My column for the November issue of D Magazine (on your newsstands in four short weeks) deals with the concerns of Dallas police officers. In said story, I say that the largest police organization, the Dallas Police Association, is wrong to buy into the silly narrative that there is a “war on cops.” I say they are absolutely right, however, to blame the administration for poor police response times. For days, I’ve been sent pictures of 3rd-shift details at large police substations that show only five or six officers available to handle calls from 3 p.m. to midnight.
This, I argue, is the issue that people care about. This is the concern supported by the data. This is why cops aren’t showing up for hours. And this is the concern that at least partially led to the behind-the-scenes meeting at City Hall last week, where Chief David Brown’s tenure was discussed.
In the column, I quote from a letter written by police officer Louis Mills. The letter will be printed in an upcoming edition of the DPA newsletter. I think the full letter (with minor edits for style) is powerful and gives context as to why officers are embarrassed and frustrated about poor response times. It is reprinted here.
Man, the last few months have been a little tough haven’t they? Heck, the last few years have been rough for us. Especially if you’re wearing green tabs. I’d even been toying with the idea of getting out of police work all together, even turned in a few résumés and filled out a couple of applications. I’m positive I’m not alone in that. The constant beat down it seems like we’ve been getting in the media, staffing issues, management issues, equipment issues, all took their toll on me as I’m sure it has everyone else.
It just seems like we don’t have enough people doesn’t? I’ve answered several calls that were hours old. Personally, it sucks knocking on a door at 1:30 a.m. to take a theft report from someone who called 911 at 3:15 p.m. Even worse, a family violence call two and a half hours old. I’m not showing up late because my morale is low. As soon as I get the call I code 6 [arrive on the scene] as fast as general orders allow me to. Part of the reason my morale is low is BECAUSE I’m showing up so late.
In the Marine Corps we always had old equipment and odd rules, but I don’t think we’ve ever been late to a war. In my eight years here, I’ve seen shifts like that, weekends like that, but never every day on a consistent basis like it has been. It doesn’t just suck, it is downright embarrassing. Truth be told it is depressing. We are the face of the department so when we show up so late we take the brunt of the citizen’s anger and frustration. I don’t blame them one bit. I try and take pride in my work and that is pretty hard to do when I don’t get there in what I deem a reasonable time.
Ultimately though, do we [patrol officers] really have any control over any of the things that upset us? We can’t control what the command staff tells the media, we can’t change the amount of people that are on special assignment, we can’t tell officers to not be on a 60 [special assignment], we can’t give ourselves a pay raise, we can’t change policies. What we control is how we handle our business on every call, pedestrian stop, traffic, and citizen contact. (Mostly calls, because routine mark outs are suspended until forever.) Follow the policies even when we don’t agree with them, don’t give them a reason.
As hard as it is we have to give 100 percent when we code 6. The citizen deserves it, even if they hate our guts. You owe it to your family because if your mind is on something else you can get hurt. You owe it to your fellow officers because your attentiveness might be what keeps them from getting hurt. For me above all else, we owe it to the 80 men and women who died on the streets of Dallas wearing the same uniform we put on every day.
I know, it’s hard to do, I struggle with it as well. Many of you will move on to other departments for a variety of reasons, I wish you the best of luck and I don’t blame you one bit. To those of us who stay, let’s do our best. That’s about as cliché as it gets, but what the heck else can we do? Let the DPA fight the other fights, I have confidence that they’ll do everything they can to improve our working conditions. That’s why we pay dues and why I give to the PAC. Let us try to not lose sight of why we do this job.
Earlier today a lot of people’s eyes were opened to the kind of evil we’ve known exists in this world. When that coward videotaped himself ambushing those three people during a live newscast it shocked a lot of consciences, but not ours. Unfortunately, we see it all too often. That’s why we do this job, we recognize that evil exists and we are willing to stand against it. I know many officers will read this and say I’m too motivational, or naïve, or I’ve got an IV of company Kool-Aid pumping through my veins. I understand your frustrations and fears and I don’t blame you. Every day I drive in, I too wonder if today is the day I make what is deemed to be the wrong split-second decision. I just decided to try and not let my fears and frustrations consume me, because I can’t control anything else.
I love you guys. And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” —Isaiah 6:8
Louis Mills #9149