A Brief History
On October 4, 1997, the second largest money robbery in U.S. history took place in Charlotte, North Carolina at Loomis, Fargo and Company, with $17.3 million in cash taken. The ensuing investigation was spearheaded by the FBI and resulted in about 95% of the money being recovered and in 24 convictions. Unfortunately, unlike the super sleuths on television and in the movies, real-life cops do not always solve crimes. Here we list 10 Things Police Know That You Might Not. Heck, maybe you do know some of them, or at least suspect a couple, but in my experience as a retired cop, most people do not.
10. There are no ticket quotas, but…
Ticket quotas are illegal because they tend to subvert the judgment of officers who might be tempted to write frivolous tickets to meet their quota. Likewise, police cannot be rewarded financially for writing tickets, for that too would cast a shadow on the “justice” process. On the other hand, police administrators and politicians are constantly trying to get cops to write more tickets and use quota proxies such as giving overtime to those cops who write the most tickets or rewarding part-time cops with more hours if they write more tickets (or cutting them off if they do not). Measuring police officers’ worth by their ticket totals does not take into account their public relations skills, their diligence in following up on investigations, how seriously they patrol their beat for burglars and other wrongdoers, the quality of their reports, their integrity, etc. Politicians tried to subvert this concept by placing traffic cameras at traffic lights and through the use of photo radar, but virtually all citizen efforts to remove these have been successful. So, instead they bribe the cops with overtime to write tickets, squeezing the public out of their hard-earned cash. Have you noticed more and more speed traps over the years? I have.
9. Police bashers refuse to participate in “shoot-don’t shoot” exercises.
All sorts of police training exists to put officers in positions of “shoot-don’t shoot” using video and electronic guns or real people with non-lethal (such as paint bullets) munitions. If the cop-bashing idiots who spout ridiculous crap about how the police should have shot to wound or held their fire were to partake in these exercises, they would be highly embarrassed to find they were frequently “killed” or that they shot innocent people, over and over again. You will not find jerks like Al Sharpton agreeing to undergo such training. The truth is, if you hesitate, the bad guy will kill you. If citizens were educated about DOING WHAT THE POLICE TELL THEM TO DO IN A CRISIS, not so many innocent people would get shot. I challenge any idiot to differentiate a realistic looking toy gun at 20 feet from a real gun and to do so in the blink of an eye.
8. Average life span of cops is at least 10 years less than national average.
Those critical of police will bring up statistics that show other occupations where death on the job is more likely than it is for cops, however, police officers often face more dangers than being shot. Cops in the U.S. die at an average age of about 66 years old, compared to a national average of 79. Stress is a big reason for this, since although the vast majority of alarm calls are false, you never know which ones are not, so the cops’ adrenaline is often on a roller coaster of driving around bored and then suddenly racing to a bank robbery. When the alarm is false, it takes a while for the adrenaline surge to subside, a situation bad for one’s health. Furthermore, the stress of constantly dealing with people when they are having the worst day of their lives (due to death, injury, accident, family fight, victim of crime, being arrested, etc) is debilitating. Factor in a diet of fast food due to quick and interrupted “lunch” periods. A third of New York PD’s officers who retired in 2010 did so on a disability pension. Going in and out of a cruiser in all sorts of weather is also not particularly healthy. For example, if a cop dresses for the weather, he is likely to get heatstroke when he has to respond indoors for a complaint. Accidents and injuries pile up over the years, and exposure to the worst sorts of illnesses from the dregs of society is also a risk. Nor is the constant bashing by the media and lying, thieving, corrupt politicians who think nothing of violating a contract because labor boards and judges will back them up conducive to a police officer’s health. By the way, that average life span is debated, with 66 being the high side and 58 being a lower estimate. When one considers that when police were hired, they were healthier than the average person that age, this statistic is almost unbelievable.
7. Part-time police are a threat to the nation.
As with almost every other occupation in the U.S., there is the trend to hire part-time police officers to avoid having to pay benefits and full salary, also resulting in tenure and seniority issues. Instead of a full professional force, there are also “wannabes” who are poorly trained and working for peanuts, a dangerous combination when this person has to decide whether or not to shoot or arrest you. Around 20% of police officers nationwide are part-timers. Seriously, do you not want the best trained and professional cops possible handling your life and death situations? Even big cities have jumped on this trend (such as greater Pittsburgh with 29% part-timers), though smaller jurisdictions frequently only hire those who already have a police certificate to avoid having the expense of sending a recruit to the police academy. Pay is generally a fraction of that of full-time police officers, and these part-timers are threatened with reduced hours if they do not “produce,” meaning if they do not write tickets. These part-timers also have to spend their own money to attend courses rather than the regular training academies full-time police attend. I consider this issue the biggest problem in police work today.
6. There are more private police than real police.
By 1990, private police in the U.S. outnumbered real cops by 3 to 1. On average, these “wannabes” make half the pay of real police officers and only get a fraction of the training and oversight that real police get. They are often accused of impersonating real police and of heavy handed tactics, false arrests, etc.
5. There are a lot of cops, but…
In the U.S., there are about 900,000 law enforcement officers. This number will vary by how you define police, whether you include private police, customs agents, etc. But using this as a base, there are about 356 citizens for every cop, or a bit under 3 police officers per 1,000 people. Where I worked, there were half that number, while in other cities, such as Cleveland, Ohio, the number is 4 cops per 1,000 people. New York City has a whopping 34,450 uniformed officers. This may sound like a lot of cops, but there are considerably more lawyers and doctors in the U.S. than cops. In fact, there is 1 lawyer for every 2 imprisoned persons.
4. Police DO NOT “Serve and Protect.”
Thanks to the LAPD this phrase has become widespread across the country and confuses the public. The police cannot protect you. If they could, anyone who is the victim of a crime or accident would have a valid complaint about police not doing their job. Especially in areas with slow police response, you must be prepared to do something in your own defense while waiting for the cops. Police are mostly a “reactive” force rather than a “proactive” force, dealing with the aftermath of crimes rather than preventing them. Police are also not the handmaidens of the public, obligated to jump start cars, change tires, get cats out of trees, etc. I was sent to respond to idiotic calls such as a toilet overflowing and bats in the house, things I was not trained or equipped for, to the disappointment of the citizens as well as myself.
3. Cops do not treat every crime scene like CSI.
Do not be disappointed when the police are not quick to fingerprint the shells from the eggs someone threw at your car. Not all crime scenes get the full forensic search including fingerprints, vacuuming, extensive swabbing and lab analysis that you see on television. Investigators swarming a scene wearing booties and disposable suits are also rarely seen in real life. Budgets and manpower only permit such thoroughness in cases of murder, and then only in high-profile cases or affluent neighborhoods.
2. DNA is not solving crimes left and right.
In 2010, The Daily Mail reported that only .3% of those crimes solved are done so with the help of DNA database information. DNA evidence has been used to solve only 1 in 1,300 crimes committed.
1. Crimes are often unsolved.
Unlike television and the movies, many crimes are never solved. Consider shoplifting, for example. Only a tiny percentage of those result in an arrest. Murder is the highest percentage crime for making an arrest, with an approximate 65% “clearance rate” (2010). Crime numbers from 2004, indicate that only 26.2% of robberies and 13% of burglaries and car thefts are solved. The odds of the police catching your mugger, the teen who broke into your house, the punk who stole your car and prosecuting them are abysmally slim. Incredibly, during the 1960s, the clearance rate for murder was around 90%! (Makes you wonder how many people got railroaded for crimes they did not commit.)
Question for students (and subscribers): What would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
Koon, Stacey. Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair. Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1992.