“Jose Guerena’s example suggests also that holding fire is the wrong thing to do if attacked by either freelance or government thugs. A lawful person who has no cause to expect a police raid is more likely to face regular criminals impersonating police than uniformed criminals representing themselves.” So says gun photog Oleg Volk in reaction to a recent spate of high profile cop-on-citizen violence. But really, how much do we have to fear from our own police force and governmental agencies? Personally, the more I write for this website, the less faith I have in my constabulary. And when the Department of Education deploys a SWAT team, I’m no longer as comfortable as I might be with our three-letter federal defenders. In fact, since I started carrying, I’ve become more confident in myself than my paid protectors. You?

64 Responses to Question of the Day: How Much Do You Trust the Police?

  1. Particularly in light that the police ultimately work for the politicians, none at all. I may have had some, at one time, until several years ago I was falsely arrested. The arresting officer lost his job, but that did not change my experience-even though I served 8 years as one.

  2. I have a criminal case I’ve been following since 1989. It’s an unsolved double homicide. The police haven’t delivered for me just yet.

  3. Wow, Robert. Your telepathic like ability to ask certain questions that have recently preoccupied my owns thoughts is getting scary.

    Of late I have been pondering this exact same question. My own answer to this questions is, I don’t trust the police. With the advent of cell phone video the evidence towards police misconduct is rife on the internet. I have come to the conclusion that the police, being a paramilitary organization, attracts a certain type of person who cares little about the rights of people. At best they are revenue collectors with a badge. At worst they are jack-booted thugs invested with the awesome power to deprive people of freedom, and many appear to be ill equipped intellectually to have such power.

    Since I started carrying I too feel more comfortable in my own ability to protect myself. I don’t want to have to rely on the police for my protection, especially since I am starting to think they are the ones I need protection from.

      • +2
        Not much. I am a law abiding citizen yet every time I see a police the thought that goes through my mind is “They are a sanctioned gang” that looks out for their own first and the rights of the citizen second. As Van has already said, the job attracts a certain mindset that is not necessary conducive to the right of the average person. Also as PT and several posts have shown, open carry in some places and you will see the mind set. Here in California if the population density is less than 200,000 you are allowed by law to open carry, yet the stance of most police is jack them up and make it difficult\time consuming\annoying to open carry. I personally want to be able CCW, yet I do not live in one of the counties with a sheriff that believes in issuing CCW’s. I am working to change this.

  4. None. Not at all. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

    Try open carrying (where legal) and you’ll find out the true nature of most of the police.

  5. I’ve had generally good encounters with my local PD, including a very pleasant one where I was open carrying. The lady cop didn’t give a hoot that I had a big ol’ .45 sitting on my hip, and that’s the way it should be.

    But for the most part I generally distrust LE. I believe local and state cops have become nothing more than tax collectors with guns who are encouraged by local and state government to ticket us right into the poorhouse.

    I also believe modern policing has become WAY too militarized, as the recent DOE case shows these guys love to use their SWAT teams for ANYTHING! No matter how minor the crime, or non-violent the offender, it apparently requires peoples doors to be kicked in and flashbangs tossed. And God help you if you happen to have a gun on you when they kick in the door.

        • My neighbor is an Arlington police officer. Whenever I get a new gun he wants to take a look.

        • I live in King George, and have had the cops come out to our range more than a few times, overall I think the ones here are pretty good, but we have had bad ones in the past. One wrote his own mother a ticket for going 56 in a 55. Mom was not amused.

          There is a maryland cop that lives in a near by neighborhood who is a real male reproductive organ though, he somehow thinks being a cop for another state gives him authority in Virginia. I hope for his sake he never needs to rely on his neighbores to protect his family while he is unable, cause from what I have heard from his neighbores all are unwilling to say the least. All because he acts like he is in charge because he is a cop from another state.

