In the last few years, things seem to have a way of making it increasingly harder to be the police. In any roll call or coffee shop, if there is a group of cops, it is virtually guaranteed at least one of them is talking about when they can retire, and a second cop is jealously talking about how many years they have until they can retire. Both of those cops are looking at the younger cops and telling them they need to “get out” while they still can.
Is this really the case, though? Is being a police officer in 2021 really all that bad? Sure, House Bill 163 just passed in Illinois. Have the guys in roll call actually taken the time to read the bill or, at the very least, taken the time to read a few synopses of the bill from trusted sources? They probably have not. If they did, they would realize that most of the language that was harmful to our profession has been removed from the bill.
House Bill 163 originally aimed to end qualified immunity for Illinois police officers. While that is very concerning, it did not happen. The language ending qualified immunity was removed. It is very likely the language was removed because the legislators came to the realization that qualified immunity was developed by the Supreme Court of the United States. The idea of qualified immunity came from the SCOTUS’ interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This interpretation was articulated in 1967 when the SCOTUS decided Pierson v. Ray, and it has not changed significantly since 1982 when the SCOTUS decided Harlow v. Fitzgerald.
The idea of qualified immunity has been around for decades and the SCOTUS has made several rulings
on it. They have made their stance crystal clear, and currently the SCOTUS holds six conservative justices to only three liberal justices. The conservative justices have a record of not reversing their rulings and of supporting law enforcement. Qualified immunity is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Joe Biden is now the president of the United States and he is a Democrat. There are plenty of cops that loved Donald Trump and plenty of cops that most definitely did not love Donald Trump. The same cops who are telling the new cops to “get out” are also saying they cannot wait to retire and it is going to be “another eight years of Obama.” Well, what does that even mean? President Obama did not openly support or condemn law enforcement. He did say that one cop “acted stupidly,” but he apologized and even had him over for a beer. President Obama did not say all cops are stupid, and he certainly did not openly call for violence against police officers. President Trump, on the other hand, openly supported law enforcement and encouraged people to support law enforcement. Did you feel all the love? No, you didn’t. The simple fact is that the opinion or feelings of the POTUS really do not affect law enforcement. The same people who hated you when Donald Trump was the POTUS are still going to hate you now that Joe Biden is the POTUS, and that goes for the people who love you as well.
What it comes down to is simple: If you are a good cop, doing good work, you have nothing to worry about. Cops are not getting fired for simply doing their jobs. They are getting fired for doing their jobs wrong. Yes, there are exceptions, especially in cases involving the use of lethal force. However, these cases are few and far between. The instances that gain national attention are the exceptions to the rule. There are police-involved shootings that happen regularly that no one ever hears about. Those are the majority of the shootings that are handled properly and professionally.
It doesn’t matter if you only have a few years on the job or a few years left until you can finally retire. If you are still collecting a paycheck, you are being paid to go out there and do your very best to keep the community you serve safe. You took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and the state you serve in, and to keep the citizens in your community safe. If that oath no longer means anything to you and you are simply collecting a paycheck, maybe it is time to collect that paycheck somewhere else. If the badge still makes you swell with pride, hang in there. Things will get better. Opinions tend to work like a pendulum. They swing back and forth. Right now, the public opinion of law enforcement is not the greatest. However, it used to be, and it will be again. Just stay the course.