I was a Police Officer for 23 years. I was medically retired in 2010, not by my choice but because my body and mind just couldn’t do it anymore. I see everyday stories of all kinds of Law Enforcement incidents. Some are very good police work and some are questionable. The point is that these men and women, literally put their lives on the line everyday they are on the street and I thank them for their service. The media and much of the public have no idea what it is that Officers do or why they do it. There are Police Officers that are good and there are Officers that are bad, just like Lawyers, Doctors, etc. The public and media, expect perfection, everyday. I know that the Officers that I worked with, gave the best and the most they could, everyday. We all make mistakes. The problem comes with police work, is that a mistake could cause someone to lose their life. How do you live with that on your mind?
There are many different aspects of police work. It changes as to what your duties or job is at that specific moment; so Officers have to be a “jack of all trades and master of none” in many instances. One moment you may be taking a vandalism complaint and the next you may be responding to an armed robbery or accident with injuries. If you’re a Detective, you spend most of your days chasing down leads on the cases piled on your desk, some on the phone, others on the street. I don’t think that most people realize how much work Police Officers go through to stay proficient at their jobs. Officers have to be smart, they have to educate themselves or they won’t last. You have traffic officers, patrolman, crime scene investigators, detectives, gang units, SWAT officers, etc. Each of them has their specific job function but any of them at any time could be responsible for the others job. Is this the most efficient use of personnel? Probably not. But during the budget crunches that we have seen in recent years, it is the fact we have to live with.
The public wants service. They want service NOW, not 30 or 60 minutes from now. The unfortunate fact is, that many times, it isn’t possible to provide immediate service in every case, especially when it is not an emergency. When you have that car sitting in your driveway with the broken window and stereo missing, you want someone to be there to find out who did this to you. The fact is that many times, these incidents don’t have anyway of finding out who did this and for most larger departments, this is a case that goes on the back burner. If you don’t have an injured person, dead body, it isn’t a priority. Property crimes are not a priority in many cases. It is an incident that has already occurred, no one is in an immediate danger and it will take time and evidence to find the suspect. There aren’t enough Officers to respond to every crime in what the public feels is a reasonable time frame. In large Departments, such as Los Angeles, a property crime, stolen vehicle, etc. are handled over the phone and a report is filed for your insurance purposes only. Many times, there is no investigation.
The facts aside, the media takes and say they “investigate” stories where police have done nothing. Well, the fact is that people don’t talk to Cops. When a reporter comes to them, the first thing they hear is $ signs and their 15 minutes of fame. When a Cop comes and asks questions, they shut down and “don’t want to be involved”. So, how is it that Officers are supposed to find your suspect when no one will talk to them. Forensic and physical evidence are not the only thing that makes a case. In addition to that, the case has to be presented to a prosecutor and accepted for prosecution, arrest warrant, search warrant, etc. I don’t know how many of my cases over the years, were presented to the District Attorney and was turned down for one reason or another. Many of them were cases from when I was on the street, someone was in custody and the case was investigated, pretty much a slam dunk. They still would dump the case and choose not to prosecute. Many of these were drug cases. If the suspect was a first time offender, had personal use amount or if there was any question of 4th amendment search and seizure, they would dump the case. The problem comes, how many times before have these people been caught and not prosecuted. Many of these people were repeat offenders on this basis. Many of the areas that I worked were known for their drug traffic and use. Night clubs, restaurants, drug houses, etc. So how many times do get turned down, before you start to question why you are doing what you’re doing? You start to give up. The court system is another part of police work that I haven’t addressed, yet. That will be covered in the ne
Every case, traffic ticket, summons goes through the court system. Any case that goes to trial is heard by a Judge, Magistrate or some kind of hearing officer. The vast majority are lawyers but there are some cases that are heard by individuals that have no training at all. Many cases have witnesses, officers and suspects. Most felony cases have a prosecutor and a defense attorney. It is rare, by the statistics, that someone goes into court and pleads guilty without any legal representation. No matter what you see on TV. It is the successful case in the investigators eyes, that they have a confession on video or in writing that they celebrate. Things can still go wrong. Defendants will get a defense attorney who will trump up excuses for why the confession was coerced, the evidence was tainted and when they court sides with the defendant, the case may not be able to move forward and so it gets dismissed. Is that the Officers fault? The prosecutor’s? No, it is the courts and this can be traced back decades as to why this happens. It is the reason why we have so many frivolous law suits year after year. The liberal Judges have allowed and given decisions on cases that sometimes they shouldn’t have even allowed to move up to the higher courts. When a higher court hears a case and makes a decision to question if the defendant was given their rights, it goes back to the lower court for additional review, new trial, invalid search, etc. Police Officers deal with this on a regular basis as well.