  6. The police exist to serve and protect the state. We are their food. Gun rights writer David Codrea has chronicled in his “only ones” files the countless misdeeds of this supposedly more competent, more moral government caste. I took the red pill a long time ago, so I actually fear for my safety when around the king’s enforcement drones.

  7. If you’d asked me this question before 9/11 I would have emphatically stated my support for our nation’s law enforcement agencies including the FBI and DOJ. Today I cannot make the same statement and it’s a real shame. Most of TTAG’s younger readers will not remember Kent State, the Detroit riots or Vietnam but there have been several times in recent history when the “balance of power” in our country shifted out of its norm.

    Luckily, we are a nation of laws and not of men and I believe our current plight will not last forever. We will awake someday soon and realize that our government works for us, not us for them. We will elect new leaders who share our values and these new leaders will appoint new cabinet members that share their (and our) values. These new cabinet members will reorganize their departments and bring our out of control government back under control. Heads will roll and departments will shrink.

    We will stop this nonsense of “political correctness” and see criminals for what they truly are, Evil. We will secure our borders against illegal immigration, illegal drugs and illegal violence. We will stop treating law abiding citizens as potential terrorists and start treating terrorists as a “clear and present danger”. We will no longer strip search average Americans just because they want to board an airplane but will “target” those that fit a terrorist profile and deny them the means to harm us.

    During all this our nation will heal itself from within as we have always done since our inception. We will slowly begin to trust our government again and with that our law enforcement agencies as they once again begin to show the integrity and balance that has been their hallmark.

    But we will never forget the lessons of the past ten years and just how close our enemies came to changing our country forever. And we will reflect upon the wisdom and courage of our founding fathers to foresee a time in our country’s future when the rule of law would be challenged by the folly of men. We will say a prayer in silence and thank the Lord for once again saving us from ourselves.

    • If you think a war on drugs will go anywhere, you’re right up there with the people who thought the prohibition would work.

      Illegal immigration is much the same – our immigration laws are crap – it takes on average, TEN years if you want to be a US citizen. When businesses can employ illegal aliens for huge costs savings – no payroll tax, no benefits and no minimum wage – there’s a huge demand that can’t be stopped. When the rewards are great and the risks are few, illegal immigration is the rule of the day. Playing by the current immigration rules rewards no one.

      Not to mention xenophobia is right up there with racism in terms of classiness. Last respectable obscene prejudice left I suppose.

      As far as criminals go, I’m not certain where ‘political correctness’ comes into the picture. Per capita, the US has the highest amount of prisoners IN THE WORLD. Compared to China, North Korea, Iran or any of those ‘what human rights’ type places. Why we jail non-violent criminals is really a good question, as jail tends to make them worse people, and often enough, violent criminals when they get out.

      Honestly, we’re headed towards where Britain is now – a nation with no courageous citizens, who love security theater and jump at any media-hyped molehill threat transformed into modern terror mountain. I’m not certain what can be done to change our nation’s course, or keep us from ending up a land of wimpy bastards ruled by a nanny State, but yeah.

        • Phil and El Bomb, what’s so great about what Mark says? If all you have is a hammer (rabid pro-drug strain of Libertarianism), I guess everything looks like a nail (an invitation to get on the the rabid pro-drug Libertarian soapbox). Come on, guys, Mr. Lynch was trying to point out that we will get the train back on the tracks as we have following past spasms of tyranny–and not by letting the drugs flow and brow beating every last one of us as racists. Get a clue.

  8. I only trust the ones I know personally and even them I’m afraid some of them would just follow orders.

  9. ‘Paramilitary’ is the key word here. Over the past 15 or so years, as SWAT teams, tanks, helicopters, military uniforms, and automatic weapons have proliferated within police organizations – and even the Department of Education! – it sure feels like good old Officer Friendly has adopted a warrior mindset.

    Add in increased law enforcement powers granted under the Patriot Act and the War on Drugs. Then, at the same time, due to declining state revenues, police are generating more and more revenue for cash strapped governments through methods ranging from picayune tickets to egregious asset forfeitures.

