The unprecedented police-recruiting problem in the U.S. may be caused by the fact that “many police departments are lousy places to work,” says Eugene O’Donnell of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a former New York City police officer. Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, O’Donnell says he is not talking about the physical danger, demanding hours, and trekking through bad weather.
For one thing, he says, the needs of the organization come first, and your wishes are rarely taken into account. In many places, “management is conducted via bullying, humiliating and dictatorial behavior. Cops often feel belittled and infantilized by their bosses. Giant reservoirs of criticism can be unleashed at any time, while praise is rare and tangible rewards for good work rarer still. One of the great paradoxes about policing is that outsiders believe cops are near-omnipotent; in fact, internally cops are made to feel powerless.” O’Donnell contends that after many scandals, “the luster of policing as a career has been badly tarnished.” While changes are debated, he says, “we should stop deluding ourselves that hanging up a glossy poster, or raising starting salaries, or allowing suburbanites to apply, will make people willing to enter and stay in a job they are all too likely to regret taking.”