Please Stay: We Need Talented Police Officers

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Photo by Jacky Lam via Unsplash

Response to Police Chief Tim Altomare’s Op-Ed in The Capital Gazette announcing his retirement

You are right. Maryland and especially Anne Arundel County have the best police departments in the country, and that is why you cannot retire — especially now when we need our experienced leaders. As the creator and developer of the Officer of the Month Program for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., I interviewed more than 1,000 police officers all across the country to develop the criteria and learn about what law enforcement really faces. 

When we launched the program (and since I was never a sworn officer) I worked with a retired Deputy Director of the Secret Service and two economists to ensure that the evaluations were fair. I interviewed the nominees’ colleagues, partners, bosses, families, people whom they helped and finally the nominees. I learned why they wanted to be police officers, about their fears, their personal rewards. I also talked to those whom they arrested.  Every single law enforcement officer told me they became a cop to help people. If every American did that work, we as a population would have a different opinion of law enforcement.

We can fix our policing problems but it will take work. We will not defund our police departments, but we need to hold rogue officers accountable for their behavior.  There are millions of Americans like me who don’t have a gun; we need you. We will work to overcome the problems.

Think about this. The US has the most formidable military in the world. Why? Because we have poured trillions of dollars into the military after fighting the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, two world wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and more military conflicts that I can list. We do that to keep our homeland safe. We also have the best military academies in the world.

It’s way past time to focus on the homeland. We need to stand up a Public Service Academy that specializes in law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services. We start with law enforcement. We have the models in place we just need to change the emphasis, i.e. offer associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law enforcement with special training in areas such as psychology, weapons, public service, juvenile intervention, domestic violence prevention and many others. Think about students who graduate high school being able to attend a Public Service Academy and obtain a degree and a certificate showing they are qualified for law enforcement service.

Placement of these academies could be similar to the Federal Reserve Districts around the country and they would create jobs. We could use existing buildings or training facilities and enhance them as needed. We would need security measures such as a national database tied to a code of ethics to ensure law enforcement officers who violate their oaths cannot be hired in other districts. Any law enforcement officer, federal, state or local would be required to have a certificate to show that he/she meets the requirements. Experience could be substituted for some things.

How do we pay for this? Well Trump wants to build an unnecessary wall along the Southern Border and he took money from the military to do so. Yes, the military industrial complex will have a stroke, but the American people who have spilled their blood, paid taxes and supported the country need better, and they need to be educated about what law enforcement officers face daily.  We can forego the wall. Since when did Americans become such cowards that they have to hide behind a wall? US corporations can chip in as well; it’s called a corporate tax. Insurance companies can step up to the plate and insure the officers at a very reduced rate.

Not many people want to go to work to face 400 million guns. It’s ironic, isn’t it?  We won’t do anything about the guns, yet we pay people very little money and expect them to protect us. It’s time to put Americans and the people who protect them first.

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A small-town girl from NE Oklahoma, if anyone had suggested to me that in 73-years I would have progressed through life traveling to 14 countries, living in three, raising three great children, having a career at the most powerful financial institution in the world, creating two national programs for our great nation, I would have laughed. Yet here I am. My families date to the American Revolution. I recognize that being an American is more important than being a woman, a member of any organization, personal, professional or religious; it is the most important thing to my humanity and my survival. Without my country, I could be living as billions of other humans struggling just to breathe, drink, eat to live. Being American is a gift; one that must be cherished and protected.

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