    At this point, almost any police/citizen interaction is negative for both the officer AND the citizen.

    • That coincides nicely to when the North Hollywood shootout occurred and the Police were hapless against two men covered in body armor and carrying AK-47’s. One ended up taking his own life and the other was eventually taken down (I believe by being shot from under a car into his uncovered ankle).

      The cops decided they needed more power in their weapons. It used to be that SWAT was called in for Hostage Rescue or other rare-ish type of events and I believe they were regular cops who trained in Special Weapons And Tactics as an additional duty.

      Then 9/11 happened – now we have full-time SWAT teams delivering search warrants (where it used to be a couple of detectives and some uniformed cops). The argument being, we don’t want them getting rid of evidence, so we are going to bust in and catch them before that happens. With budgets tight, they need all the “evidence” they can seize.

      It is just like anything progressive, slowly, methodically, they have morphed into this hybrid police/military unit. Oh, and don’t forget to “thank” them for their service, they do have the moral high ground.

  10. I’m on the fence on this one.
    My father’s been a local police officer my entire life and I’ve been around officers in informall settings my entire life and in my experience they’re all conservative, Democrat hatin’, gun loving, right respecting, privacy respecting, upstanding men and women. I’ve only had a couple of “business” encounters with the police and both times they were professional and respectful. But I can’t simply ignore the reports of police misconduct and criminal behavior, the militarization of normally docile agancies (the fucking Department of EDUCATION has a SWAT team), the unlikelyhood of a victim of a wrong address no knock swat raid surviving the encounter, and the general attitude of contentment that law enforcement has for ccw’ers and people that are skeptical of authority in general that the internet is simply crawling with.
    Look at statements from LEO unions or police chief (pronounced “Politician”) in any area where concealed carry laws are being relaxed and you’ll see how little the higher ups in law enforcement trust and respect us little people. Conversely everyone of my dads friends that I’ve asked has been on board with the concealed carry movement since it’s inception here in Columbus, OH. The consensus is that there’s a huge disconnect between the beat cops and the ivory tower brass/politicians that make the decisions.
    Ultimately, I don’t trust the police simply as a rule because I know that there are bad ones but I also believe that there are cops out there that genuinely want to protect and serve.

    • The military is designed to be good at killing people. The difference between the military and the police is that the police are supposed to be good at protecting honest citizens.

      The SWAT initiative is a direct move, philosophically and realistically speaking, towards an organization that’s designed to be good at killing citizens of suspect honesty.

      Nor are they trained to the degree the military is when it comes to not making mistakes when applying lethal force (wrong address, etc) and the military’s training isn’t anything to write home about as it is.

    • I know that there are bad ones but I also believe that there are cops out there that genuinely want to protect and serve.

      This is exactly how I feel and I’ve brought it up before. Not every cop is a “jack booted thug” despite what some want to believe. I have yet to have a bad experience with a cop (even when I was arrested) and I have lived in small towns in MT as well as the urban sprawl of DC.

      However, like any position of power it can and will be abused. The Jose Guerena shooting and Miami cell phone incident are prime examples of power, authority and arrogance gone bad. But incidents like these aren’t the litmus test for every cop in every town in every state.

      I place my faith in the good officers out there and hope I never have a run in with one of the bad ones.

    • +1

      I live in the same area and know several cops. Most of them are pretty upstanding guys, a couple aren’t. One in particular I trust less and less; he appears comfortable with skirting the law in little ways when it serves his interest. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find out he’s dirty.

      No-knock raids are happening with increasing frequency and for apparently no good reason except to get their rocks off. If someone breaks down my door, I’m going for my sidearm. Period. So should my family just hope it’s not SWAT with the wrong address? What the hell kind of position is that for our “protectors” to put us in?

      I chalk up a lot of that to municipalities trying to out-do each other for the latest toys with a bunch of amped-up guys anxious to put ’em to use. Dangerous but not entirely unexpected.

