Public Views: A Survey of Police from the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area

Ford_Crown_Victoria_Interceptor_DCsurvey coordinated by Damon Locks and Detective Gregg Pemberton

This idea came about when I was working on the WDC issue of Stop Smiling magazine. When brainstorming about our nation’s capital, I thought it would be a great idea to hear from the men and women in blue regarding their feelings about their jobs. With the help of Detective Gregg Pemberton, some questions were put together and inquiries were made. The survey was cut from the issue of Stop Smiling. Luckily, The Population can serve as a venue for such ideas. Here are some thoughts from those sworn to serve and protect.



Officer Joe Gentile – Third District Auto Theft Unit, – MPD

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 3-5 years

age: 25-29

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Neutral. The only extremes are on the negative side, for the most part. It is very rare to see/read anything about extremely positive views of the police.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

The low morale at MPD makes it difficult to be doing your best at work. It takes a strong-willed officer to cut through all that and do the best they can.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

I would overhaul recruiting and hiring. The department needs to make you earn the job through testing and interviews. Therefore, you can weed out people  that don’t really want to do the job or are unqualified. The hiring process needs to be more in-depth and challenging like most agencies.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

The aspects that trouble me the most are poor management and poor training of new recruits. In my opinion, new recruits need to be challenged in the academy and expected to perfrom at a high level throughout. This is not the case. Also, the promotional process needs to be revamped, in the sense that if you are an officer that works in an administrative position for many years (i.e. payroll) and you get promoted, you aren’t sent to lead a squad of patrol officers. They need to promote people to lead what they are skilled at.

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Jimmy Paul, Trooper First Class, Executive Protection Section

Maryland State Police, 3-5 years

age: 30-35

race: Asian

gender: Male

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Neutral. I think there are an equal number among the public who view the police in a negative light as there are those who see them in a positive light.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

It is a combination of what the citizens want the police to do along with what the department wants you to do. The job itself is pretty easy, as in what you are required to do. It is the people involved, both the citizens and the superiors, who make it hard. The citizens want you to lower the crime but do not like being inconvenienced. The superiors want you to lower crime as well, but make you jump through hoops to do it (redundant forms, reports etc).

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

I would let the officers do the right thing and do their jobs. It may come at the cost of a few complaints from citizens but you can never make everyone happy. At the end of the day, everyone goes home safe. That should be the goal.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

All of the above. Each aspect that is listed above could be improved upon in my department. They all play a pivotal role in Trooper’s frustrations.

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Officer Sarah Yeaw, Officer, Third District Vice Unit, MPD

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 1-2 years

age: 25-29

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Female

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Negatively. It depends where you work but the media puts a lot of negative stuff out, which colors people’s view

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

In patrol, it’s a lack of resources and personnel to allow officers to do much self-initiated work or investigations. There’s just too few people and too many radio runs to answer, so there’s no time left to really take on any investigations.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

The juvenile justice system! The vast majority of our part 1 offenses are committed by juveniles. But the vast majority of those who arrested are either given a few months in a halfway house (where they can leave during the day and continue to commit crimes, and also run away multiple times without receiving any further punishment), or they are not even charged at all! They learn very quickly that they can do whatever they want and essentially get away with it. There needs to be much stricter punishments for these kids, or else the crime will continue to rise out of control.

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Narcotics Detective

Baltimore City Police Department, 8-10 years

age: 35+

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Negatively. It largely depends on the area. Some areas love the police, while others hate them.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

The department and politicians lack of support for their officers. Officers are policing with one hand tied behind their backs. This view that the community is always right, demoralizes and de-motivates officers to get involved in fighting crime.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

Command staff needs to know that (especially in narcotics) there are going to be complaints. The majority of the people we deal with are felons and don’t want to go to jail. Therefore, don’t always entertain the absurd complaints.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

Citizens in high crime areas want a crime reduction, yet hate your guts at the same time. This makes for a tough environment to win over popularity. Also, to have multiple cases where criminals with 15+ arrests are still on the street is ridiculous. Inner city juries don’t convict very easily. This is frustrating for police who work hard everyday.

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Gregg Pemberton, Detective, Criminal Investigations Division, Seventh District, MPD

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 

age: 30-35

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Negatively.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

Police departments strategies and operational plans are all too often motivated by politics and public outcry, rather than actual time tested policing techniques. This forces officers to constantly be “reactionary” to the demands of the public, preventing them from aggressive patrols and quality investigations, the bread and butter of crime prevention.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

I would allow the officers to dictate how they would like to address the given issues in their area or their concentration. Crime trends and criminal activity changes so quickly, that only the officers with their boots on the street know the best way to attack a particular problem. All too often, officials develop plans that please citizens concerns, but don’t address the root of the problem.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

It just seems that bad guys never get any punishment around here. Even violent, armed felons can walk away with little or no jail time. Then when they’re released back out on the street to commit more crimes, the citizens blame the police for not doing anything. The public sometimes doesn’t benefit from our hard work and also doesn’t always understand the criminal justice system. This makes people quick to blame police for spikes in crime.

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Officer Matthew Mahl, PSA 302 (Columbia Heights) Patrol

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 3-5 years

age: 25-29

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Very negatively.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

Over the last several years, the police department has started to cater to the citizens of our patrol areas. It seems that management in an attempt to gather public support forgets that we are running a police department. At times the police department chooses to do things that have no effect on crime, but satisfies the public. This hinders my job greatly.

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Travis Eagan Officer Patrol (FTO)

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 3-5 years

age: 35+

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male

 

On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Negatively

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

The politics of this city and the powers that are allowing the citizens to run things.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

Do away with the added footbeats and put the officers back in cruisers and allow them to do there job as they are trained to do. The foot beats are to appease the citizens and do little to fight crime.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

Citizens’ ability to twist the arm of Management.

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4 Comments

Filed under Interviews, Public Views

4 responses to “Public Views: A Survey of Police from the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area

  1. ben

    this came out great, damon. nice work.

  2. Tim

    The surveys are an interesting starting point. It would be great to get a broader understanding of the police experience with an introduction, wrap up or running commentary from Detective Pemberton.

    • I think Damon did a great job of starting a dialogue of the perception of policing in DC. I would love to explore some of these subjects more thoroughly. It is not often that the public gets an opportunity to hear from “the police”. The preconceptions of the public are oftentimes misconstrued about the intentions of the police; however, there are issues with police who are misguided or bias. It would be interesting to look into these subjects further.

  3. J.

    This is great. Working (and until recently, living) in Baltimore City, the police are a constant presence in my psychic landscape … and so is out-of-control crime, the unraveling of social fabric, and general urban weirdness. I have had some good experiences with Baltimore City police, and some extremely alienating and unpleasant ones too. It’s fascinating to sample the perspectives of individual police in this way. I guess the emphases on police autonomy and on punishment (as opposed to rehabilitation) are hardly surprising.

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