Guest opinion: There is no 911 for Law Enforcement

Thomas Hurley

When I started in Law Enforcement back in the late 1980’s we carried a .38 caliber, six-shot revolver and a total of 18 rounds of ammo. We did not have Tasers, we carried Mace, not pepper spray and we had a wooden night stick and one pair of handcuffs.

Our radio only had a few channels for our department and political barriers at that time kept us from working with other agencies and backing each other up. Our department had a total of only 28 officers, which included the Chief of Police on down to me in a city of nearly 14,000.
I remember a fight call I was sent to once at 2 a.m. and upon arrival saw eight people fighting with rocks, sticks and bats. They did not stop upon my arrival or when I yelled at them to stop.

I called over the radio for backup, but the two officers I was working with, my supervisor and another officer, were on a serious domestic making an arrest. I remember the dread and hopelessness that I felt when the dispatcher said over the air, “Be advised you have no backup!”
I knew that I still had to do my job, so I began yelling and going towards them until the suspects became more afraid of me than each other and they stopped and they fled the area. It was all a bluff, but no one died or went to the hospital and no one wanted any police action taken.

I felt that I did what I had to do to stop the fighting, but if I had done that today and it was on video, I may have gotten into trouble or worse. The really worse part was that was not the only time over the years I had to do that as I responded to calls alone or had to make arrests alone. Sometimes over my first few years, I wondered if I had made a mistake by becoming a police officer.
However, over the following decades, things improved. Our department got larger, up to 52 officers, we went to a semi-auto handgun with over 40 rounds of ammo, pepper spray, which was better than Mace, an expandable baton and then the Taser came along too.

These new and better tools and more officers helped to lower resisting arrests and assaults upon officers and the lowering of injuries to both officers and defendants. We also got new report-writing systems and then new radios too, with numerous channels that other agencies could talk and work with us. The barriers that once kept us apart disappeared. Crime went down and things were better, but costs went up and we suffered from that. Officers did not get the raises that they were told that they would get and the department saw reduced funding for other things as well.
Cars are not replaced and used well beyond their lifetime, bulletproof vests are used way past their warranty, training and overtime were cut to the bare minimum and then because of tax cuts and costs going up the department began to see cuts in manpower.

The department has dropped to 46, with five of those slots being frozen open due to lack of funding. There are two more openings not filled and recruitment is down by more than 60%.
Currently, the department has 39 officers. This is happening everywhere, Sheriffs’ Departments, State Police and other local small towns are seeing the same problems.
Furthermore, officers are dying at twice the rate as last year, with 132 officers so far according to “Officer Down Memorial Page.” Sixty-two are due to COVID-19 and 29 are from gunfire.

Then we have the bad officers’ issues that we have seen in the media that have caused so much hatred towards all police officers, black and white officers alike. I can tell you that no one hates bad officers more than good officers.
There are between 800,000 and 1.2 million officers in the United States, with a population of over 330 million citizens. The number of bad officers is way less than 1% of all officers, if even that.
There are far more officers who are poorly trained, incompetent or even have bad manners or don’t know how to talk to citizens. These problems can be fixed and there is always room for improvement through open serious dialogue, but to disband the police or defund them is not the answer.

Those answers are already seeing problems in large cities with the rise in crime and gun violence. The consistent attacks from police hate groups and lack of support from elected officials is causing real problems in recruitment and retention of officers.
The few rights that officers do have are being taken away so that they cannot protect themselves, their retirements or their families. Good citizens don’t want to become officers now and officers that can retire or find other jobs are leaving in greater numbers.
Police chiefs and sheriffs are quitting or retiring also. The morale of all officers across the country is at an all-time low and officers are afraid to do their jobs.

We are returning to the days of the Wild, Wild West and I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. I mean when things are bad for officers who are they to call — there is no 911 for law enforcement officers.
If there is anything that can be done it will be up to all the good citizens like you. You are the silent majority that are currently being forced to stay that way by not only the mob but the Pandemic too.
If you care about your local officers, deputies and troopers, then when you see them tell them so. Write thank you cards to the officers, have your kids write too and make posters of support to the officers, buy them a cup of coffee or a soda.
Call your elected officials and tell them to support your law enforcement by giving them their raises and the equipment that they need to do their jobs. If things are not done now to change the tide against officers, than the damage that is being done will not stop and it could take decades to bring it back to where it needs to be.

I hope that everyone will see the writing on the wall and step up and help your officers through these troubling times. They are the soldiers that are on the front line against crime and mayhem within our country.
My heart goes out to all the officers that are going through these times right now and they have my support and I am praying for an end to all the madness that they are facing. I hope you will pray for them and support them also.

Mr. Hurley is the current president of Cambridge-Dorchester Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27. He is a retired sergeant of the Cambridge Police Department. The lodge’s website is foplodge27.org.