A veteran police officer in the tristate area who chose to remain anonymous for privacy reasons explained to Business Insider how the law enforcement profession has changed since he joined around the time of 9/11, and gave his views on the national policing conversation.
The officer grew up in Long Island, New York, and came from a family with a background in civil service. He knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps, and studied criminology in college. Soon after, he passed the police academy entrance exam.
In 2001, he graduated from what he called the academy’s “9/11 class,” due to the officers being sent to ground zero to help with recovery efforts before being deployed elsewhere.
He notes that at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks, officers were met with gratitude.
“Following the terrorist attacks, many first responders were greeted with gratitude. I felt as though America really came together and united around first responders and showered us with support. That showing of support eventually trailed off in a natural way,” he said.
However, times have changed — and not for the better.
He said, “I always think I was spoiled, because when I graduated from the academy, police officers at the time were shown such support. Now it’s almost completely reversed.”
The officer, who is in his 40s, has spent the intervening decades working many different roles.
He began his career as a patrol officer in eastern New York, and enjoyed building relationships in the community. “One of my favorite things about this role was being able to make connections with business owners and residents and see the same people on a regular basis,” he said.
One of his most memorable experiences as an officer was responding to a call about an unconscious baby. When they arrived on the scene, they encountered a frantic mother with the infant in her arms screaming for help. They eventually had to wrestle the baby away from the mother to get it to a hospital. Fortunately, the scene ended well.
“I just recall how relieved the mom was after we helped. It ended well, but left me wondering what happened in those couple of minutes where she was desperate for help but then didn’t want anyone to touch the child,” the officer recalled.
He then described how he worked for the transit police department, and would monitor the rail system for sex offenders during rush hours. He also worked as a narcotics detective, and was eventually promoted to an administrator role.
“I now work as an administrator, where my primary duties are to review and draft policies and procedures, evaluate programs, and work in external affairs,” he said.
With his extensive background and experience, the officer was able to give some insights into the current policing climate and how public attitude has changed.
He believes that the negative attitude towards policing is impacting officer retainment and impairing their ability to do their job.
“I’ve seen how public perception can impact officers’ morale. There have been cases across the country where police officers disengage completely because they feel as though they don’t have the backing of their community to use their legal authority when they see illegal activity taking place. One example would be Seattle, where they’ve seen dozens of officers leave the force entirely,” he explained.
While he agreed that certain reforms are worth looking into, he cautioned against directing funds away from the police.
“I believe we need to take a step back before divesting funds away from the police. We need to ask what it is that the public needs – and if the police are defunded, then who is expected to intervene against bad actors?” he said.
He also thinks policing needs to be more “localized” and “community-oriented,” so that officers can feel backed by local residents when arresting criminals.
Finally, regarding the conversation about policing and reform, he said people need to realize that officers are human and can make mistakes.
“We get stressed, we make split-second decisions. We work 10- to 12-hour days and make mistakes. We have families, and some of us think of this career as just a job. There are days we thank the heavens that we made the right decision, and others where we regret exactly what we did and wish we could go back. I think in the current climate we’ve lost a bit of perspective, and even a little bit more understanding around the human element of the job would benefit everyone involved,” he said.