Cops just ain't what they used to be

Mr. Jarbaby and myself got into a shouting match yesterday regarding my low opinion of cops these days.

In the past year or so we’ve heard of cops:

Beating people for no reason other than “to restrain them”

A cop in Chicago fatally shot a homeless man who ‘pulled a fork’ on him in an alley. A plastic fork.

Another Chicago cop fatally shot a motorist who reached for her cellphone that dropped to the ground during a routine traffic stop.

Not to mention the cop in New York that made women strip and walk naked ‘as a lesson’ to them.

My sister, 21 years old, was threatened with fines for referring to a policeman as a ‘cop’ in traffic court. They told her to WATCH HER MOUTH! What’s that?

I’m sure there are countless others, and they’re RARELY given anything but a suspension.

I told Mr. Jarbaby that it’s a sad fact, but when we have children, I’m not going to tell them what my parents told me, “the policeman is your friend”. I’m going to tell them “when you see a cop, shut your mouth and do whatever they ask, lest you be killed.” Face it! times have changed, they aren’t the friendly, walk-your-six-year-old-across-the-street policemen. Mr. Jarbaby disagreed…and then the fight began. He said that cops deserve our undying respect and honor and they protect us every day.

Sure, until they feel like seeing me naked.

Now, I’m sure they’re not all bad, and admittedly, the news can’t possibly report on all of the ‘good deeds stories’. But the bad percentage of cops seems to be growing by leaps in bounds, and I’m not sure how it’s going to end.

I suppose the scare tactic is working, though. There’s no question they’ve got my respect. I’m scared to death of breaking a law, speeding on the Dan Ryan or even looking a cop in the eye, but that’s just because I don’t want to be shot in the head when my lipstick falls out of my pocket.


As a former cop, I can tell you I am also distressed by these reports. Unfortunately, it is a fact that many police officers overstep their bounds of duty because of the badge on their chest. These officers may not stand out as much in large departments, or may be hidden by their brother officers, but it seems that when they get caught screwing up, it is widely (and justly) publicised.

I’m also not sure if these incidents are on the increase, or if there is less tolerance now.

I currently serve as a Police Civil Service Commissioner for the municipality in which I was an officer, and have made it known that if a case of “badge heaviness” comes before the commission, I will judge it based on the facts presented. If the officer is wrong, he should bear the punishment.

The “good” cops still outnumber the bad ones, but I don’t believe they deserve respect. They should earn it. By being good at their jobs and treating people like people. Granted, I did run into people when on the job that needed their ass kicked, but not to the point of near death, or 5 to 1 odds. Cops have a tough job, and some people do their best to make it tougher.

Please consider teaching your children that they can trust a policeman.

How very odd.
I just came back from getting food with my brother and we were talking about bad cops because one was being blatantly bad in front of us.
As we were driving to the fast food place, we noticed that the cop beside us was reading a mai-order catalog… while DRIVING! We honked at him but he shrugeed it off and went back to his catalog, soon after he made a left hand turn that came very close with an oncoming car.


I think one might want to look at it in a couple of ways.

First, the media is paying more attention to the police than ever before, which means that previously unknown incidents will be widely publicized.

Secondly, the police officer of today faces much, much more pressure than even as long ago as the 80’s.

Thirdly, the current police are more likely to be shot at today than even 25 years ago.

Then, there is this civic leader mentality that seems to insist that the cops can cover vast areas with few officers and little equipment. Add into that the ever ongoing battle for a reasonable budget and the general opinion of the local leaders that cops should make low pay to go out and risk their lives daily.

In the 50s, the cop was the respected law enforcer on the beat, even though he might be taking a bit of payola or get a lot of freebies from shop owners, or might accept a bit of cash to look the other way for minor crimes. It was expected. It was his beat, and he took care of it. Sometimes, instead of running in a shop lifter, he might take him out behind the store and crack a few bones, to teach him a lesson. When chasing down a fleeing robber, he could shoot the guy. When he pulled out his gun and told someone to freeze, he meant it. Even if the crook had no gun and fled, he could shoot him.

Not like today, where a crook can take off and start a 6 hour car chase, or turn and run like hell even with 6 cops pointing guns at him, knowing they will not shoot if he has no visible weapon.

By the 60s, things were changing for the cops. Major corruption in the New York City PD, which had gone on for generations, came to light, the hippies harassed cops and deliberately provoked them and major drugs started rearing their ugly heads. By the 70s, cops were being sued like crazy. They could face greedy lawyers for having the wrong attitude when talking to a suspect, for grabbing them a bit too hard, for knocking crooks around, for shooting unarmed fleeing suspects.

