When I started police work in 1980, I wanted to help people. I went to work every day and did the job, honing my skills as I went through my career. Fast-forward to today. I wouldn’t know how to do the job now. We exist in a country where the police have been defunded, demonized, demoralized and disrespected. I used to say, the public can either respect me or fear me. A healthy dose of both allowed you to get the job done usually unscathed. The men and women who patrol our streets now have neither quality to rely on. They are videoed at all times, GPS-tracked and Monday-morning-quarterbacked instantly on YouTube. This has given the word “thankless” a whole new meaning.
I was a police officer in Connecticut. This is a liberal state on a good day, and we had to contend with not only the U.S. Constitution, but a more restrictive Connecticut Constitution. It doesn’t say “the Constitution State” on the license plate for nothing.
In 2020, the Connecticut Legislature passed the Police Accountability Act. It’s a lengthy document that has had, predictably, disastrous results for Connecticut’s police officers. At the time, police officers protested outside the state Capitol in vain. The majority Democrats got the bill passed in the wee hours of the morning and several of the minority Republicans didn’t even show up for the vote. At the time, I was retired and living in Florida. I spent all day and most of the evening emailing Connecticut legislators in both parties, imploring them not to pass the bill. It became immediately apparent to me that an agenda was afoot as a knee-jerk reaction to incidents that had taken place across the country, far from Connecticut. It was also painfully clear to me that these politicians I was corresponding with were knowingly undermining public safety for their political gain.
We exist in a country where the police have been defunded, demonized, demoralized and disrespected.
The bill became law, and I felt sick in the gut. I feared for my family members and friends on the job. I knew that any erosion of power or respect meant a palpable physical danger to them. What a difference it was being in Florida. Sheriffs in Florida back their deputies and give timely press conferences supporting them after OIS’s or other major incidents. If a police chief said those things in Connecticut, he or she would be fired.
I literally talk about law enforcement with friends from local, state and federal agencies daily. We all agree: this essential community role — law enforcement — is on life support. Self-serving politicians, while enjoying the exclusive protection of armed security with our taxpayers’ dollars, unashamedly vilify us for their personal gain. While putting us in the crosshairs, crime has risen sharply, and violent criminals have no respect or fear of consequences. Proactivity is not only discouraged, but if you want to keep your job, it may even be foolish.
We are in a crisis. Departments are forced to accept subpar applicants. What problems will that cause in the future?
I spoke to one chief in a coffee shop about the new law. His eyes glazed over, and he had that dead-inside look. He stumbled through the conversation, and I could tell that while he silently agreed with me, that ship had already left port and he was on it.
Not long ago, I was visiting with a friend and former co-worker, Sergeant John Krupinsky of Danbury P.D. John is the boss at CT FOP, and a Connecticut legend. He told me that this new law has destroyed recruitment and eroded morale statewide: “There’s no coming back … they took qualified immunity away from us … we used to worry about being yelled at … now we worry about going to jail! I begged the legislators not to pass it. They took consent searches away. We can’t take drugs or guns off the streets without this. We can’t even question passengers on a motor vehicle stop. It’s illegal. Our crime in Connecticut has skyrocketed! Municipalities have taken away pensions. Why would anyone do this job now?”
Don’t our politicians and municipal leaders understand that the police work for them and that they work for us? There is a war on cops. I would like to see a “Politician Accountability Act.” There should be term limits for these legislators. I wonder if any of them have ever done a ride-along with a police officer and have seen, up close, what we deal with.
So where do we go from here? When he was walking his beat in the 1920s, I’m sure my grandfather never envisioned such a world. Even when I was driving my black-and-white in the ’80s, I didn’t. Now, my son is a cop. I hope for better days not only for him, but for all of our police officers, and I continue to pray for their safety. As Sergeant Krupinsky succinctly puts it: “We are losing more officers every day than we can hire; what do we do when there are none left?”