Looking ahead to 2014: Detroit a case study in despair and hope

As this holiday season draws to a close and the year 2014 begins, officers in Detroit and elsewhere won’t miss a beat

A popular rap star comments that his performance on stage is “like being a police officer, or like war or something.” A list of the top 100 highest paid athletes in 2013 started with the lowest salary of $16 million and the highest $78 million for swinging a golf club.

The Senate passes a budget bill that will decrease military veterans’ retirement cost of living allowances to finance their overspending. Retired Detroit police and firefighters sit with worry this holiday season as a bankruptcy judge ponders the fate of what was once a guaranteed income: their pension.

Despite not being treated like rock stars or getting paid like professional athletes, cops all over this country stand today in front of their lockers and dress for their next shift. Some are getting ready for the early morning roll call and will miss out on New Year’s Day festivities — they probably also missed watching the little kids playing with their toys under the Christmas tree last week. Some officers will sit in the midnight shift briefing barely awake, as they have been up all day trying to make the holiday seem normal for their family.

Sadly, as this holiday season draws to a close, some officers will encounter dangerous calls for service and make significant sacrifices while most Americans enjoy the warmth of friends and family.

A Dangerous Calling
We don’t do this job for fame or money. We do this job because something deep inside our souls compels us to put that gun belt on when we are tired and miss our families. The occasional thank you from a random citizen in the coffee shop or the adoration in the eyes of a passing child are thanks enough.

The recent years have been tough on many police agencies. Some have experienced massive layoffs and huge pay cuts. The trend for city governments seems to be slashing the medical benefits and pensions of their police departments. I often wonder how many of these cities misspent taxpayer monies or didn’t properly plan over the years for struggles such as the recent recession.

Detroiters, for example, idolized former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick despite the bribes and corruption that landed him in prison. Recently, Forbes named Detroit the most dangerous city for the fifth year running. This city is a classic example of not years, but perhaps decades of fiscal mismanagement. What has this gotten Detroiters? Bankruptcy. Unfortunately it looks like the retired and current cops are going to pay for the misdeeds of the corrupt politicians of the past.

Active duty cops, soldiers and others who serve their communities or country don’t do so because we think we’re going to get rich. We enlist in this lifestyle because for most of us, it’s in our souls to serve. We feel responsible to protect those who can’t protect themselves.

But some of those who can’t protect themselves turn a blind eye to the fleecing of those who serve them. How can any honest American allow government to correct their misdeeds on the backs of those who have sacrificed so much?

Glimmer of Hope
Retirees in Detroit are most likely about to get their pensions reduced thanks to the city’s bankruptcy. No matter how much the reduction is, it will be significant to the retirees.

These officers worked most of their adult lives for their city, and some made significant sacrifices. They worked in dangerous conditions in America’s most dangerous city, year after year, watching the corruption that went on for decades, and all they ever asked for was a decent wage and a pension to carry them into their golden years.

However, there was recently a glimmer of hope from a civic leader in Detroit. Roger Penske and a small group of other business leaders donated $8 million to the aging police and EMS fleets. These civic leaders recognize the importance of stabilizing this once-great city. They have sacrificed their own money, which shows a great commitment to the city. We can only hope that this good dead will rub off onto the entitlement generation.

Keep the Faith in 2014
As this holiday season draws to a close, and the year 2014 begins on this New Year’s Day, officers in Detroit and elsewhere won’t miss a beat.

They will gear up for another shift. They may worry about their financial futures, but the streets will be policed. Cops from departments all over this nation will do the same thing, and many of us are in the same predicament. Tired and weary, longing to be home with their families during the holidays, cops will arrest the drunks, break up domestic fights and respond to dangerous persons who are armed and looking for a fight.

They will do so despite their low pay and the danger that confronts them. We have always trusted those who manage the governments we work for to take care of us. Now it’s time for those governments to recognize the sacrifices and commitments we make and find a way to repay their debts without bleeding retirees and future pensions.

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