During my 30 years in Law Enforcement and my 26 years as the current President of the Fraternal Order of Police for Dorchester County I’ve seen many bad times for our career field but always had high hopes that things would improve. I would tell officers and deputies who had become discouraged about the poor pay, not getting pay raises and loss of some of their benefits that things could not get worse and to have hope and to not quit. I believed what I was saying and I spoke out to anyone I could to try and make things better because I felt that it was an honor to be in law enforcement and that people were glad that we were there in the middle of the night to respond and help them and to protect their lives and property.
Well, over the last two to three years things began to really get bad, and 2020 was the worst year of all. I could no longer tell any officer with a straight face that things would get better and to hang in there. In 2019, recruitment was down by 60% nationwide, and I have no idea how bad it was in 2020, but it was a lot worse. 2020 was the year that we saw riots and mayhem across the country with calls to defund and disband police departments.
In 2019, we saw a total of 148 law enforcement officers die in the line of duty. In 2020, that number is 328 and still growing as more and more officers are added due to COVID-19. The reason the number is not final is because if an officer died due to COVID some government agencies require that there be proof that they got it in the line of duty. It is hard to sometimes prove that and also there are “in the line of duty death benefits” that are paid to the spouses and families that some departments are reluctant to pay, so sometimes their fellow officers, the families and even lawyers must prove that the officer got COVID while on duty before their families can be taken care of.
There is a strong move to “Reform the Police” also because the police are now the “poster child” of all the problems that we have in this country, which is not true. Is there room for improvement? Yes, there is always room for improvement. Can some things be done better? Yes, police are always trying to do things better with better equipment and training. Are there some bad cops? Yes, there are around one million police officers across this nation of ours, and they are human beings, so there’s bound to be some bad ones, but the numbers are very, very low. No one hates “bad cops” more than “good cops”! Please believe me when I say there are a lot of good cops out there, and they greatly outnumber the bad ones. Police departments are always looking for good people to become law enforcement officers but the huge anti-police movement is hurting recruitment.
There is also a huge movement in Annapolis right now to take away any protection for law enforcement. There is a law called the LEOBR (Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights). Maryland was the first state in the country to pass this law back in 1973.
Some believe it is a “get out of jail free card” for officers, but it is not! It is nothing more than procedures on handling complaints filed against officers, investigating and having hearings and disciplining or firing officers for violations of departmental rules and some crimes.
The protection that the LEOBR gives is a “not to rush judgement” on officers and gives them what every American has, due process under the law. It requires that there is an investigation of the officer.
Right now, there are those who wish to repeal this law and make it so that an officer can be fired by a chief or sheriff without any investigation, due process, hearing or trial. If there is public or a mob screaming for the firing of an officer, they could be fired a day or so after the incident without any proof or investigation being done — letting the department or their government agency appease the mob. If an officer is fired and later found to be innocent, then he or she must sue to get their job back, which could take years if they are willing to go through that.
The title of this article links law enforcement to the likes of what happened to the Titanic. Recruitment and retention of officers is down and officers are retiring at a faster rate than ever. No one wants to be on this ship called “Law Enforcement” and that our career path is currently on — no one wants to be a law enforcement officer now! Furthermore, the ship is sailing toward changes being done within weeks in Annapolis and these changes are going to hit law enforcement just like huge icebergs hit the Titanic.
I have spoken with many officers who have said if there is no rights or due process, then why should they risk everything they have to stay in a career where people hate them and want them gone. These officers and deputies are looking to leave and will leave, and I can no longer in good conscience tell them to stay or hang in there. Example, Cambridge PD has lost over $150% of its officers over the last 15 years and is currently down nearly 30% now from their size years ago. There is hope with an entirely new Cambridge City Council and mayor, but even they cannot stop what is happening at the state level.
If you have a voice, please use it. Make a call or write a letter in support of your law enforcement because no one wants to hear 911 tell them that they will send an officer as soon as they are able to get one!
Go to www.keepmarylandsafe.com to learn more and what you can do to help law enforcement.
THOMAS R. HURLEY, President Fraternal Order of Police, Cambridge-Dorchester Lodge No. 27 Inc. Current President for the past 26 years Retired from Cambridge PD 2018 30 Years of Service — Rank of Sergeant