We can’t know what all the police officers in California are thinking about current focus on their profession and service. But by listening to one Los Angeles Police Department officer answering questions about what he sees and feels, I got a sense of what I suspect are attitudes representative of many cops. 

The officer, who shall remain nameless, felt there is not enough support from the people in charge of the department. He noted that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly used the term “killers” in speaking about some police during the recent protests. While the mayor walked back that comment, fences have not been mended with police officers. The officer said later the mayor more privately circulated a letter to the rank and file expressing his admiration for their work but that didn’t assuage feelings.  

The officer felt LAPD Chief Michael Moore could be more supportive of police during this time when they are targeted by so many critics. 

The officer talked about the child of a police officer being harassed at school because of what his father does for a living. He talked of speaking to school children about being a cop and the first question to him was, “How many people have you killed?”

The pervasive negative attitude toward police that has gained attention has left morale low, the officer said, and many officers are deciding not to extend their time on the force but are retiring at the next convenient milestone in years of service. He said many of the retired officers then happily move out of state. 

While the officer said most police officers do their job to help people, he said the community doesn’t know about the good things they do. They more frequently hear about the bad cop. The officer admitted that there are bad apples in any organization and he spoke out strongly against the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. He said the tactic used on Floyd of putting a knee on his neck is not part of any police training in the country.   

While the officer’s concern for the public’s lack of understanding may be what he and his colleagues feel, it is not represented in a poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. The poll found that 70% of Californians questioned think the police do a good job—although great majorities also support police reforms. 

The LAPD, the officer pointed out, has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. He said the LAPD is the most diverse policing staff in the country. It was one of the first to adopt body cameras. Police are doing more social work now than crime suppression and crime solving. Community based policing and most of what anti-police groups are demanding have been instituted by LAPD years ago.

The officer complained about the lack of support from city leaders and the effort to defund the police. Noting recent stories of out of control parties in Los Angeles, the officer said the lost revenue from defunding will come from units that would respond to such disturbances. He believes fewer dollars will mean less aggressive responses to serious crimes like human trafficking.  

A safe community requires both trust in the police and the feeling by the police that their efforts on behalf of the public are appreciated. The officer said cops are dedicated and are not doing the job for money but to help keep the community stay together and to keep it safe. If this one officer’s thoughts are generally endorsed by many fellow officers in the department then there is a lot of bridge building to do in Los Angeles between the cops and the city leaders.