      To me, the trend of cops roughing up or arresting people just for RECORDING them is more alarming. That one reveals more of an underlying disregard for liberty and makes me ask WTF is going on here…is this really going on in our country? Is this how totalitarianism took root in other countries?

      P.S…to be fair to DOE I don’t believe that was “their” SWAT team. I believe they called the local cops for assistance and got the first-class preferred-customer treatment.

    • Good links every one should read them especially Magoo who think only cop should have guns and the have your best interest in mind.

  11. Not much. There are a lot of good cops out there, don’t get me wrong, but as other commenters have noted, it’s a job that attracts plenty of people who aren’t worthy of being entrusted with the safety and security of the public or its liberties. Also, there’s the old question: Who watches the watchers? The police have a monopoly on the pursuit of justice in cases of criminal conduct, but what about when it’s a cop acting like a criminal? Nobody wants to lock up their friends, so things get swept under the rug.

    However, I have no sympathy for those who initiate an encounter with a police officer by acting like a complete asshole, and trying to play the victim when the officer is an asshole back.

  12. Just in case you need them, here are the lyrics to Paranoid, by Black Sabbath. I’ve been whistling that tune since I read your post:

    Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind
    People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time
    All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy
    Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify

    Can you help me occupy my brain?
    Oh yeah

    I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find
    I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind
    Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry
    Happiness I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal

    And so as you hear these words telling you now of my state
    I tell you to enjoy life I wish I could but it’s too late

  13. I’m a retired military cop and currently work with and interact with municipal, state, and federal LEOs. Some good, some bad, some prima donnas, some idiots….Much like the military, LEOs come from all walks of life, so you will have your percentages of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. +1 on the vast seperation between Chief(s) and patrol officers in regards to firearms. Most line cops I’ve met understand that some people own, enjoy shooting, and carry weapons from protection….The politics come into play once they move rank from their sleeves to their collar

  14. In the movie Men in Black, Tommy Lee Jones said to Will Smith words to this effect

    “A PERSON is smart and trustworthy but PEOPLE are stupid, paranoid and prone to react poorly”

    Capice?

  15. I don’t trust “the Police” but I trust individual cops. I trust some jurisdictions and not others. I think it comes down to force size. Big city forces are impersonal — they don’t know you and you don’t know them. Back in the day of the beat cop you knew your local cop. He may have been on the take but he knew whether you were a perp or a drunk or a punk. He also knew if you were ok. Once they went into the car they all that and now they view everybody as a potential threat. Small town police and sheriff’s departments retain that intimate knowledge. So if the sheriff’s deputy in my wife’s community sees me walking down the street packing he just waves and says hi. I also see that attitude in the Pentagon police force because you see guys day in and day out. Except you can’t carry on the Pentagon reservation.

  16. I trust them no more than I would any other stranger. I trust them even less with my life because I know if it is me or them, I would pick me and they would pick them. It isn’t rocket science and it isn’t personal. That is just the way it is.

  17. Yes, I do trust the police and they don’t get enough credit for all the hard work that they do. They have a tough job and need our support.

  18. I don’t really trust anyone, but I stay out of the way of the police and that works for me.

    I would not want to live in a city with no police force. Like ’em or not, for the most part, they keep the bad guys in check.

  19. I don’t know them personally, but Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers seem like stand-up guys. That Sting fellow, though…I’ve never been too keen on trusting anyone with just one name.

  20. I wish I had posted earlier and asked everyone to include their geographic area. I have been fortunate (or unfortunate) to have grown up in NM, moved to NYC, then Denver and now Chicago all in the last 10 years. I will also disclose that I was a volunteered for my PD in NM.

    So my opinion is that the way the police conduct themselves is very dependent on geographic region. Larger NM and metro Denver PDs seemed to have the more professional officers. They all spoke the same language of integrity, trying to do the right thing, and the public and their local govts for the most part supported them. This makes a huge difference to how a beat officer acts back towards the public and how proactive he is his beat.

