Cops Respond: The State & Future of Law Enforcement. What’s Changed in a Year?

September 23, 2021

In June, 2020, one month after the George Floyd incident, Calibre Press polled officers nationwide asking for their opinions on the current state of policing and their thoughts on the future of the entire profession and their own careers. More than 10,000 officers responded within days and the results were fascinating.

One of the more impactful findings at that time was that even in the midst of a storm of anti-police clamor, about 80% of responding officers reported that they were either “extremely satisfied” with being a cop, “pleased” but not as much as they used to be with the job, or they were “somewhat” pleased.

Interestingly, however, the response to whether they would choose policing as a career if they could turn back time was evenly split between yes, no and not sure.

But perhaps the most alarming finding was that only 7% of officers would recommend policing as a career for a son or daughter…meaning a whopping 93% of officers had no interest in having their kids continue a law enforcement lineage.

We were curious to see if things had improved in the more than a year since our first poll so we once again asked officers to share their thoughts. End result? Very little has changed.

Here’s what 4,500 officers shared with us last week:

Time on the job.

59.1% have been on the job for more than 20 years—an almost 15% increase in longer-term officers from the previous poll

26.3% have been on between 13-20 years

11.2% have been on 6-12 years

3.4% have been on 1-5 years, which is about half the percentage of those early-stage officers who responded in the first poll.

Rank/position.

29.8% are at the patrol level—a nearly 12% decrease in this level from the previous poll

26.5% are first line supervisors

20.6% are at the command level

13.2% are detectives

9.9% are Chiefs or Sheriffs—more than double the percentage at this level from the previous poll.

Job Satisfaction.

When asked about their overall level of satisfaction with being in law enforcement, the results of this poll closely mirrored those from the previous poll.

52.5% said they were “Pleased, but not as much as I used to be.”

19.3% were “somewhat satisfied.”

13.4% had “very little” satisfaction with the job.

9.3% were “extremely satisfied.”

5.5% were not satisfied at all.

Leaving the Job.

When asked about their thoughts on leaving law enforcement, the results of this poll also closely mirrored the previous poll.

45.8% said they would like to retire but were choosing to wait until they’re eligible for pension.

27.6% said they would remain on the job “as long as possible.”

21.3% were eligible for pension and planned to retire ASAP.

About 4% said they were not eligible for a pension but were leaving anyway.

About 1% said they were new to the job but planned on leaving “no matter what.”

Looking Back.

When asked, “If you had it to do over again, would you enter law enforcement?” responses were virtually identical to the closely split results of the previous poll.

40.6% said they would.

32% said they would not.

27.4% weren’t sure.

The Future?

We saw a slight increase in the number of officers who would recommend policing as a career to their son, daughter or anyone else.

11.4% of current responders said they would recommend the job as compared to the 7.2% who said they would in the previous poll.

72.7% said they would not recommend policing which is a slight decrease from the 80.5% who said they would not in the previous poll.

15.9% were “not sure” if they would recommend.

If not, why?

Those who said they wouldn’t recommend that their kids become officers were asked to select the reasons they feel that way from a list of multiple concerns provided in the poll.

They were asked to choose all factors that apply.

Their responses:

51.3% said it was dangerous to officers.

39.2% said it was dangerous for officers’ families.

88.9% cited an overall lack of respect for the police.

87.5% said it was because legal liability has greatly increased.

58.8% felt a lack of department/professional support.

59.4% said the duties of the job have changed.

31.1% said it was because of poor pay and/or benefits.

Additional thoughts.

In last week’s poll we included the ability to add additional reasons for not recommending policing.

Among the more than 900 responses we received were comments like:

“Jail should never be a punishment for a split-second decision by an officer. It’s not worth getting involved anymore when the legal system defends the criminals and incarcerates the police.”

“Political climate.”

“The ‘good ‘ole boys’ club mentality has crippled the profession irreparably.”

“No matter what we do, we are wrong in everyone’s eyes…the public’s, the media’s, your own administration. It’s all about just surviving until retirement now. Forget being proactive…you submit yourself to something going wrong. Answer your dispatched calls and nothing more. That’s what society wants now.”

“More is required with less resources.”

“Too many bend the knee and no longer follow the Constitution.”

“Impact on mental health.”

“The defund the police movement. The general public does not realize that a large portion of law enforcement budgets are allotted for training. The public demands more training for officers to avoid repeats of critical incidents, but support removing and utilizing LE funds for non-police related projects, leaving the officers less trained and less prepared.”

“Shift work too difficult on families. Moving ahead puts you back on midnights.”

“Absolutely sick and tired of this profession. This country, state and local governments have in the last 2 years wrecked good officers. I am counting down the seconds before I can quiet. I sure hope the public has the ability to protect themselves because I don’t see anyone aspiring to this job.”

“The prosecutors are no longer holding people accountable and the judges’ hands are tied by too many restrictions.”

“Besides fighting criminals, you have to fight the media and politicians.”

“Lack of true media reporting.”

“Overall, LE is a wonderful profession and I do love my job. I will consider retiring when I am eligible but it will depend on what the current state of LE is when the time comes. I have not encouraged friends or family to explore LE because of the drastic changes I see happening across the country. I see policies, laws and procedures changing that hinder police work. I also see officers being charged for crimes when they have to make split-second decisions yet the PA offices or others can review for hours on end and make a decision to charge. Officers are being programmed to hesitate (worried about what could happen to them) which will only lead to someone getting hurt.”

“Police are made to watch violence and serious criminal activity w/o stopping or interceding. Departments make proactive policing bad.”

“General lawlessness in our cities and the government, at all levels, selectively following and enforcing certain laws.”

“The line between the good guys and the bad guys is no longer clear. Even the ‘good’ citizens treat the police with disrespect. It has become fashionable to hate the police.”

“It is no longer worth the stress. I want my son to get out of LE and into banking.”

“I don’t believe there is an overall lack of respect, but I do believe the media has made law enforcement out to be the bad guy and this weighs heavily on LEOs. The ‘silent majority’ is not speaking loudly enough to counter their being out shadowed by the vocal, negative minority voice. I am eligible to retire but chose not to as I still believe in the work I do. The community and politics are not going to drive me out.”

“Politicians side with votes instead of cops!!!”

“The liability far outweighs the rewards.”

“Lack of support from local district attorneys. They seem more concerned with furthering their political careers than keeping the community safe. In my area, it is literally catch and release. There is a rise in crime but a decrease in actual prosecution. The DAs office has increasingly been denying warrants, causing offenders to walk away.”

“I would still encourage them if I thought the fit was right.”

Things to think about.

The questions we should be asking are these: If those in the profession won’t advocate for it, what will happen to it? Who will serve? And then, what will be the result for the citizenry? The innocent? Those who need protection?

The following quote is attributed to Plato, who lived 2,300 years ago.

“It does not matter if the cobblers and the masons fail to do their jobs well. But if the Guardians fail, the democracy will crumble.”

Think about that.

There’s still time to take the poll. –CLICK HERE– to get there.

Want to get in touch with us? Send a note to editor@calibrepress.com

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