How Police Lose the Trust of the People

I’ll start with a tiny bit of Geography. I live in the United States of America, the state of New Jersey, in a town in Union County.

Sometimes quotes from comic books and animations stick with you. This quote is from Teen Titans animation. Robin just can’t win against Slade. So he decides to go under cover as Red X and begins working with Slade.

As he gains Slade’s trust he fights with his companions in the Teen Titans, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy – defeating them easily as Red X.

However; Slade knew Red X was Robin the whole time. He says:

Patience. Trust is easy to destroy but it takes time to build.

This is how it works with the Police and the citizens. Robin had betrayed his friends.

The town I live in has had two remarkable incidents in the police department that were highly damaging to trusting the police.

  1. An off duty police officer with other off-duty police officers in the car and one civilian in the car got drunk and drove in Staten Island. They drove the wrong way on a highway and got into a crash which cost people their lives and injured everyone that was involved. The police officer that was driving is presently charged with “aggravated vehicular manslaughter”. This same office had been charged for DUI twice in his time as an officer before this fatality causing accident.
  2. The son of the captain of the department was busted for selling marijuana in a narcotics investigation.

Unfortunately, for the police, the reputation of all departments rests on all departments. Meaning, that police officers behaving improperly (off or on duty) impact perception of the police everywhere. In fact, when I worked for a major hospital group in New York City during orientation we were told,”Once you are off work, please take your ID off. You never know when you might behave in a manner that isn’t appropriate and when you have your ID on this reflects on everyone that works at” that hospital group. This is the way it works for police officers, the military, politicians, bikers – in fact this is the way it works for any population that shares a characteristic. It helps humans identify threats to generalize – and hatches memes “not all men”, “not all police”, “not all bikers”, “not all Muslims” – as these groups are less homogeneous than the perceptions required to deal with day to day tasks.

A third case in Union county, but not the same down is again, of an officer driving drunk. So, rather unfortunately, all police (in general) and more specifically, the Linden Police where the first two incidents occurred get less trust because this officer from Scotch Plains got drunk, was being pursued by another officer, chose to run and had several minor accidents during her time fleeing from police.

So, let’s not worry about all those incidents for a minute and consider a new title for this article:

How Police Gain the Trust of the People

Now, police departments have tried things like community outreach programs, publicity, participating in community events, participation in children athletic leagues and changes in leadership.

These are all nice things and they need to continue happening and should be a normal course of business rather than damage control. Leaders of police departments should rotate the way the Federal Government rotates Post Office masters – familiarity with your co-workers lends you to allowing things to happen that really shouldn’t.

The reality is though, that none of those efforts are going to gain the trust of the people.

In order to gain the trust of the people the actions that the police do that cause the people to lose trust in them have to stop happening.


They have to stop happening for a long time.

Sounds simple? But it isn’t. The reason is because the police departments have a huge Human Resources problem.

I will cite some specifics. Who you hire and who you fire is more important than all the regulations you can put on your officers, the cameras and dash cams. None of that matters. Hiring people who can make the correct and humane decision is what is important.

My wife had a boyfriend in high school that turned out to be an abuser and apparently almost killed her on one occasion before she left forever. I have never been able to get the whole story out of her.

He would later become a police officer.

When I was in the military – the Air Force Air National Guard in New Jersey one of my co-workers stepped over a rope lining the flight line. He was in a hurry to complete an NDI maintenance task. He was taken down by three Air National Guard Military Police. People told him he was in the wrong and next time use the opening in the ropes to get to the flight line. The opening to the flight line that was 10 feet from where he hopped over the rope.

Then there is this guy. Screaming at a motorcyclist, gun drawn, not in uniform, not identifying himself as an officer of the law and scaring the s*** out of the biker. More complete video here.

And this guy.  What, we don’t have the intelligence to find another way to remove a student from a classroom other than throwing them across the classroom. Also, trust in the legal system. Also, trust in the people who make the laws – made a law that classified misbehaving in school as a criminal offense.

And this guy.

You should note that I’m specifically staying away from well known incidents where police officers kill people under questionable circumstances.


Because loss of trust by the people in the police happens long before it gets to the point that someone dies at gunpoint.

This is an HR problem. People who have little control of themselves being given authority over other people.

I remember many conversations over the years that police departments hire a type of person. This happens at employers where people feel that hiring more people like themselves will make work easier. In project management; however, it is shown that having people with varying view points is important in the work place.

I remember going to an interview for ADP for a programming position. There were two big burly guys that interviewed me – and I’m not a big guy. Later, I met up with one of my classmates on the way home from our commutes. He ended up getting the job there. He matched their type, big guy, huge football fan, etc.

The same goes with our police departments. It is like the move “A Clockwork Orange” where Alex and his friends went on a criminal spree hurting many people. Alex gets caught and goes to prison and through an experimental program which causes Alex to be vulnerable to everyone.

His friends didn’t get captured. They find work that suits their personalities as bullies. They become police officers. Police officers who then assault Alex when they meet up with him later.

“Not all police officers are bullies” Yes, I know.

But that isn’t the language we need right now. People need to know they are safe from the police and that the police are going to protect them.

It is a human resources problem. Who you hire. Who you keep and who you fire.

And there it is… Who you fire. The drunk driving Linden police officer who had two previous DUIs while serving as an officer. You know, the vast majority of truck driving companies and bus driving companies fire drivers that have even one traffic ticket – and certainly would get fired if they had a DUI. Why aren’t police officers fired for getting a DUI.

In fact, police officers need to be an example for society to follow. They need to behave *better* than everyone else – even when they are not on duty.

We have a legal system and a police infrastructure that *protect* officers who do things that are wrong – instead of prosecuting them.

One of the worst traits in a person is to beat their significant other – and lets face it most of the time it is men beating their wives and girlfriends.

So, I said “Police hire bullies” and you want me to back it up.

And here it is. Police officers beat their wives and girlfriends at double the national rate, still receive promotions.

50% of wives of police officers are victims of domestic violence. Let that sink it. Wallow in it for a minute. If you are looking at a group picture of 10 police officers who are all married typically half of their wives are being beaten at home. These are the people that are trusted to become police officers. These are the people we trust with guns. These are the people we trust with cars, which police have killed many people with cars – because cars can be a lethal weapon.

In fact, basic skills such as driving appropriately when off-duty in an official car – cannot be mastered by all police being trusted with driving cars.

This is a topic that I have discussed before. Now, though we are driving to root causes. It is the type of people attracted to being police officers. And it is the type of people we hire to be police officers. or as the article discussing domestic violence:

Sociopaths are attracted to positions in which they are able to assert authority over others, so it should come as no surprise that there are higher concentrations of sociopaths within law enforcement.


Or another gem of police human resources. “Court OKs Barring High IQs for Cops

It isn’t just a HR issue…It is the mentality of the people who do the hiring that people who are ‘too smart’ would get bored of the job.

More likely, people who are smart will most likely have better decision making skills and could prevent some of these incidents that make the citizens lose trust in the police.

When we are really interested in having a police force we trust – then everything about the police force has to change. Hiring, firing, policies, stringent regulation that when a police officer does something wrong they need to be punished for it – as it is MORE of a violation than when offenses are performed by civilians.

We can’t be reluctant to fire police officers. There are always more people that want jobs and would take a job as a police officer – should we have to run through entire departments looking for people who can perform appropriately.


One thought on “How Police Lose the Trust of the People

  1. Brendan White September 6, 2016 / 7:21 am

    Thanks for the news, I think it will be helpful to me.


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