    NYPD and Chicago PD? Well i truly feel sorry for the lowly patrol guys and the top brass of these departments are politicians with a gun. Additionally, these officers are products of their training. Layer on top of that, that as an officer you are one call away from ACLU/Jesse Jackson/media shitstorm and the mayor throwing you under the bus and a liberal public that wants you to reason with criminals? No thanks, private sector looks great. Another WTF is many east coast departments(and when I saw east coast I include Chicago), have “merit promotions”. This means someone with some clout to the chief, mayor whatever can just get promoted with little to no street experience and they bang out their 25 years on some admin desk working m-f days. Never even heard of this out west. Out east and in Chicago there are a huge number of officers who this is a job, not a calling.

    I feel the same about most east coast depts. East coast police academies seem to just want to get people through at the minimum. In NM, a few depts including mine, made the academy tough as possible including mixed martial arts so you know how to fight on they ground. Last thing, out west I saw a lot of officers carrying 1911s, and other enthusiast guns. Tactical guys who want to go home, arrest the bad guy and serve the public.

    Take it for what my experience is.

  21. Similar to our public school teachers, there are lots of really great cops out there. But also similar to our public school teachers, the pay scales are too low and the oversight systems too lenient to produce the highest quality local law enforcement force possible.

    • Sorry, I have to disagree with the comparison: cops are worth much more than they’re paid, PS teachers have excellent pay and benefits while the students continue to underperform.

      • Where I live teacher and police pay scales are almost identical, and the benefits are provided by the city and are identical as well. YMMV.

        • I see your point. Like PatC, I’m from South Carolina where cops are underpaid and the public schools are among the worst in the country. It’s all about perspective.

    • Not sure I agree with that but it probably depends on where you live.
      I grew up in SC and police pay had the reputation of being pretty poor. Now live in OH and know a couple cops who make more than I do, scratching six figures with overtime. And I’m a college-edumacated manager with about 20 years experience in a technical field; the guys I’m talking about are beat cops. They work their butts off but appear to be doing just fine, thank you.

  22. Some of you may have heard me say before I come from a cop family. When I make these comments they come from direct, first-hand knowledge knowing and being related to more than a hundred members of the NYPD. Based on that experience I can tell you the police, by and large, are not your friends. The cops I’ve known have all seen the badge as a license to get over on civilains, feeling entitled to everything from a free cup of coffee to cutting in line at a nightclub. Detectives are far more interested in clearing cases than in making sure the right person gets locked up. Every one of them placed a higher priority on ass-covering than on service, and if CYA meant screwing an innocent taxpayer then so be it. And as vile as Al Sharpton is (and he is vile, make no mistake) he actually has a point… most cops I’ve known are shockingly casual throwing around the most appalling racial slurs imaginable. I’ve known two cops who used the full resources of their department to stalk ex-girlfriends, and weren’t ashamed to admit it.

    Maybe the NYPD is uniquely corrupt, but I doubt it. From what I’ve seen the good, concientious public servant is the exception, not the rule. And I do think a lot of the problems can be traced directly to this disasterous “war on drugs”, which has both militarized the police and, even worse, injected the worst kind of profit motive into police work.

  23. I trust cops no more or less than any random stranger.

    I think the dislike of police stems from a kind of a misleading logic. Most viscerally, people get tickets and things like that from police, so therefore they don’t like them. In a very private sense, the police have “hurt” you. This dislike is understandable. I am admittedly compelled to listen to gangster rap after getting a ticket.

    On another level people see the police as representative of an institution which they are at odds with, and it is sexy to be “anti-institutional”. We forget that the institution is (ideally) ours. Practically speaking people with money and power and free time to serve as politicians run the institution and bias it to their interest rather than being true civil servants, and we must always fight that through sensible protest, voting, exposing corruption, but ultimately the antagonism shouldn’t be directed toward the police. The police have absolutely no power to change policy. In many cases they don’t even have a realistic power to refuse to implement policies they disagree with personally, outside of organizing themselves to protest. Most people want to keep their job, eat, and watch TV with their spare energy. I don’t begrudge them their selected priorities.

