During the past few weeks, Americans have been watching their 401(k) and other retirement funds sink. Most people are just now starting to wonder how bad things will get. I’m no economist, but I suspect things are going to get a lot worse before they start to get better.
Cops get to see a wide cross-section of society. We deal with people of all races, cultures, creeds, and income levels. I’ve been in this business for more than a decade and I have noticed a few things that I haven’t seen, at least at these levels, before. So, what are the problems the economic downturn will create for law enforcement officers?
More Crime and Fewer Police Resources
Well, as the economy continues to sink, crime will inevitably rise. For some people, they will commit crimes out of desperation. For many others, they will see the times as an opportunity. Tax revenues will drop sharply, so police departments will cut back on overtime and training, some departments will lay off officers, and equipment will be used long past its normal service life. As officers are stretched thin, the opportunist criminal will be less deterred and more likely to create problems.
Lack of Trust from the Citizens
People do not trust the government any more. And with good reason. At the national level all of the politicians appear to be corrupt and unwilling to do the serious business they were sent to Washington DC for. You know, things like oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac…not Congressional inquiries on the use of steroids in Major League Baseball or padding every bill with pork. Closer to home, the local politicians seem equally eager to spend money like a drunken sailor in port.
Like it or not, we police officers are often the face of government. If people perceive the government as the source of their problems, we unfortunately are seen as the bad guys.
More Suicides and Mass Shootings
Many people will suffer from depression and the stress of trying to provide for their families. Suicides and murder-suicides will probably begin to rise. We have seen a significant increase in death and overdose calls on my shift.
Suicidal subjects are clearly dangerous and may want to kill others before he or she is killed. The suicide by cop scenario may become more common.
Another scenario we may see more often is the angry, mentally unstable citizen who walks into a bank that has just foreclosed on his house or into the factory he was just laid off from, seeking revenge.
Rise of Extremist Groups
I suspect that a greater number of people will begin to openly defy the government they no longer trust. The “militia movement” of the 90’s has faded somewhat in recent years, but I expect we will see a growing number of people trying to separate themselves from the USA or even openly revolt.
Whether it is people like the Kehoe brothers or Timothy McVeigh, police officers have encountered these extremists in the past and will do so again. As representative for the government, police officers are frequently the target, even though many of us don’t particularly care for the way our leaders represent us.
So, things are proceeding quickly along in the proverbial handbasket. What do we do?
The way I see it, we keep doing what law enforcement has always done: the best we can with what we’ve got. We go out and handle our calls as safely and professionally as we can. We watch each others back and we provide the best service we can to our citizens. A lot of people won’t appreciate it, but when has anyone really ever understood our job anyway?
Educate yourself about the possible problems you will encounter, work on your weapons skills, keep in shape, and as always…