Thursday, June 7, 2012

Do Philadelphia cops hate Philadelphia?

That's what I said last week in a column at The Philly Post—a column that, coincidentally, published the same day I started a weeklong out-of-state vacation. In the meantime, the column was picked up at's blog—they shared my interest in FOP president John McNesby's letter to the Police Advisory Commission, and I received a few letters. I'll excerpt three of them: One correspondent took issue with my contention that police officers are wrong to want to live outside the city they serve:
Most of my career was spent in shift rotations of six days of 4X12, followed by six days of 8X4 and then a big one day off and the next evening you had to report for six days of 12amX8am. Included in this mess was last minute court notices and the average sleep was about two hours a day on that midnight to eight shift. Most officers were in a constant state of sleep deprivation, sometimes reporting for court at 10am and spending all day there until 5PM and were expected back for work in the evening at around 11PM. Sleep? Apparently the city did not account for it. Much work was spent by our union to adjust this situation and eventually a compromise schedule was implemented. During my entire career, I was a captive of the city. The reason the city wanted to keep you localized was to contact you when they wanted.(To the point of sending a patrol car to your door with a note to come in to work) Even when you are on vacation, if there is a perceived “emergency” they call you back from where you are. Only overseas vacations were exempt. I lived in a typical NE row, kept a low profile, acted in several off duty arrests, etc. I had two desires. One was to return to school to acquire the B.A. that I should have had but never had a chance to complete. (I had an old Associate Degree, so two years were left). The other was the idea of moving out of the city to a suburban area just like the Philadelphia TEACHERS were allotted in their contract since the time of Wilson Goode (who rewarded the teacher’s union liberally, and was employed by them as a “consultant” after his terms as Mayor). The Degree could not be worked out despite several attempts, until I was retired. The other was never realized either, until I retired. I should have had the same rights back then as the teacher’s union, why was there discrimination in this capacity? The reason they now have the ability to leave is because a majority of the higher ranking personnel live on the extreme edge of the city. In order to prevent experienced officers from a mass exodus, they needed to have this right to live outside the city or they would lose most of their experienced personnel. That is the real reason why it was granted in the contract.
Another responded to my suggestion that Philadelphia police have "palpable" contempt for the residents they serve:
really? can you blame them? head into any area other than center city (where i happily and safely reside) and see what the hell the cops have to deal with every single day.... not many cats stuck up in trees or crossing little old ladies... just nonstop violence, no witnesses, zero cooperation, NO stop to the cycle of reproducing generations of, should they be dropping "stay in school" to the kids or try to dodge the bullets so one of those kids doesn't get shot? or better yet, run over by an ATV doing 90mph wheelies down allegheny ave? so, the parenting and coddling is up to the po-po, not the mom with the neck tattoos who is on her 5th kid with 5th babydaddy before her 26th birthday? c'mon, cuz..... the problem is DEEP but it ain't the cops fault.... also - so, the people shooting - they're not the fatherless kids (now 18) OF the women in the same neighborhoods that they're shooting up???")... you want to write a cutting piece, expose that saga.....
A similar response from a man identifying himself as a retired police officer:
In the past 20 plus years, respect for any authority, be it the Police, the Clergy, or even Parents and Grand Parents has all but eroded… the mentality is that you can do whatever you want, to whomever you want, with complete impunity. We I grew up if an Officer told you to get off of a corner, you did! If an Officer ever brought me home to my parents, no matter what, I was in trouble. We were taught to respect our elders, now all you ever hear is “not my Johnny, or not my little angel… Parents don’t want to take responsibility for their children’s actions, for the most part, all they want the kids to do is go out and bother ANYONE ELSE but them. Are Police Officers perfect, no, but then again, no one else is perfect; we all make mistakes, But just because you wear a Blue Uniform, and agree to be a target for anyone who wants to strike out at authority, and just because you give up most of your family life to work long hours in all weather, doesn’t automatically make you a bad guy. My challenge to you would be to put on that same Blue Uniform, and go out and drive a police car on Philly’s streets, and see if your attitude changes. But I’ve made that challenge before, and so far, not one journalist has had the stones to take up my challenge. And for the record, all during the time I was a Philadelphia Police Officer, I served as a Boy Scout Leader in my neighborhood for 15 years, served on two Civic Groups, and served in my Church as a member of our Parish’s Music Ministry and on the Parish Council… but then, according to you, I must have hated Philadelphia.
For what it's worth, I have some sympathy for some of what I find in these letters. Philadelphia Police could do everything right, and this town would still be an incredible, and often-dangerous, challenge to those officers.

On the other hand, I think plenty of officers—led by FOP president John McNesby—use those challenges as a shield to deflect criticism and avoid introspection about how they might do better, much less examine their own (partial) culpability in creating the culture they despise. "It's tough out there! You can't possibly understand!" I can acknowledge those challenges are considerable, but still expect better from my police department. And I do.


J. Blessinger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Blessinger said...

It's the same tactic that teachers unions use to protect crap teachers. It *is* a hard job, and as the family unit has deteriorated, it's gotten harder; your one retried officer is right about that. And that in no way changes the fact that there are some really, really bad teachers, and more than a few.