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Why are cops so easy to hate?

Police hate is not just a public relations problem — it’s a survival problem

I am a middle aged, white, heterosexual, protestant, middle class, non-disabled male American.

For me to speak authoritatively on discrimination will irk some who have lived in the overt and covert darkness of prejudice.

I can’t walk a mile in your shoes. I am, however, part of a hated minority.

This minority is subject to unprovoked violence and yet prosecutions are frequently denied when they are victims of violent crime. Not infrequently they get prosecuted for merely defending themselves.

While most people hold their tongues when criticizing groups in front of a member of that group, the same is not true of my tribe. Criticism, in fact, is often the first thing that confronts us in conversation.

With all the political correctness that has put a lid on slang, pejorative, and hurtful words, some of our finest citizens have no reservation about saying they hate us — that we’re corrupt, lazy, pompous, and stupid.

Why is blue so easy to hate?

Power Envy

Critics will immediately challenge the thought that an armed government agent can claim that they are labeled or treated unfairly. It is true that we hold positions of power, but a look at our subculture can show a lot of areas where we as individual police officers have a very confined position legally, culturally, and organizationally.

Any power that we do possess is that which we mediate and administer on behalf of others.

But many people are jealous of the power and inequity symbolized by the badge and gun.

Media Coverage

This is not a media-bashing statement. They can only report from the sources they find.

When events happen, even those that seem normal and neutral in our world, we are often not allowed to narrate or explain the event.

There’s no ‘Jesse Jackson’ stepping in to speak on behalf the police. We all know that raw video and angry relatives and activists without a police perspective is bad news for the cops.

Dedicated Hate Groups

The Internet trumpets hate for the police with a constant discordant presence. An Internet search for the word police plus corrupt, abuse, brutality, etc. will bring up not just random rants, but organized hate movements and lots of attorney advertisements.

These three thoughts are just the beginning of the cop hate issue. Without being antagonistic or divisive, our safety on the street and our survival in the courtroom is severely compromised by this prejudice. What can we do?

Encourage Advocacy

There are civic and faith groups that are supportive of law enforcement. Optimist International has had a respect for law effort since 1965.

One church in my area has a photo display of every law officer in the area (with their permission) for their members to remember in prayer. We should seek out opportunities to speak on the subject of anti-police sentiment in order to confront some common misunderstandings.

These presentations should be fact- and ethics-based, rather than the “I deserve respect because I’m out there with my life on the line every day.”

Other people have tough jobs, they don’t want to hear how rough it is in yours.

Make sure your prosecutor is tough on anti-police crime, too.

Preload Information to the Public

Citizens are fascinated with police work. If you give them information they can use, they’ll pay attention and absorb it.

Efforts like the Hollywood V. Reality video can be very helpful.

Getting the idea out that the offender chooses how police act is a theme that bears repeated emphasis. As the Department of Justice says so flippantly “citizens bear some of the responsibility for the nature of relations with the police.”

The idea that police shoot people unnecessarily is unfounded.

Seek and Multiply Advocacy Venues

My organization, the National Center for Police Advocacy, is available to be an objective voice for editorials, media interviews, and case studies where official silence is required.

I hope that other organizations will be created to do the same thing and more. Telling your success stories on Twitter and other social media can help balance negative stories and stale statistics.

Focus on what I call “Positive Policing” — tell your stories and light up your community with more than warnings and crime prevention tips.

Police hate is not just a public relations problem — it’s a survival problem.

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at