Police officers speak on street-level view of issues they face in CBS special

A handful of officers from around the country opened up about ways the public is still supporting them, as well as why many officers are leaving the profession

By Sarah Calams

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Police officers from across the country spoke out about street-level issues they're facing in a special CBS segment aired over the weekend.

A handful of officers, including some from Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, California and Georgia, opened up to CBS about ways the public is still supporting them – including gestures from citizens who pay for their meals and haircuts.

However, one officer said many of his colleagues are still considering leaving the profession.

"Things have just changed, the way people view us and the way they view our role in society and our jobs," Petr Speight, a patrol officer in Montgomery County, Maryland, said.

Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph, a 25-year LAPD veteran, says "the vast majority of officers are decent human beings," but there is "a negative exception that we all need to work hard to try to root out."

"And I think we're trying to do that," he says.

But Joseph said that's a difficult task since "a lot of people just ended up making up their own minds that all police are bad, that all police are inherently evil" after the death of George Floyd.

In Charleston, S.C., Officer Adam Deming, who also serves as an SRO at a local high school, initiated a program to strengthen community ties after Floyd's death.

"So, inside of the school they trust me," Deming said. "They trust the officers that I bring in. But outside of the school walls, they don't know if they can trust someone who isn't me, or who isn't one of the group that they've been able to have these open dialogues with. And that's the question: How do we bridge that gap?"

Deming says the meetings are helpful, but it sometimes feels like he's "taking two or three steps forward in the right direction … and then an incident happens … and it knocks me back."

That's an unfortunate reality for many, says Patrick Skinner, a detective in Savannah, Georgia: "As we've seen, every single department in every city is one video away from disaster."

And although many officers are considering early retirement or leaving the profession, Speight says he's never thought of quitting.

"For me, it's one of the things where, if I didn't stick around to do this job, who is going to take my place?"

Joseph agreed, saying communities need their officers, but he's "not angry at them for it, because I understand exactly how they feel." He concluded his interview with this thought: "We are actually responding to systemic failures, and we get blamed because we are the tangible form of government that people can say, 'Bad government, look at what you're doing!' So, I think these systemic failures give the society the perception that we failed. No, we are responding for the most part to failure. They're not just failing the community; they're also failing us as well."

Watch the full special below.

The special also featured segments on San Francisco's new Street Crisis Response program, the similiarities between an Iowa police chief and pastor's role, a look at law enforcement in Europe and Japan, as well as an interview with Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner of New York City and Boston, on policing after Floyd's death.

NEXT: Roundtable: Perspectives on policing one year after the death of George Floyd

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