2 tactics agencies should employ in post-Ferguson policing

As an old beat cop once said to NYPD Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, “You have to walk softly, but carry a big stick”


It has been one year since Ferguson and police are still suffering after some of the most maliciously inaccurate reporting of any officer-involved shooting in history. Since that day, animosity toward police has been nursed by some in the media and activists like an ember in a camp fire on a television survival show. It has been stoked into a bonfire until every cop in the nation is being singed by the heat.

Whether the animosity is pent up, stirred up, or conjured up, this heat exists. Officers have died because of it and it is getting as dangerous out there for the average beat cop as it was in the late 60s and early 70s.

Now is not the time to double down, but to double up. Here are two ways:

1. Two-Officer Squads
It is time to re-visit two officer squads. Not every squad in the nation, mind you, but there are identifiable times and locations where an officer will be instantaneously in over their head the moment they exit their squad alone.

Some of the problems that a one-officer unit would face during these times and in these locations could be prevented by having two officers immediately on the scene rather than one. This is happening in some venues, but it needs to be more widely considered.

When and where should officers double up? Every street officer and line supervisor in every city across this country could tell a chief the times and locations officers should be doubled up to patrol and answer calls for service. Just ask your people.

During those times and at those locations, commanders who are in charge of assigning personnel should be given the authority to schedule partners patrolling together. Nothing communicates to criminals that cops are ready for them like two officers effectively practicing contact-cover tactics immediately upon exiting their unit. 

2. Cops on Foot Patrol
Partner patrols should not be limited to squads, but also be done on foot. Nothing tells a neighborhood that cops care about their safety and welfare like a couple of dedicated, hard-working foot patrol officers who know the good people and the bad people on their beat. Every beat has a mixture of both.

People who live in troubled neighborhoods do not want to see public relations officers — they want to see beat officers relating to the public. Make no mistake about it, no matter what you see on the news, troubled neighborhoods want cops — especially cops who are there because they care. 

People who dial 911 want officers who can handle themselves as well as the criminals that terrorize their neighborhoods. Now, if those officers can also conjure a friendly conversation, give a smile and a wave occasionally, all the better. 

The gifted foot patrol officer has always struck a balance between firm and fair. An officer has to be able to be friendly and still have appropriate intensity when necessary. As an old beat cop once said to NYPD Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, “You have to walk softly, but carry a big stick.”

Agencies should develop a new generation of indomitable Bumper Morgans (from Joseph Wambaugh’s “The Blue Knight”) who invest themselves in the safety of the people who live and work on their beat.

The people we serve should not have to live on gang turf — they should live in neighborhoods. Double up and take back the neighborhoods. Expand your foot patrols.

Keep on Keeping On
For all of you officers out there overwhelmed by the constant barrage of negativity, I urge you to continue to do the best you can — what else can you do? 

Cops are not hardwired to give up, nor should they. The people in your communities need you. Your presence does make a difference and your actions do save lives.

Strive to stay positive in these negative times. Rise above those who would put you down. You are American police officers policing in a free society – and that is something you should be proud of. 

Here is something the news media has failed to point out all year: you are the best of us.

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