The New York Times reports on what police patrols are like in an era of high anxiety for both officers and much of the public. The newspaper calculates that 477,000 sworn officers serve in 12,000 police departments in the U.S. (other estimates use much higher numbers). The demands, challenges, resources and cultures of each police force vary. With the exception of many cities awash in violence, crime overall has dropped, and the job has changed.
After the fatal ambushes of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and intensifying protests about the deaths of black men, women, and children at the hands of the police, officers are under pressure to change more. Each shift is a search for safety. The Times did ridealongs last week with officers in 10 departments — big, small, rural, suburban — across the United States. The feature includes Prince George’s County, Md., near Washington, D.C.; Paulding County, Ga., Coventry, Ct., Milwaukee, New York City, Houston, Seattle, Compton, Ca., Cambridge, Ma., and Park Forest, Il. In many places, officers have been showered with gifts of food, Starbucks, cold drinks. “Over the past five days, I’ve had more people offer to buy me a coffee than I can remember,” says Sgt. Thomas Glynn, 46, during a patrol through Cambridge, Ma. (population 106,844).