In the 80s, it got worse. They had to go through psychological training courses, police courses, college classes, anger management, new shooting laws, and had to start keeping up with tons of new laws almost to the letter. They had to be able to chase some yuppie kid in his expensive, high performance car 100 miles through crowded streets in their ‘cost effective’ cheaper cars, watch him nearly kill folks and bang up assorted vehicles and when they finally get him, handle him gently.

No more jerking his ass out of the car window, banging him off of the side of the car, slapping him around and then taking him to jail. His lawyers and rich parents would protest.

At the same time, suddenly every criminal had a reason for being a criminal. It was either a crappy child hood, race related angst, desperate survival, or uncontrollable drug cravings, which they started taking because of the harsh way life treated them. Judges started turning hard core crooks loose with minimal punishment and the public started blaming the cops when said poor misunderstood crooks robbed and raped them and got only a light sentence again. Then, while out on bail, they knocked off a few all night stores to pay their lawyers.

Let us not forget that somewhere in this time period, it became the ‘in’ thing among crooks to shoot each other and the cops up. Gang bangerz were a rising social group. The crooks show up with 9 mm semiautomatic hand guns while the cops have only .38s. Then they show up with portable cannons able to knock the engine out of a car and the cops still only have .38s.

Enter the big squabble between fat politicians who are far away from the street action and very well fed, and the cops wanting equal weapons and protection and the reluctance to increase the budget. After all, for the price of one heavy duty cop car, they can get two economy cop cars, fuel efficient, cheap, and more money can go into the local golf club.

Enter cops buying their own heavy duty weapons and the new bullet proof vests. A whole lot of cops got injured and killed before budgets were increased to include better guns and protective devices. Even SWAT teams were new and few.

Now, mix in AIDS. A cop could now suddenly find himself threatened by an invisible, killer disease, always fatal, by just struggling with a fighting crook. For the longest time, he had to figure out and buy his own protective gear. Eventually, some AIDS carriers started using their disease as a weapon, by biting cops and splashing them with their own infected blood. It took years to convince the law makers that those crooks doing so were attempting murder and to incorporate appropriate laws.

Got it all so far? My time line might be just a teense off.

Mix in the race card. Suddenly, each time a cop grabbed a minority crook, if the cop was one race and the crook the other, it was racial discrimination, profiling or harassment. Race lawyers got involved. A really pissed off cop, having battled a black guy across the street for 10 minutes, gotten kicked, bitten, spit on, insulted and bloodied, dare not loose control and call him a discriminatory insulting name. The guy could walk just over that, no matter that the cop caught him breaking into a store and the crook started it by punching the cop. Add Gays into the mix and, then any one of any race or sexual orientation.

A person of race K, when caught beating the crap out of girl friend of same race, could spit on or punch the cop, of race Y, but the cop cannot react in any way, shape or form that might be considered racist. Plus, he had to control his anger and not wipe the floor with the criminal for spitting on or punching him. He had to treat him with reasonable respect.

Add in the growing kid crimes. Kid gangs with guns. Pipe bombs. Fourteen year olds could gut a 35 year old, spend time in a kid jail, be released at 18 and by 21, all previous records expunged and cleared. Then came kid rights, kid laws, psychiatrists expounded on great theories as why kids killed, the courts were lenient, parents, who were supposed to control the kids, could be jailed for slapping them, kids could scream sexual molestation and lie about it and get the accused adult involved in years of expensive hell clearing his name, and the cop has to handle it all.

Let the cop shoot one 10 year old who is shooting at him and it is the cop who is on trial. Now the cop needs to know psychology, especially kid psychology.

Enter the computer age and the lengthy fight for cops to progress beyond the simple radio car technology. Every crook carries a scanner for police bands, but cops only have a radio. Cutbacks have reduced the amount of cops on the beat.

Now, get the technology, the defensive vests, bigger guns, bigger cars, and suddenly get hauled in for abusing citizens. Their word against yours. Enter the car cam and remote microphone, mainly designed to protect the cop.

But, because of budget limitations, the amount of cops are low, so the car cam gets to record the killing of several lone officers, who shouldn’t have been alone when pulling over a car load of suspects.

Now we have sophisticated helicopters for the cops, but they are costly, so most cities can only afford one, if any. After all, the budget must buy up that ecologically sensitive chunk of scrub wood for 6 million and supply funding to that little art museum instead of providing a high technology, crime busting, life saving copter.

Now, the struggle over CCTV, like the British use. Not only does it cut down crime, but automatically searches faces for wanted criminals, hard copies things happening, runs tags, and spots problems before they start but can even sent out tickets to speeders via the mail for catching them speeding with no cops around. Great system!

