Police looking for support

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Peter Moskos: When police say they need the support of politicians, it’s not about protecting bad cops

Peter Moskos, former police officer, professor at the College of Criminal Law. John Jay (Peter Moskos, John Jay College of Criminal Justice), believes that the American police are in a difficult situation and need help.

Margot Gontard: How police view protests?

Peter Moskos: Of course, there are different sentiments, because the police are not monolithic. But I think the main reaction is: “What the hell ?! Someone died somewhere in Minneapolis, and you are protesting against me? ” It’s bad when everyone is punished for the mistakes of one. Plus, riots create a lot of extra work..

Of course, there are some scoundrels in the police – I don’t mean to say that there are no bad cops. However, now there is a feeling that if I make a mistake and sincerely repent of it, or, even worse, I just honestly do my job, as I was ordered, then I will be in serious trouble..

I have not heard that no one did not consider the murder of George Floyd monstrous. This policeman was fired, arrested and sued. The system has responded to the crime, the system is working. However, protests continue, although the policeman has failed to evade responsibility..

What happened was an unpleasant surprise for many police officers, including me, because in most police departments the use of this suffocating grip has long been prohibited. But the main question is: why? Why did this happen in a big progressive city like Minneapolis? In my opinion, the problem is in the absence of leaders: the police are not told what to do..

Let’s analyze the situation in Atlanta, where a guy snatched a taser from a policeman and, running away, shot at him, and the police officer shot back with a pistol. Simply put: the guy shot at the policeman, he shot back, this caused outrage. But for the police, this situation looks different: if we cannot protect ourselves, then how should this all work? Cops may say the cop did the right thing, or – at least – tried to do the right thing, but still ran into problems.

It’s crazy to think that the police can be perfect anytime, anywhere. When cops say they need the support of politicians, they are not talking about protecting bad cops, they are talking about protecting good cops from criticism that may be unfounded. But the police know that any mayor or even the head of the police department will be happy to put the blame on them..

M.G .: How do you feel about calls to deprive the police of funding?

P.M .: It is the police who take calls and take calls when people need psychiatric help. It would be great if these calls were handled not by the police, but by social services. I am concerned that people support the deprivation of funding from the police and do not understand what they will get in the end. It’s not just about money. In New York, spending on supporting the homeless has increased by billions of dollars, now spending $ 50,000 a year per homeless person. However, as a result, the number of requests to the police for help to the homeless has doubled. Hence, this strategy does not work. The story of the homeless in New York is a perfect example that money does not solve the problem..

M.G .: What can you say about the mandatory wearing of video surveillance by police?

P.M .: Interestingly, when it all began, the police opposed, and now opposes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU – a well-known US human rights organization – GA). But it doesn’t matter who is for and who is not. This is an irreversible process, technology will take its place. The policeman does not want to be without a video camera. In most cases, it confirms the police officer’s point of view. Having video footage of the incident helps a lot, and if it makes the police behave better, great! But this also has its drawbacks. For example, it makes it impossible for police officers to be flexible, which is not a good thing. This means, for example, that police officers will prefer to resort to arrest rather than being lenient, because if something happens, the police officer may be asked why he released the person.?

M.G .: Is the work of a police officer similar to what we see in films and TV shows?

P.M .: The series “The Wire” by David Simon about the Baltimore police is much more realistic than others. But, in general, cops do not like to watch TV shows about the police, because they do not reflect reality. They almost never show patrolling, which takes up most of the policeman’s working time. In the series, there is always a struggle between good and evil. There’s always a corrupt cop. After watching such a series, people begin to think that there is a corrupt police officer in every police unit – they come across, of course, but not at all so often. In these series, a good cop is regularly faced with the need to break the law in order to do the right thing..

M.G .: What would you change in the work of the police?

P.M .: We need to get the police out of the cars, let them walk the streets again. Then they get to know the area in which they work better. This would be a fundamental change, and it would really help, because people would have a lot more positive emotions from interacting with the police, and the police would not see people in the worst light..

Also, I think it is necessary to reform the 911 service. Of course, the situation is different in each particular police station, but, as a rule, about half of the police officers are involved in answering calls, and this creates many problems. As a result, the police officer cannot do any other work..

Also, many police officers have low wages. Salaries need to be increased so that police officers do not have to work overtime and thus become more tired. Why don’t we regulate the hours of work of police officers in the same way we regulate the number of working hours of truck drivers? The cops work out a 12-hour shift, yelling at them for 8 hours, and then they go off, and you get another nightmare video. It’s a vicious circle: tired people make mistakes..

M.G .: What the cops would like?

P.M .: The police want to be seen as people. To ensure that their work is reliably and honestly covered by the media. To be seen as people who also have a personal life and family, who have good intentions, but can also be wrong.

They say that the work of a police officer is not as dangerous as, for example, work on a construction site. But there is a difference between dying in an accident and a situation where you knowingly risk your life. This, of course, does not happen on a daily basis, but this is what we expect from the police..

And the police also feel on the side of good, if it is necessary to roughly divide the world into good and evil. So when people say that all cops are bad, it hurts our feelings. A police officer spends his life at work trying to do well and wants to be seen as a good guy.

M.G .: Why did you decide to go to work for the police?

P.M .: I studied at Harvard and studied police work, but my topic was not approved. The only thing left for me was to go to work for the police to continue my research. So it was a very unusual way to become a police officer. I was hired for this job while still at the Police Academy, it was the first time in history..

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