I am never amazed at the things that can happen while working in any sector of law enforcement. In my 23 years, I have seen a lot of things happen. I have seen officers attacked, spit on, threatened, injured, lied on, lied to and treated like this type of behavior is expected.
One thing that truly bothers me is the fact that an officer can be placed on administrative leave without pay, and while in this status, the Department requires an officer to seek permission to find a job to tide them over. Now an officer is no longer getting paid, and the Department can place restrictions or deny the type of job they can have. This will and does put a huge strain on the life of someone who is already going through a horrible situation. In my opinion, this is a form of victimizing the officer. There are other ways that our officers are made to feel like victims.
I myself have not been immune to attacks (verbal and physical) by suspects and sometimes citizens wanting to get involved. I remember a 19-year-old subject being booked into jail. He stated to me, “Can I ask you a question?” When I turned to face him, he spit in my face. When the situation had calmed down, the sergeant asked him why he would choose to perform such a heinous act. He simply stated that he went after the largest guy wearing a uniform so he could build a reputation. He stated that he did not want to fight but wanted to prove he was tough.
I was recently able to deal with a couple of members who were attacked by an inmate. I am very proud that our officers not only survived this incident, but also defended themselves after they were viciously attacked by a spineless coward. Our officers — who are also taxpayers, citizens, parents and members of the community they serve — did not deserve this treatment. I would like to say that the worst thing that happened is that they were attacked, but I would be wrong in doing so.
Recently, I was made aware of a rumor stating that one of our officers would be indicted for their actions involving the coward who attacked them. Unfortunately, the information I was given stated that this had come from supervisors. Now our officer has to be subjected to rumors on top of facing serious medical issues as a result of the unprovoked attack. I am truly disappointed in any supervisor who would spread or allow this type of rhetoric to manifest regarding our officer. Not only have our officers been victimized by an inmate, but now they are being victimized by the people sworn to protect them.
Unfortunately, it does not end there, because there is another group that victimizes our officers on a regular basis. I am speaking of the workers’ compensation system that is supposed to protect our officers, their livelihood, and their mental health and stability at work. In my years with this Department, I have rarely heard a positive word about workers’ comp. I remember speaking to a former director and him telling me that when the officer gets a lawyer, it slows the whole system down. I reminded him that if the system were fair, then our members would not seek outside counsel just to have comfort in an injury case. I have seen many instances where an officer is injured and then he or she is blatantly harassed and bothered by a supervisor as to when they will return to work. That issue is between Health and Safety, the member and their doctor. No lieutenant or sergeant should ever interfere or interject their ignorant opinion into a members’ medical prognosis. But it happens all too often, and when we at the LVPPA inquire as to why a member is being made the butt of jokes, all I get from some lieutenant who has spent his or her career behind a desk and has never pushed a black and white or walked the decks is a weak excuse that he or she was just concerned about their status.
My challenge is to all these newly promoted and soon-to-be promoted people out there. Don’t forget where you came from, and if you have never been there, don’t act like you know it all. When an officer seems like they are having a bad day, then extend a hand or a kind word. The last thing an officer needs in an already stressful situation is a sarcastic or demeaning comment. I would really like to find some positive words to say about “some” of our supervisors. Don’t get me wrong, we have some outstanding supervisors. I like to rank them in three levels: Level one is the motivator or the person you would run through a brick wall for; Level two is the supervisor who just gets by and attempts to not do anything and is mainly concerned about themselves; and Level three is the supervisor who is the reason people use their sick time to avoid seeing that person. Which category does your supervisor fall under? A famous American once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”