But, while the cops would love it here, everyone is screaming big brother and fighting it, claiming that they have the right to break the law without being watched. When crimes do happen, they blame the cops for not being there to stop it, yet they don’t fight to increase the number of cops, nor to get the cops adequate gear nor to allow crime busting CCTV.
So, the cop, who is there to serve and protect, finds himself underpaid, fought by politicians over finances, equipment and technology, watched by the public for any sign of inappropriate activity they can get on their handicams, insulted by the public, who all know sharp lawyers, have to be racially neutral, have to be shrinks, lawyers themselves, diplomats, soldiers for urban combat, up on the latest nasty home built devices of destruction, all understanding, polite, controlled, pleasant, clad in bullet proof vests and fully aware of armor piercing ammo being sold in every gun shop ‘for deer hunters’, and having to be aware of AIDS and the various forms of hepatitis.

Plus, be aware that anyone in politics will throw them to the wolves at the slightest implication and that the media is slavering for footage of anything they might do that could be construed as police brutality.

Plus, the new public figures cops are animals and all have lawyers wanting to sue.

Man! I would not want to be a cop today. I’m surprised we have any cops at all.

Did I mention the meticulous tons of paperwork? Every incident needs to be carefully documented, of some sharp lawyer will get the case tossed out of court if every T is not crossed.

Plus the life threats. Most cops have guns hidden around their homes because various crooks resent getting caught and easily find out where cops live.

So, if your local cop is grumpy, turns without signaling, maybe accepts a free sandwich (even that is under scrutiny now. Freebies are virtually considered bribes or extortion, so many cops cannot even accept those willingly given.), don’t gripe.

Chances are you would not be able to do his job.

I could not and especially not for the pay.

Oh, darn. The few loose cannons among police officers have to follow the same rules as the rest of them? Awwwwwwwwwww.

Today’s police, while facing a much-better armed enemy (due to the United States’ insanely lax gun laws and enforcement), are much better trained and equipped in the past. Just because they are required to take training meant to keep them and the people they protect alive doesn’t mean I’m going to weep for the bad apples that are being caught.

I’m a cop and a supervisor. I like to think I’m one of the good ones (and the people in my community tell me so). I don’t make excuses for the bad cops. I agree that they should all be fired immediately. However, civil service rules and unions make that very hard to do unless there have been previous problems.

I’ve rewritten this post 10 times already. There’s no point in arguing about this. I’ll just say that most of us really are your friends and we live to help, a small percentage are bad, and we’re doing a very dangerous that no one in their right minds would take.

I hope that you also tell your children that when they need help, they can count on us. We’ll still be there, waiting to help.


Absolutely, 100%, correct!

I hope cops like you are still around by the time I have kids, David. :slight_smile:

Thanks all, for the testimonials. It’s nice to at least see cops admitting that there’s corruption.


I am not a huge fan of cops myself but I think your pining for good old days that exist mostly in our imagination.

My uncle, who became a cop after returning from ww2, was of the opinion that most of them would be in jail if they hadn’t joined the force. A few years ago they finally put a camera in the infamous elevator up to the booking room in the local station. Its not like they hadn’t known it was a favorite spot to beat suspects for the past 50 years.

Another retired officer went on about the old days when if a suspect made a cop chase him he got a thumping as standard procedure. According to him the guy running knew what to expect so it was ok. He had a hard time understanding why this was no longer acceptable.

Police opperate under a very different set of expectations than they used to. I suspect the training that is supposed to make them safer, more effective and more authoritative results in interaction with the public that is less likely to have a positive impression. Lots more police and intrusive police tactics don’t help much in this regard either.

With respect to bad apples, massive waves of hiring and increased opportunity for corruption are big factors.

Overall I would be amazed if rigorously controlled studies didn’t determine that todays police aren’t “better” then they had been in the past.

ever heard about LA cops in the 50s? cops havent changed, and the reason people become cops havent changed.
we need cops, and i know this, but its pretty obvious that we need protection from the cops, too.
badge, itll be hard not for you to take this personally, and this is just my opinion, but to my mind, anybody who actually wants to be a cop (or a politician for that matter) should be automatically precluded from ever taking the position.
theres something sick and wrong about wanting to have absolute power over us ordinary joes. its all about power, man. i really believe that, no matter how many cops say its because ‘they want to help people.’
id like to know how many cops were picked on in school and are now wreaking their terrible revenge on the rest of us. (im sure the percentage among security guards and other wannabe cops is higher.)
addendum, i have never been arrested or seriously harassed by the cops; i dont have a chip on my shoulder, in that regard, anyway.
my two cents, let the savaging commence.

