Last Friday, Bill Bender of the Daily News publicized a YouTube video of Philadelphia Police Department ill-willedness towards pedestrians of the type that oft occurs and is only sometimes recorded. The video has become the latest emblem for a department that half seems to be taking active measures to prevent these very situations, half seems to turn a blind eye. The department itself is factioned, and on one hand is the God-on-our-side group like FOP president John McNesby, and on the other side people who think cops, y’know, shouldn’t be abusive.
This weekend, Ronnie Polaneczky raised an insightful point, one that’s usually neglected in a typically binary dialogue surrounding police misconduct with clear divisions of good guys and bad guys. She asked the question:
Did they enter the Philadelphia Police Academy that way? Or did the job grind them down to bitter burnouts who say things like, “Don’t come to f—ing Philadelphia. Stay in Jersey,” to the people unlucky enough to meet them on patrol?
I’m sure there’s both. Undoubtedly, some enter the force to experience the mania of moderate power. But mostly, people enter endeavors with good intentions and find the road to hell along the way. Experiencing the bleakest horrors of a drug-addled, impoverished city full-time—whether as a criminal or a cop—it’s an abjectly dehumanizing way of life.
Looking for perspective, I called Shane Moes, who sees firsthand what long-term job stress can do to some police officers, especially those working in high-crime cities like ours.
Moes is director of specialty programs at the Livengrin Foundation for Addiction Recovery in Bensalem, where he oversees the organization’s First Responder Addiction Treatment program. It helps cops, firefighters, medics and soldiers deal with drug and alcohol addiction.
“The amount of trauma that officers are exposed to is huge, but police culture doesn’t support healthy coping,” whether a cop is an addict or not, said Moes.
The difference is that the non-cop users get arrested, and the cops don’t. But the underlying misery desperately trying to be escaped is all the same, and while vilifying the police in this instance is both easy and cathartic—especially since they have a long record of this kind of misbehavior—Polaneczky provides a thoughtful reminder that we should not fall into the same trap of hatefulness that these police have found themselves. [Daily News]