Tag Archives: public service

Boys or Men In Law Enforcement

I had an epiphany while waiting at the Wawa.  A detective I’d worked with nearly twenty years ago walked into the Wawa where I get my weekly coffee.  It’s my Friday morning treat.  But this morning, unlike others, I garnished an idea that had to be explored immediately.  What if cops were not hired until AFTER they were 35 years old?  Thirty-five is the cut off for new recruits.  Most seasoned officers have scaled the ranks and are preparing for retirement by the time they’re in their late 30s.  By age 45, most officers are too young for the retirement home obviously, but young enough to embark on a new career. The wisdom that a mature officer must have… 

Not knowing the statistics involving the average age of officers accused of misconduct, I can only recall the emphasis on empathy. The civil injustice argument is that our law enforcement community is out of touch with the people that it serves. Rookies are so eager to make their mark that empathy is not as coveted as aggression. Making the arrest gets the recognition that restoring community confidence lacks.  But what if these cops already had the experience in the community that was not embalmed in distrust, racial inequity, or profiling?  An older cop (who usually aspires to be a detective or ranking officer) is more likely to deescalate a situation.  Police don’t just arrest criminals. They are community servants.  There’s an opportunity to lead a community and to be a positive example.  Cops are the ones who respond to all types of distress calls.  Caught in traffic with a woman in labor?  Grandpa wandered off again? Noise ordinance violations?  Who do we call?  We are never disappointed when the police arrive regardless of the officers’ age.  But wouldn’t we agree that a seasoned officer has a more realistic approach?

In a more intense scenario, which officer would you want to respond?   In a domestic violence call? Community disturbance? How about an attempted larceny?  A recruit straight out of the academy (or with only a few years experience) has a lot to learn about long term implications.  Since when does a year of physical training, days of class lectures, or hours of practice at the shooting range qualify anyone to effectively manage a crisis?  Are they equally qualified to mediate a dispute?  The answer is yes according to past practice and societal norms.

With all of this (mis)information spinning in my head, I approached the plain clothes cop who was wearing his badge on his belt opposite his cuffs. I let the fellow behind me in line scoot ahead just so I could chat with the detective. Omitting an introduction, I was blunt.  I asked him, “do you suppose that with all that is going on with our failing pension system, it would be more prudent to be starting a career at our age rather than preparing to retire?”   He responded gently, “pardon me?”  I introduced myself as merely another public employee. I took a different approach.  He was not annoyed.  Seemingly intrigued, he waited for me to explain.  I continued, “do you suppose there would be fewer cases of misconduct if the officers were a little older?”

He said, “well, I hadn’t given it much thought”.  This was probably the most honest answer he could have given.  Why not?  A forced answer is not necessarily a good answer. Who was I to ask, anyway?  I thanked him for listening and thanked him again for serving the community as I paid for my coffee.


I walked away wondering if he would ponder why I had engaged him. Would he follow me to my car?  Would he write down my tag number?  Was it probable that he might remember working with me long ago when I was a cadet?  Our hair is gray now and our memory is selective.  Did it even matter?  Even after I no longer worked in law enforcement, the sight of uniformed officers intimidated me. Today was very different. The detective was no more thrown off than I was. Perhaps I planted a seed. Or maybe the entire conversation would be discarded.

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WTFUND

What the Fund?!?!?  I’ve watched.  I’ve participated.  I’ve become an activist. I’ve contributed to the union.  I’ve supported the lobby for education. I’ve done what I was suposed to do.  I’ve done what I was asked. I’ve followed the law!  I’ve religiously prayed about the situation, and every set back has forced by faith to grow–because I know who the victor is in the end.  I’ve been ethical, logical, and rational.

I’ve voted for the underdog in every election in the hopes of positive change. I’ve gone so far as to BECOME the underdog in my own election AND WON–so that I could be the voice of the the residents, the voters, the children, the victims, and the dedicated employees.  I represent the educators and the students, the parents and the grandparents, the academics and the vocational scholars.  I represent the volunteers–as I should because I am one (too).  Winning was the easy part, but fighting the others in power was the challenge.
We were winning!  We had hope.  We are still here, but the fight is not over!

Now that my pension has been corrupted, misused, and taken away I must take a hard look as to how I plan for my future.  Our life savings that were supposed to be secure, invested, and available has been given away. Not stolen!  Given away without our consent…

Am I supposed to continue my fight?  For what???  There’s nothing left to fight for.  We are in ruins because of the leaders WE elected.  They were wrong!  But we were wrong for electing them.  NEVER AGAIN!  They thought they could do what THEY thought was acceptable. They mistook our silence for consent. Wrong!  They ignored us!  And now we ALL pay the price!

Am I supposed to write to my elected officials now?  I’ve written my congressman. I’ve tweeted my governor. I’ve “thunderclapped” and memed my way to become that labor activist. I’ve Facebooked and instagrammed. I’ve delegated and public spoke. I’ve abandoned what is grammatically and academically acceptable to try something innovative and inventive to no avail. And now what?  Frustration?  No!  Determination!!!

We didn’t get here because someone gave us something.  Advanced placement classes, SATs, college acceptance, all-nighters, study groups, student loans, college work-study, struggles to get home on holiday, cut funds, cafeteria food, GREs, and more student loans. Deferments, and forgiveness; job searches and rejections.  And finally a career in education with a promise of a comfortable retirement only thirty years away.  Perfect!  Let’s buy a house. Let’s start a family.  Let’s root our lives right here in New Jersey.  For what?!?  To have it all taken away???

And now the next big ideas develop.  “Hey let’s do a work action.”  “No wait, let’s all take the same day off!”  I’ve got an idea… Let’s shut the freak up.  Just kidding!  “How about we all take out pension loans (and pay application fees and interest). That will show them!”  I’m sick.  I already pay hundreds of dollars per pay for the last pension loan that I HAD to take out to get me through the summer. I’m already paying the increased rate!  In addition to all the other “garnishments” of my wages (dues, healthcare, taxes, support, PENSION contribution, loans, etc), I can’t escape my pension loan payments unless I quit. And if I quit, the IRS taxes me for unreported income. Brilliant idea.

This essay is written in anger. I did not do what we teach  (“wait a few days before we publish, children”).  I feel!  I’m disappointed. I’m angry. And tomorrow can’t get here fast enough. Happy June, my fellow educators!  It’s time to start that non-pension-contributing summer job that pays less than a livable wage, with no benefits, and a hefty tax liability. Doing so makes me stronger?  No! Doing so only makes me hope for September–when I came come back to my career and be abused some more.