After a long, painful week, police around the country are describing extremely low morale.
First, two videos went viral on social media showing the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, black men shot and killed by police officers. Then, during a rally in Dallas to protest police brutality, a gunman ambushed white police officers in the deadliest attack on law enforcement since 9/11.
Over the past two years, Black Lives Matter and other activist groups have stepped up protests surrounding the issue of police violence against black Americans. As a result, however, police departments around the country say they are feeling the pressure.
In the South Side of Chicago, a longtime police officer told the Chicago Tribune that policing has become a “thankless job” and described police morale as “complete garbage.”
Around the country, police describe a sensation of being piled on, and many police officers say it is getting worse, not better.
Many cities, including Dallas, have struggled to recruit officers because of low pay packages. On Monday, July 11, Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who is black, urged young black people protesting police to consider joining the department.
“Don’t be a part of the problem. We’re hiring,” Brown told reporters. “Get out of the protest line and put an application in.”
While many police departments want a more diverse force, some have struggled with minority recruitment. This has led to situations where communities of color are largely policed by white officers who live in the suburbs, making it difficult to create relationships between residents and officers.
In Minneapolis, which has one of the lowest rates of in-city residency by its white officers, the police department has faced a persistent struggle to recruit black officers.
“Most of the time, [having a diverse force] does bridge the gap, the racial gap,” Gerald Moore, the Minneapolis Police Department’s recruitment and administrative division commander told the Minneapolis Post. “And it also helps as far as gathering information, which law enforcement needs. Without info from the public, we’d be stuck. We have to get the information from the general public about what’s going on out there. Who are committing the crimes? Where are people staying? Crimes get solved because of police work, because good people are willing to step forward.”
And with wages flat, many officers are tempted to leave cities for better paying police jobs in the suburbs. In traditional office settings, human resources experts report that fully 86% of companies with employee recognition programs cite an increase in worker morale. But such employee of the month-style programs don’t necessarily translate to beat cops.
With the implementation of police body camera programs and social media videos, police officers face more scrutiny than ever before, and many officers say that it’s taking its toll.
And that was before the tragedy in Dallas.
Here’s another South Side police officer, also to the Chicago Post, speaking about the emotional fallout from Dallas:
“A lot of officers are like, ‘This is the last straw. No more proactive anything,'” said a veteran sergeant who works on the South Side, who like his colleagues spoke on the condition that he not be named. “An officer just gave me, I think, one of the best statements. He said it’s like the soldiers coming back from Vietnam — how much people hate us.”