Being a cop is probably the worst job in America.
I am not writing this as a woman who is immersed in research and policy. (Clearly.) I’m writing this because I know a ton of cops — family, childhood friends, former colleagues who quit jobs in IT and HR and became cops — and the job sounds awful.
I have heard thousands of cop stories in my lifetime, and I’ve come to believe one thing in my life: You don’t call the police when you have a lot of options. If you have to get a cop involved, it’s probably too late.
And that’s part of the problem.
Police officers are asked to sort through complex social issues while managing dangerous situations. They are responsible and accountable to a whole host of constituents including citizens, politicians and the media. Yes, that’s part of the job. But as much as you think your company struggles with staffing and employee engagement issues, you should talk to some cops. There isn’t a police department in America that isn’t fighting a war for talent with an unfunded — or underfunded — recruiting and training budget.
It’s easier to supplement your local police department with iPads and leftover post-9/11 weaponry than it is to give them access to someone who can train them on good community policing strategies or inspire them to be better leaders.
And you have to deal with people.
I have never heard one cop say to another, “You know what? Last night, I arrested the nicest people ever. They were sober, thoughtful and decent. They had a spat and needed a mediator. I was glad to help.”
The stories always involve alcohol, cocaine, meth, crack and/or weed. Your asshole cousin who smokes bath salts and sniffs gasoline makes an appearance in a few of those stories, too.
Being a cop sucks hard.
Now, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t been around some backwards cops in my life. Racist, sexist, pathological motherfuckers who work the system and have no place being employed in a Chinese coal mine, let alone a police department. But I think about decent men and women who believe in justice, risk their lives, and are given the run around when it comes to basic issues like compensation, safety and decent working conditions.
No thanks. I do not want that job.
But I think being a cop has to be the worst job in America because the expectations are low and you can’t do anything but react. You can get promoted and become Mariska Hargitay, but for the most part, police officers are just the opening prelude to a very long and tedious legal process where nobody wins.
Undertrained. Underfunded. Disengaged. Disempowered. Politicized.
I admire the hell out of many police officers, but that’s one job that sucks hard.