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4 key points from Newsweek’s ‘New American Cop’ report

Tackling both the concerns of the public and police officials, the article is an in-depth look at major issues facing today’s officers



This week, Newsweek features a major report on the “New American Cop,” detailing the difficulties police agencies across the nation are facing in the wake of high-profile officer-involved shootings and targeted attacks on law enforcement.

Tackling both the concerns of the public and police officials, the article is an in-depth look at major issues facing today’s officers, including staff shortages, the ever-expanding duties of the patrol officer, and department diversity. We’ve gathered four key points from the report, which is worth reading in its entirety and can be found here.

While these highlights may not be revelatory for those who put on the badge every day, they do reinforce just how challenging American policing has become and put a spotlight on these issues for a broader (civilian) audience. Take a look at our highlights below and share your take on the article with us.

1. The American cop’s list of responsibilities has never been longer.
Today’s cops are expected to be on the front lines for what is arguably the broadest range of societal issues they’ve ever been tasked to address. This reality has been voiced as a cause for concern by many police leaders in the past few years, perhaps most notably by Dallas Police Chief David Brown in the wake of last month’s deadly ambush on LE.

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a July press conference. “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

While this struggle isn’t new, what may be surprising is how much time the average cop is taking out of their day to respond to these issues. According to the report, top cops in many large U.S. cities believe that three-quarters of the job now revolves around “playing social worker or surrogate parent.”

2. The makeup of LE agencies is the most diverse it’s ever been.
Diversity in law enforcement is an important issue that’s come under heavy scrutiny in recent years. And while there’s always more work to be done in this area, the problem isn’t as dire as some may think. Female officers on the force are the highest they’ve been in decades, according to the report. In 1987, 15 percent of the nation’s police force was racial or ethnic minorities – that number has increased to 27 percent as of 2013. And some PDs, like New York City and Los Angeles, are majority-minority.

3. Agencies continue to face difficulty in filling the ranks…
Newsweek’s numbers on new cops joining the force aren’t pretty (61,000 in 2002 compared to 45,000 in 2013), and one expert blames the difficult work hours and anti-cop sentiment as likely causes for the continuing drop.

4. …but there are some signs of life.
Despite this decrease in applicants, agencies recently shaken by tragedy are seeing record numbers of candidates hoping to join the men and women in blue. And these hopefuls may be the people you’d least expect to join the thin blue line: critics. After Chief Brown challenged protesters to fill out an application for the DPD, at least one man calling for police reform signed up to serve. Top cops are hoping that trend will continue.

Read the full report at Newsweek and let us know what you think about the “New American Cop” in our comments section.

Cole Zercoe previously served as Senior Associate Editor of Lexipol’s and His award-winning features focus on the complexity of policing in the modern world.

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