"Most of us think police officers deserve better"

"We think that putting yourself in harm’s way to protect a community merits respect, not disregard."

Running an errand this week, I watched two Phoenix police officers offer a bottle of water to a homeless man grabbing some shade outside a local grocery store.

One of the officers was still there when I came out and I said what I always say when I pass a cop on the street.

“Thank you for your service. Stay safe out here.”

He thanked me for thanking him. We went our separate ways. The moment stayed with me, however. Remembering it called to mind a number I looked up not long ago.

$31.08.

That’s the average hourly wage for a police officer in Arizona, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s a good living in a state where the average worker makes less than $24 for an hour work. Police work typically comes with decent health insurance, the opportunity to advance into management and solid retirement benefits.

It’s also a job I couldn’t imagine doing — not now, not in the 21st century, not in the present moment we find ourselves in as a Valley, a state, a nation.

Not for $31.08 an hour. Not for 100 times $31.08 an hour.

A caveat: As I have explained before, my day job involves helping people and organizations tell their stories and answers reporters’ questions.

My clients include virtually all the state’s law enforcement organizations. That means, among other things, that I am paid to help tens of thousands of cops explain the truth about their profession.

It also means I generally support and respect the men and women who do the job — a job I could never fathom doing myself. Not for $31.08 an hour.

My rationale for chickening out has little to do with the danger police officers face every day — though that danger has never been more real.

Instead, when I think about not being a cop, I think mainly of the frustration occasioned by working in a profession where everyone else is an expert despite never walking a day on a beat.

I think, as well, of having my work judged not by what I do myself, but by the conduct of a handful of my colleagues — a minute of video here, an allegation of abuse there.

I don’t think I could handle it.

In fact, I doubt many of us could. Americans, as a general rule, value personal responsibility, individual accountability and the concept of innocence until guilt has been proven — except when we judge an entire police department or the entire profession through the lens of a single frozen moment in time.

Then, instead of rational thought, the screaming begins. “The Phoenix police this.” “The Mesa cops that.” “The Tempe police this.” “The west side cops that.”

Before you start screaming, please understand I am not excusing a single bad act committed by a police officer, nor am I arguing that any cop should above the law.

Bad acts committed in uniform should be punished accordingly, using the same investigative and prosecutorial tools and laws that govern holding accused criminals responsible for their crimes.

My point? That we appear to be choosing sides these days. There are those who view every police officer as inherently evil. There are those who believe wearing a badge entitles the holder to be judge, jury and executioner.

Then there’s the rest of us.

We think that putting yourself in harm’s way to protect a community merits respect, not disregard. We see the man and the woman, not merely the uniform, not merely the video snippet. We think that maybe cops who work an hour deserve better than 31 bucks and all the disrespect an angry mob can muster.

(7) comments

IGT

Finally. A reporter who understands, when the rest are putting targets on the backs of officers. To the rest of the media, "Good job creating hate towards our officers. One day you'll reap the benefits of what you've sewn when there are officers to do the job." Sounds like a very smart game plan. Just remember that it'll be your fault when no one answers your call for help.

LawAbidingCitizen

Thank you, sincerely! This is a great article! What a wonderful voice of common sense and civility. Those of us who VALUE our community, the SAFETY of our citizens and families, and most importantly the BRAVERY displayed each time a HUMAN BEING puts on their uniform should read and share this article. We as a community need to remember and realize that EVERY situation an officer is RESPONDING TO comes with RISK. The person opposite of each Officer has a CHOICE in how the interaction will end. Gratefully, most end peacefully, but there are the times when an officer MUST RESPOND to violence against themselves or innocents nearby in order to keep our communities safe. Please share this! www.keepmesasafe.com

NINJA

Mesa, and Tempe are also out of control...I'm just getting over being shot by MPD twice after I was already cuffed and played on the ground. Over these past 5 years I've watched a few killings from both of these departments and no one was ever held accountable. I videotaped one incident that happened in Mesa and picked up the slugs after they blew a guys head off all because he wouldn't exit his car for them. The guy was on his phone with crisis but his only so called help was MPD killing him and dragging his lifeless body into a white van and cleaning up their mess in 30 minutes.

IGT

Your story is so far fetched and completely unbelievable. Come on. Clearly, you're just making things up!

X33166

Total BS. Phoenix cops are well known to shoot first and ask questions later. Look at statistics. They are supposed to de-escalate situations but often cause the very situations that lead to the murder of unarmed citizens they are sworn to protect. They are the problem not the solution. Combined with the gutless and cowardice DA it is open season on Phoenix residence. They claim they feared for their life so they shoot unarmed people. Where is all their training??? No ever sees a cop and thinks now I safe. Just the opposite. We think great I wonder what BS excuse the cop will use to harass me. Will today be the day I get shot because I’m holding a cell phone? I have no respect for the state sanctioned kill squad masquerading as a police force.

IGT

Which statistics are you referring to? Do you mean the number of officer involved shootings in the city of Phoenix?? Those aren't statistics, they are simply numbers. Statistics encompass data collection and analysis. There are none that prove a direct correlation between criminal activity, increased assaults on officers, increased mental health and increased drug use. Because no one is interested in statistics, it makes a better story to just categorize with false narratives for shock value. You sound like someone who tested and never got hired with the police department.

IGT

BTW, there are no District Attorneys in AZ, we have County Attorneys. Only the Federal System has DAs and other states that are divided into districts.

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