Scared Cops

Cops are human and, like the rest of us, are scared and for good reason. We’re anxious and frustrated about a stagnant political process within a polarized country; we rage about partisanship, but are contemptuous of politicians with whom we disagree; we’re embroiled in one endless war after another; we obsess over the threat of domestic terrorism; and we’ve allowed for the mass proliferation of handguns and assault rifles, resulting in 372 mass shootings in 2015, including 64 school shootings (according to Everytown for Gun Safety).

Within this civil decay, the culture of policing is changing as well. Cops are being accused of overt racism and unmitigated aggression, primarily directed toward men of color. They are now inclined to enforce the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, resulting in increased and unnecessary incarceration. Good policing practice in some minority communities has devolved from issuing stiff warnings or reasoned words as a deterrent, oftimes to violent overreaction and other questionable behaviors. In a society more violent by the day, mass shootings occur with regularity, more than one for every day in the year.

In minority communities and on our roads, establishing probable cause or having a reasonable suspicion has become outmoded. Now, when a police officer confronts a minority male, it seems that all he has to do is state that he felt threatened to justify having used excessive force. There surely are inherent dangers in being a police officer, as there are some dangerous people out there.  But not every black or brown person should be considered a serious threat to a police officer’s safety.

Sign Up for E-News

Is the job of policing becoming too difficult for the average cop to manage? They are anxious about being hurt, in spite of all the training they receive. They worry, like the rest of us, that their superiors are continually watching and evaluating their performance. They fear involvement in a tense confrontation that may become unmanageable. We all harbor racial and cultural biases. Fear tends to heighten these, and heightened fear can easily lead to violence.

It’s certainly understandable for a cop to fear being injured or killed in the line of duty; or for a cop to worry about meeting the expectations of his superiors; or for a cop to be concerned about how to adjust to the changing requirements of the job. But how a cop deals with these feelings, and his or her ability to manage anger and resentment, should it arise, distinguishes them from the rest of us; and it is critical to their ability to do the job fairly and safely.

All cops experience fear every day, but the ones who weather difficult situations well tend to be realists—thinkers as well as doers—and are exceedingly resilient, willing to bend and stretch to avoid unnecessary conflict. However, some cops experience too little caution on the job and can be seriously hurt. Others are excessively fearful and have a tendency to overreact and get someone hurt. And there are those cops who demonstrate no fear at all, acting with cold-hearted superiority, and unjustly targeting the people they are sworn to protect.

Cops are trained to recognize signs of trouble and respond appropriately. They are trained to identify and assess a potential threat, prior to the use of force—using only the amount of force necessary to overcome the resistance of a suspect and de-escalate the situation. But, when it comes to dealing with people of color, too frequently this is not the way it unfolds. Police leaders should hold accountable the weak cops who endanger their brethren, and rogue cops who disrespect the meaning of the badge.

The job of a police officer today is significantly more complex, dangerous, demanding and unnerving than ever before. Their courage and commitment is admirable. But they need and deserve better training in dealing with diverse communities of people and operating in hazardous environments in which lethal weapons abound.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Catching up with Westchester County Executive George Latimer

George Latimer, our new county executive, has been in office now for a little over half a year. I thought it might be a good time to check in with my friend to see how things were going. You can see the interview in its entirety on Channel 74 (Optimum) at 9 p.m. Wednesday nights.

What happened last November?

The election last November brought change throughout Westchester County. In my ...

A (Burnt) Toast to Love and Marriage, on the Rocks

In its first few moments, sitcom-style comedy “Clever Little Lies” grabs audience attention right away, with one of the most revealing wardrobe changes you’ll ever see on stage. It is done modestly but just provocatively enough to elicit vocal appreciation from amused patrons.

The fast-paced play, starring Richard Kline of TV comedy classic “Three’s ...

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne Looks Back on 2018 Legislative Session

July 17, 2018

There’s an old saying, “Our liberty is never safe when the New York State Legislature is in session.” There’s definitely some truth to that. This past legislative session I successfully fought back against several initiatives that would have added to our state’s crushing tax burden, added excessive regulations on businesses that hurt job creation and chipped away at ...

The Adventures of Superdog

I was always very impressed that my dog could bark on command and come when I called his name, until I read in the newspaper about a dog that saved his owner’s life by calling 9-1-1. Apparently, when his owner had a seizure, the dog pushed a speed-dial button for 9-1-1, barked into the receiver for help, and then opened the door when the responders arrived.

Honestly, though, it’s ...

If You See Something, Say Something

July 11, 2018

I am writing this letter because I see something different with the new Yorktown Town Board. I see an open government instead of a dictatorship with rubber stamps. I see the new Town Board working together for the best interests of the residents in Yorktown.

The auditor suggests in his report to not start a capital project without having the money first. A bad example is the Granite Knolls ...

Upcoming Events


Thu, July 19, 7:00 PM

Yorktown Heights

Bocce Open Play


Thu, July 19, 7:15 PM

Jack DeVito Veterans Memorial Field, Yorktown

Outdoor Movie Night

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, July 21, 12:00 PM

Club Fit, Jefferson Valley

Yoga for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Yorktown Residents Named Ambassadors of Support-a-Walk

July 12, 2018

Two Yorktown residents have been named Walk Ambassadors for the Annual Support-a-Walk organized by Support Connection, a non-profit organization that provides support and services to people battling breast or ovarian cancer. This year's walk will take place on Oct. 7 (rain or shine) at FDR State Park.

Mary Heagle, Mohegan Lake

Heagle’s experience with breast cancer began when her ...