Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The 1990s: The Time for Aggressive Police Officers

Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The 1990s: The Time for Aggressive Police Officers

Article excerpt

In the wake of the Rodney King incident and other similar occurrences throughout the Nation, some police administrators have been hurrying to weed out their more aggressive field police officers. These administrators fear that the trend to video tape police activity on the streets may reveal some unpleasant realities in their respective departments. Consequently, self-motivated, eager street officers find themselves being "promoted" to desk jobs, administrative duty, property and identification sections, and other "off-street" assignments, where concerned administrators believe they will be less likely to harm their department's reputation.

In their place, administrators assign police officers with average talent and abilities to patrol duties--those who are low-key and who handle little more than routine calls for service. Administrators believe that these steady, stable officers will still handle their responsibilities, but will less likely involve themselves in controversy or self-initiated action, thereby diminishing the probability of a confrontation and the glare of subsequent media attention. Unfortunately, this philosophy is both flawed and tragic.

The 1990s is not the time to place "average" police officers on the streets. Rather, administrators should field their most talented and most experienced police officers, even if they are the most aggressive. The complexity of police work and the sheer volume of crime today require "go-getters" with sound judgment.

What is an Aggressive Police Officer?

Perhaps this discussion should begin by describing what aggressive police officers are not. These officers are not quick-tempered or power-hungry. They do not use their badge as a means to flaunt their authority or as a shield to justify unacceptable behavior.

On the contrary, aggressive police officers are compassionate and respectful, even to lawbreakers. They understand current search and seizure case law and the concept of probable cause. They are well-versed in interview and interrogation techniques and can recognize someone under the influence of drags almost instantly. Most important, they enjoy their work and clearly demonstrate the desire to get criminals off the street.

Aggressive police officers are curious, even suspicious, but remain keenly sensitive to even the most subtle detail of every situation they confront. They possess intuition, or a sixth sense, that other officers recognize and appreciate. They do their jobs, whatever the assignment, without violating anyone's civil rights, because they always work within the parameters of the law. Above all, they exhibit extraordinary judgment and utmost respect for the community.

Aggressive police officers are sometimes called "super cops," and they are desperately needed on today's crime-ridden streets. They are a blessing to law-abiding citizens of all races, creeds, colors, religions, and nationalities who are tired of living in fear.

Knowing what constitutes aggressive officers raises two important questions. First, are aggressive police officers--those possessing the attributes listed above--self-made or are they groomed by others? And, second, if a need exists to field this type of police officer, and I believe crime statistics prove this need, then why are police administrators transferring, or in other ways limiting, their most valuable assets? The answers may lie within the supervisors and leaders of the organization and their ability to do their jobs.

Supervision or the Lack Thereof

Any military aficionado knows that sergeants represent the backbone of the military and generals, the brains. All intervening ranks serve as communicators and implementors of policy from the top. Those in the ranks below sergeants get the job done; they actually do what the generals command.

The fact that sergeants are the leaders and/or supervisors of line personnel makes their jobs critical to the success of any tactical operation. …

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