Earlier this month, the Seattle Times Editorial Board printed an opinion column stating that "psychologically unfit recruits shouldn't become police officers."

We place that item in the very thin file folder filled with statements from the Seattle Times Editorial Board with which we agree.

The opening line of the column practically mirrors something this pro-police scribe has said for years: "Not every pilot should be a pilot and not every priest should be a priest, and not everybody is suited to be a police officer."

The Times editorial went into a little detail about a recent item in the same newspaper detailing criminal charges being filed against Officer Timothy Rankine of the Tacoma Police Department in relation to the June 2020 in-custody death of a man who allegedly charged toward two officers and died as they and other officers attempted to subdue and restrain him.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner's office later determined that the subject died "as a result of physical restraint with contributing conditions of methamphetamine intoxication and a dilated heart."

Righting a Listing Ship

Whether or not Rankine—or any of the other officers involved in the incident—are to be held responsible for the man's death is a matter for a jury to decide. What warrants examination in this space is the fundamental issue presented by the Times' editorial about the overall fitness—psychological as well as physical—of police recruits entering the ranks.

Rankine—one of the back-up officers who arrived to the scene after the struggle with the man had already been in progress for some time—had reportedly been "flagged" by instructors at the state police academy as having not performed well in a simulation exercise designed to develop decision-making skills. The academy had subsequently alerted Tacoma PD about the matter in a memo, but "Tacoma hired Rankine anyway."

The trouble is, the anti-police rhetoric spewed by anti-police protesters anti-police politicians, and an often anti-police mainstream media has caused a hiring crisis of absolutely astonishing proportions. Leaders of police departments of all size across the United States are fighting an uphill battle in a two-front war to retain seasoned officers presently in the ranks, and attract a new generation of candidates who take one glance at the current anti-cop climate and say, "Uh, yeah, like, that's, like, a hard no."

Across the country, young people look at the fact that a police officer can be jailed or sued in civil court for simply performing their job—within the law and agency policy—and come to a very logical decision on their desired career path.

In response to declining numbers of interested candidates, some agencies have relaxed their hiring standards, especially with regard to educational levels, prior drug use, tattoos, and facial hair. Others are shortening the work week. Still others are increasing the maximum age for new recruits.

Lowering standards is never a good idea—not for the lonely person eyeballing the remaining barflies when the bartender shouts "Last call!" and certainly not when looking for the best and brightest to keep America's streets safe from dangerous criminals. The individual seeking a "soulmate" at closing time is undoubtedly going to be disappointed in the morning, and a police agency "settling" for new hires who would have been washed out of the academy only a few years ago are almost assuredly going to regret it.

Awaiting a Sea Change

In (brief, somewhat half-hearted) defense of the Times Editorial Board, they have at times recognized the folly of the defund movement with headlines like "Seattle's Botched Experiment with Defunding the Police Keeps Getting Worse" and "Seattle Needs Therapy to Get Past Defund the Police."

The board even opined in September 2021 that the Emerald City's "headlong dash to defund police is irresponsible, destabilizing, and ongoing." They noted that "response times to all levels of 911 calls have been rising" despite the fact that "police were responding to drastically fewer dispatch calls."

Kudos to the Times Editorial Board for recognizing—perhaps too late and probably for the wrong reasons—that the defunding movement (and the de-policing outcome it created) was is wrongheaded.

The public, the press, and the political elites make all sorts of noise about wanting the very best of the best from the police. This legitimate desire—demand, even—is at least in part delegitimized when it comes from the same people who have vilified and eviscerated the police for the past half-decade.

The staffing crisis in law enforcement wasn't created overnight, and it won't be fixed overnight. It will require a sea change in public opinion—one which isn't likely to come soon and certainly won't come without the active assistance of people who have made it their mission in recent years to sink the police.

We're only in the first week of 2023. Let's see what may come of this matter in the year ahead.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Contributing Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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