First in a series of writings about some problems we see facing the Department
As every copper knows, everyone who gets hired after him or her is an asshole. Not specifically, but in a general sort of way. Most of it has to do with seniority being the biggest determining factor of where you fall in Department hierarchy. Old timers get the best furlough picks, most desirable watches, are automatically higher on promotional lists in the case of ties. And this is how it should be. It's a simple, time tested technique that works for the Department.
The trouble comes with the quality of people hired lately. This job is a hard sell. We've written a few times in the past about departments nationwide unable to fill spots
because of numerous hurdles (salary, hours, etc). And we have only to point at the 1980's and 90's when upwards of 30,000 people would apply to take the police exam. Nowadays, they have to give it 3 and 4 times a year while barely breaking the 3,000 mark.
Part of it is the job requirements. Recently, the City wanted you to be over 22 years old and have two years of college (60 hours) before you could even take the test. A full time student would have racked up 60 hours by the age of 20 and still had to wait two more years to get hired. So why not finish college, get a degree and hire on in the private sector where you can make more money with better benefits and less headaches? That's exactly what happened and the number of applicants plummeted. This in turn led to a very narrow slice of qualified applicants - some years, the Department was taking under 1,000 or so new hires off of a test given every two years that had 4,000 names. The failure rate for the preliminary drug test skyrocketed and no shows for the power test increased. Meanwhile, the Vietnam era vets were retiring at a good clip and manpower tanked. We have something in the neighborhood of 7 to 8 THOUSAND retirees today and barely 10,000 Patrolmen, counting the recruits.
We seem to have hit the era of the "college copper." We have nothing against education, but in the words of a boss far wiser than we, many of these kids are "too much college, not enough high school." In other words, you can't teach in the Academy a lot of what makes good coppers. Street smarts. Fighting ability. How to lie to suspects with a straight face. How to compartmentalize some of the horrors we witness on a daily basis. How to truly laugh, long and hard, at some of the insanity society inflicts upon itself.
Many of our readers have been there. Some, not so much. The City realized part of their error and reinstated some of the military preferences, but the problem still remains of the "entitlement" generation. They don't seem to realize how political and patriarchal this job has always been. Or if they do, they want daddy or mommy to promote them, get them better assignments, remove any and all obstructions to them advancing faster and farther than old timers with 20+ years who have been shouldering the brunt of the work for a generation.
And yes, we're probably part of the problem in this case - we think many people with less time than us are less able to cope, to handle the job, to be the police, just like so many people with more time tell us that we don't know what it was like "back in the day" and we'd have trouble wiping our own noses if we ever came across a situation like they handled back in the Stone Ages. There are a few exceptions and we'd name them if we didn't think it'd swell their heads. We've met people with just a few years on who are excellent coppers and will be bosses one day - if they don't get caught up in the daily crap that weighs down so much of this Department.