A couple of friends of mine became cops and neither of them ever were the type to want to control people and neither were the type I’d ever expected join up. Both are funny, cheerful people, neither are aggressive nor big people, both preferred to avoid fights, both disliked giving orders but both had a strong sense of right and wrong.

I was completely floored when each joined the force, having never considered them cop material. I mean, one was small and avoided fighting and confrontation, the other while bigger, was too good natured and preferred to spend his free time working on old cars or designing custom paint jobs.

Both became law officers though.

I guess that kind of shoots the legs out of the desiring to be authority figures theory, doesn’t it?

Now, me. I wanted to be a cop. Gimme a big gun, one of those gallon cans of mace, a hot car with flashing lights and replace that silly old billy club with a cattle prod and I’m there! I’m a good shot too. Let some kid flee from me and I’ll not only shoot his tires out but blow the side mirrors off of his car and that earring out of his earlobe.

The regular cops didn’t think I’d make even a good security guard. Gee, I don’t know why? :slight_smile:


There’s a good chance that this is the result of poor training. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to restrain a man who didn’t want to be restrained but it can be very difficult. If you aren’t properly trained then you might have to rely on bone crushing blows to subdue a suspect.


Unless you have more information it sounds like the officer was justified. If you pull what looks like a weapon to me and threaten me with it you just might get shot. How was the officer suppose to know it was a plastic fork?


Poor training or an itchy trigger finger. I witnessed an officer pull over a man and he started to get out of his vehicle. The officer had her weapon drawn, didn’t point it at him, and ordered him back in the vehicle. It isn’t such a great idea to make sudden movements or reach for something without permission from the officer that pulled you over.


Gross abuse of powers I’d say.


Well the officer can’t threaten her with a fine in court that comes from the judge.


I don’t think all the cases you presented showed that cops were in the wrong. But for the most part first time infractions probably aren’t going to result in the officer being fired unless it is fairly serious.


I think we’d all be better off if we taught our children what their basic civil rights are. Remember that television show COPS? It always amazed me how people willingly surrendered their right to remain silent or allowed police officers to search their vehicles.

I’ve found a few simple rules to follow when being pulled over by the police.

  1. Don’t be rude. Even if the cop is acting like an ass.

  2. Don’t lie.

  3. Keep your hands on the steering wheel unless and
    don’t move until you’re told to do something.

  4. If you’re a suspect shut up and get a lawyer.


Were they ever? I don’t mean to say that all cops are bad but they see the worst side of humanity on a day to day basis. They’re not paid to be friendly they’re paid to preserve the peace.


What seems to be and what is aren’t always the same. It might seem that we’re having more youth violence because of the school shootings but that doesn’t mean we are. Every time I’ve been pulled over by the police they’ve been professional and not at all rude.

I think it depends on where you live. In Plano, Texas I’d have no fear of the police whatsoever. In New Orleans in the past I’d have been terrified of being pulled over because the PD there was rife with corruption. If I were black I’d probably be very wary of the LAPD.


I think that this thread is Great Debates material.

Be seeing you

Disclaimer thingy: I have no experience with cops, heh…I was in the car with a friend who got pulled over by a cop because my friend had his brights on (his headlights were too dirty for the normal lights to shine through well, so he was using his brights) and it was blinding the cop in front of us…We were pulled over, the cop warned us that it irritated other drivers, my friend apologized, and when we got to the parking lot (we were near our destination), we cleaned off the headlights. We should have cleaned them off before-hand (we knew they were dirty), so it’s not some power-mad cop abusing his badge or anything. Other than that, I’ve never had a run-in with the police…so for all I know, I’m talking out my ass here, heh.

I agree with SpyderA48’s whole “cops have it sucky, give them a break” angle. And while there ARE bad cops, there are good cops, and those good cops are going up against crappy odds so that Joe “I Hate Cops” isn’t killed by some punk with a machine gun who doesn’t give a crap about what “the law” says he should do.

Personally, I just don’t get how people can be stupid. “Put your hands on the car!”, and then the person says “Lemme get my wallet for you” and reaches into their coat. Sure, maybe you have no intention of pulling out a gun, but from the point of view of the officer who doesn’t know if you’re some jolly citizen who spends free time helping out sick children at the hospital, or some gang member who’s high on drugs and ready to shoot you dead for no reason other than you’re the one that pulled them over, it’s pretty reasonable that they’d be worried.

