good cops. There are broadly two types of personalities who want to be cops. One wants the power and independence of police work. Like cowboys of old, training to them was ropin’, ridin’, and shootin’. Things like diversity training was laughed at. They wanted the perp who “did it” and had no need for the social or psychological answer as to why.
The other, growing in numbers by the ’80’s and 90’s, were recruits who wanted to make their home towns safer and better. They were interested in the why of things and how to find it out. They also were prone to the seven year itch. By that time, they’ve become frustrated and angry with the reality that change comes slow and hard. They’ve realized while independent in their cars, the chain of command was often rigid, tuned out, and very much a “good ole boys” network. ‘not a state of mind to greet the street with, especially when the street is stand-offish at best and hostile at worst.
Often with the aid of Federal dollars, programs began to be developed that would do several things. One was develop a more thorough vetting process. This gave the department better odds at knowing the history and background of the cop they put through the academy. Another was testing. More professionals were employed in developing and administering those tests. They would cut down on the surprises a cop’s personality might spring in certain situations.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department with which I had a professional association, has its own AA group. It also has a unit of sworn officers all of whom have MSW’s or counseling degrees. They function in the strictest of confidence. Their recommendations for an officer supersede those of the officer’s own commander. Mental health is first, otherwise the cop or the community or both are going to get hurt.
Salted in with these things are programs like diversity training. The theory was that a cop needed to understand the people in the city he/she serves as even more so the zone or precinct in which he/she worked to better relate with the people, places, and things in the patrol area.
This kind of progress, not bonuses to a cop who is unhappy somewhere and thinks a change of weather, if not command, will fix the problem.
Defunding police the police is a moronic idea for so many reasons I won’t even list them. Retooling the police with intense vetting, professionally sound psychological training, and fine tuning that training so that the officer understands that the history and surroundings of the ranch can be as important as knowing how to use the tools the ranch requires.
It can be done; it must be done.