LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With law enforcement practices under fire across the country, morale is low among rank-and-file LAPD officers, according to Robert Harris, the director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, protesters have taken to the streets every week across the nation decrying excessive police force, especially against Black people. Several agencies have banned the use of pepper spray and carotid holds, and there are calls to defund police and redirect those funds toward mental health and social services.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the added pressure of needing to do their jobs as they are criticized for their doing their jobs, rank-and-file police officers are reporting low morale, Harris said.
“I’m hearing officers who are probably the most phenomenal officers in the country, they are by far the most professional I’ve ever worked around, and they’re beaten. And they’re bruised. And they’re down,” Harris said. “I had one officer tell me that he feels like a Vietnam soldier returning home to a country that hates him, and that’s not a good place to be.”
Harris acknowledged that police reforms are appropriate and needed.
“But the vilification and the constant verbal battering of our profession has taken a huge toll on top of what they were expected to do with the protests and COVID, so morale is low right now,” he said.
Harris said that the calls for defunding the police would be counterproductive for an agency as large as the LAPD, which does its hiring at attrition rates so the agency is not generally adding to its ranks.
“When you start tinkering with the budget of the LAPD, even though on the onset it looks large, even $150 million will have serious impacts,” he said. “If you cut funding from us and delay recruit classes and hiring, it will create a domino effect and you’re looking at about a loss of about 800 officers over the next two years. And with the World Cup and the Olympics coming, I don’t think we can afford to do that.”
To fix morale within police officer ranks and within the community, as well as institute actual reforms, Harris said he believed more involvement from unions like the LAPPL is needed.
“For too long it’s been politicians, and retired chiefs, current chiefs, think tank attorneys, who have really been trying to tackle the topic of police reform, and what’s been missing in those conversations are the rank and file unions who are speaking on behalf of those officers,” Harris said.