I figure that if I haven’t done anything stupid, and the cop wants to search my car, he can go right ahead. There’s nothing bad in it and if I’m late for work or whatever, I say a cop made a mistake and pulled me over. If I’ve done something stupid that deserves being pulled over, then I should be apologizing for my stupidity and pay whatever ticket I end up with because it’s not their responsibility to keep me from doing stupid things…that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. And if I’ve just killed someone and I’ve got a body in the trunk, then I’ll apologize and act nice twice as much in hopes that they’ll decide NOT to search my car, and if they do, I’ll run like crazy and hope I can pull off some sort of flukey escape, heh…

From what I hear of people complaining about cops and stuff like photo-radar (it all invades our privacy of course), it’s generally people who get caught at things that complain. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to have chips implanted in our heads when we’re babies so they can track all our movements and stuff, heh…

And if you drop your lipstick, ask the officer if you can pick it up or wait until they leave before you suddenly duck down and reach near your ankle where you could have a gun strapped after they pull you over. :slight_smile:

  • Tsugumo (who would never become a cop because I wouldn’t want to run the risk of being blown apart by a shotgun every time I approach the car of a speeder I pull over)

Gotta cite for this? Because I think I know what case you are refering to, and that ain’t what happened.

You wouldn’t be referring to the Johnny Gammage case, now would you?

Chris Rock has a very funny routine where he talks about the DO’s and DON’Ts when dealing with the cops.

I’ll paraphrase some of the funnier and more relevent bits I remember:

Be polite. (A gangbanger who just got pulled over is like “id dare a problem offica?”

(Same gangbanga gets out of the car and starts screaming “what the fu” ath the cop. Fade to Rodney King style beating)

Turn that shit off (radio)

(Gangbanger is playing ICE-T’s “Cop Killa” or NWA’s 187. Fade to Rodney King style beating)

Pull over

(Gangbanger tries to outrun the cops. Fade to Rodney King style beating)

Shut the fuck up

(Gangbanger with his preppy friend get pulled over. Before the preppy driver can speak, the gangbanger starts screaming at the cops. Fade to double Rodney King style beating)
Basically, the message is if you get stopped by the cops be civil. You have a better change of getting off or at least not getting beaten about the head if you do what they say. Save you fight for the courtroom.

I’m sorry, no, I don’t have a cite for this. All of these examples were from recent memory. As it wasn’t in Great Debates originally, I wasn’t really prepared with research.

And Guin, I believe the Johnny Gammage case was around the same time…wasn’t it?

But honestly, I am interested to hear what happened for real, because I KNOW I’m not making up that she was shot.

In any event…I absolutely realize that cops have a tough row to hoe. I’m just pointing out that more than respecting cops, I fear them. Believe me, whenever I’m pulled over (which, because I’m such a geek driving school teacher’s pet, has only been twice) I’ve done ANYTHING they asked and didn’t say a word. BUT, If my lipstick falls out of my purse, I may not have time to ask if I can pick it up, “poor training” or an “itchy trigger finger” may result in me being killed.

And I’m sure there were bad cops all through the history of time. I’m just saying that when I was little, my mom said “if you’re ever in trouble, find a policeman.” and that’s something I definitely won’t tell my kids…not if we’re living in downtown Chicago.


No, I’m wrong again (see, whenever I get thrown into great debates, I just fall to pieces in intimidation)

I just did a google search for Johnny Gammage and that’s not what I’m talking about. The cases I’m speaking of were last summer, one on the Dan Ryan I believe, and one (The cellphone) on a side street. I hope someone can elaborate.


I got pulled over for speeding on the highway last summer for the first time in 15 years. The last time, 15 years ago, I cracked jokes with the cop who gave me my ticket, talked about the Cincinnati Reds, and went on my way. Nobody likes getting a ticket, but I deserved it and what the heck, I made the most of it.

Things had changed, at least in my mind, by last summer. I pulled over, then rolled my window down, got out my wallet and held it in my hand with my hands on top of the steering wheel. I was very nervous. It was dark out, and the highway had little traffic. When the officer came to the car, I could feel my hands shaking, and I dropped my wallet when he asked for my driver’s license. I asked him to shine his light inside the car and watch my hands while I reached for the dropped wallet. “What are you talking about?” he said. I said, “Sir, I just want you to be able to see that I’m not trying anything.”

The officer stepped back from my car and, honestly, seemed almost like he was going to cry. He said, “Jesus, we’re not all trigger happy maniacs!” I apologized, and we finished our transaction. Once again, I had been speeding, so had no argument with being pulled over. But I was certainly scared this time. Much different from 15 years ago.

Why was I so nervous? Maybe just because I watch the news. But the news paints a very uncertain picture about the relationship between the public and the police. I’m not saying my reaction was reasonable, but I’m not surprised by it.