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Why Many Police Officers Like Me Are Quitting The Force

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The nasty words we, the police, get called all the time have now turned into rocks, bottles and gunfire. It’s over, America: we are leaving.

This is the hardest thing I have written.

I grew up in a law enforcement family. My father worked his way up to the rank of Captain at the Fort Smith, Arkansas Police Department. As a kid, I remember going with him on Friday to pick up his check and I was in awe of these superheroes he worked around.

The kids at school thought it was cool what my dad did and while he sometimes asked if anyone gave me a hard time, they never did. There was respect among all.

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a cop but one fateful night, as a freshman in college, that all changed. I went on a ride-along and my life’s journey would never be the same.

All I knew was what I saw my dad do: work hard and treat people with respect. I saw a lot of other cops working hard as well and doing all they could to keep the community safe.

Twenty-seven years have passed and if you would have told me the condition of law enforcement today, I would have never believed you. 

The mentally ill used to get treatment and now they just send cops. Kids used to be taught respect and now it’s cool to be disrespectful. Supervisors used to back you when you were right but now they accuse you of being wrong in order to appease crazy people. Parents used to get mad at their kids for getting arrested and now they get mad at us. The media used to highlight the positive contribution our profession gave to society and now they either ignore it or twist the truth for controversy to line their own pockets. 

If someone attacked a cop, they were seen as such. Now we martyr them and sue for millions. We used to be able to testify in court and we were believed. Now, unless there is video from three different angles, no one cares what you have to say.

And while I know that cowards that have never done this job will call me racist for saying it, all I’ve ever seen was criminal behavior and cops trying to stop it and they didn’t give a rip what their skin color was. I’ve seen cops help and save any type of race, gender or ethnicity you can think of and while that used to mean something, no one cares anymore.

I’ve been called every name you can think of and many of them with racial overtones and it’s never come from cops. I’ve watched African-American cops take the brunt of this and even talked one rookie out of quitting after he was berated by a lot of cowards that had the same skin color as him.

I’ve heard words I never heard before being a cop. Uncle Tom, Cracker, Pig and the N Word just to name a few. I’ve heard them thousands of times and never once did I see a police officer retaliate. They just took it.

Despite that, it’s been the greatest opportunity of my life to do this job. I would have recommended it to anyone and I secretly hoped one of my kids would do it one day.

But today, all of that is over. I wouldn’t wish this job on my worst enemy. I would never send anyone I cared about into the hell that this profession has become.

It’s the only job you can do everything right and lose everything. It’s the only job where the same citizens you risk your life for hate you for it. 

You never get to explain. You can never reason with them. The nasty words have now turned into rocks and bottles and gunfire.

I’ve watched it happen to those around me and I have seen the total destruction of their life. This job is a walking time bomb and you could get cancelled or prosecuted on the very next call, even if you do everything right. No profession has to deal with that.

Doctors kill 250,000 people a year. They call them “medical mistakes” because society understands that they do a very difficult job under high stress and they must make the best possible decision in the moment.

Law enforcement is tasked with the same and we are highly successful. Despite the most violent society we have ever seen, less than 1,000 suspects are killed a year. 96% are attacking us with weapons and all but a few others are attacking us with their cars or their fists and more and more with simulated guns so Benjamin Crump (an American civil rights attorney) can help their family win the lottery.

I used to talk cops out of leaving the job. Now I’m encouraging them.

It’s over America. You finally did it. You aren’t going to have to abolish the police; we won’t be around for it.

And while I know most Americans still appreciate us, it’s not enough and the risk is too high. But to those of you that were silent while the slow turning of the knives in our backs happened by thugs and cowards, this is on you. 

If you think Minneapolis will never turn into Mogadishu – it’s coming. And when it does, remember what your complicity did.

This is the America that you made.

Travis Yates is a police commander in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a doctoral student in Strategic Leadership, a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and author. See full article, first published on lawofficer.com

The Language of Liberty series is an outreach project of Center for Self Governance to educate citizens in principles of liberty. The views expressed by authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG. 


Center for Self Governance

The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG. To learn more, go to CenterForSelfGovernance.com.

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