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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Police Pay

We've been hearing a lot about police pay; too much or not enough? Is there an answer?

Surely, a sworn officer who promises to serve and protect me, who runs toward danger to keep me safe – surely she deserves adequate pay. That officer must understand and use significant chunks of law to make decisions, often almost instantly. She is empowered to take freedom away from me (and others), and to use deadly force. And she must use her knowledge and powers wisely, that is what we depend on, that is what we pay her to do. But how much should we pay?

The officer – and his family – never starts a shift with any certainty that he’ll be alive to return home at the end of the shift. Auto collisions, bullets, knives, and clubs can change his after-shift destination to the hospital or the morgue. Accumulated stress and physical battering will take its toll on his health and his relationships. How much is that worth right now? Can we value it today in tomorrow’s dollars? How much is he worth, today – and over the years in retirement?

The officer deals with folks who want to compromise her ethics and morals, “give me a break, just this once.” The officer deals with folks who call her names, who spit and shit and bite – and try to infect her with needles because she’s a cop. She meets folks who want to kill her just because she wears a badge.

Just a civilian with a checkbook

I’m a civilian, I can’t understand this. I can’t comprehend the pressures and temptations, and fears. I can only pay for the service. Am I paying enough? Or too little? Or too much?

But what we civilians see is

The officer is represented in negotiations for pay and privilege by a union. We civilians see the union reps and draw our conclusions. Perhaps the officer is represented by a group of union professionals who persuade us bill-payers of the value of his services. Maybe that cop is worth more than we are paying.

Or maybe her union uses tactics which paint her as a goon, greedy and lazy and corrupt. We may see  her as severely flawed, as if she had lied and cheated and intimidated and threatened.....She didn’t, although her union did, but will we see the difference?

Cops were tops -- then

We used to admire and respect her, and honor her for her courage and devotion to our safety, but what do we see now? We just pay the bills. And we wonder, are we paying her too much to intimidate citizens and council members? Or should we look to another organization for our safety? How much is that cop really worth?

The sworn officer goes to a home disturbed by intoxicated, violent and angry people, and he calms them, gets them to separate and cool off, and someone on an upper landing urinates on him. And the officer sighs and changes clothes. And goes back out on the street to serve and protect – me.

The officers who were spit on and urinated on will get their uniforms cleaned, and will be back at work to protect me, nights and weekends included, and will try to keep peace in the city.  But now my neighbors are saying, “Aren’t we paying too much for these goons? Who do they serve and protect, besides their union? Do you know how much money we’re paying them to eat donuts?”

Gone, now, or at least going, is our automatic respect for the cop.

And the sworn officer adjusts his uniform and starts another shift. He has sworn to serve and to protect. He’ll do his best. And most of the Cost Mesa officers are like him. I wish I could prove that to my neighbors, and sometimes even to myself. 

And we wonder, “How much is that cop really worth, all things considered?”

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