    We like to hypothesize about the personality types of the general every day cop, and form stereotypes based on the most negative of them. It’s easy to notice and point a finger at an crappy cop. They make the news. They go viral. We make arguments that the job “cop” attracts a certain personality, yet there is really no proof for this outside of anecdote. For just about every bad cop anecdote I’ve run into, I’ve been shocked and surprised by a good cop anecdotal example. These good cop anecdotes make me feel like my observations that I formed my previous “bad cop” opinions on were biased by observability issues.

    I am confident the variation of personalities and ethics of police roughly matches the variation in society at large in equivalent socioeconomic classes. I therefore trust a cop just about as much as I’d trust anyone else. No more, no less.

  24. I too think geographic area plays a big part… I live in South Louisiana and I have had good experiences with the PD and Sheriff’s Department (they are different though I don’t know how). I even know a couple of fella’s that work for the Sheriff’s office and I think they are a couple of stand up guys. I know that they’re pretty well entrenched in the public worker mindset but I think they are trustworthy.
    Every Saturday the Sheriff’s office opens their range to the public from 8 am to 2 pm (pistols, shotguns, rifles). They provide range officers, a short training session for first time users and targets. All they ask you to do is pick up your brass and follow all rules of gun safety.
    I think that says a lot about the attitude they have about armed citizens. I say trust your local PD and officials until they give you reason not to but always be prepared to protect yourself and your family.

  25. Trust is based on knowing deep down inside what the trusted person will do at all times, based on consistency of past performance. That being the case, I trust the police completely, knowing that they will always shoot first and ask questions later, commit rape and robbery, steal anything that isn’t nailed down and cannot be trusted around toilet plunger handles.

  26. Yeah, when the sirens sound outside you house, the best bet is to grab a gun and point it at the men with the sirens and “POLICE” or “SHERIFF” emblazoned on their chest.

  27. I grew up in a small town and the bulls were always on parade. My father, a WWII vet told me never to trust them and I never have.

  28. Geography: firmly in the midwest nowhere near chicago, kansas city, or anything that even looks like that.
    Profession: lawyer.
    Summary: the cops are NOT your friends. I’ve seen good ones, and more bad ones, and every year my opinion of the group lowers. Even the good ones, however, have the job of putting suspects into the courtroom. Even the good ones, I don’t trust.
    Don’t talk to the Police:

  29. I am a Hurricane Katrina survivor, who saw not only what the NOPD, and private security teams did, but also how the out-of-state Nat. Guard treated us, at a shelter that I voluntarily went to, not bussed to, in Baton Rouge. I do NOT, and WILL NOT trust law enforcement agencies, with my security or my life, again.

  30. Alot has to do with location, I’m in New Mexico where the police seem to know and accept the right to KABA, I’ve never had the police be anything but professional and courteous, even though I OC most of the time.
    That being said, I keep a handy audio and video recording device on me at all times if I meet a cop who might not be all of those things.
    “Trust but verify”

  31. The department of education, as well as any federal department has no business to have armed officers at all. The department of treasury and the department of justice can anc do have plenty of LEOs. Any federal department can get warrents, like any state department and use DOJ’s teams, or they can use use local LE teams. Allowing all of these agencies their own LE puts the states at a disadvantage. Here in SoCal, we have see the buildup of many LE forces, parks and rec, airport, schools, etc, mostley the employ retired LEOs from active policing to a cushy job.

    It allows the other departments to claim they are not in the loop when something goes wrong, and just furthers the militarization of the police. GWB and Obama just took it to the federal level, and now they can do things the others know nothing about. How many times have you read about a fed force going after some “crooks” in a city police force as a sting, with other departments getting involved in the fun?

    I can understand the feds helping the state police search for curruption at the county or city level, but unless the local LE are suspected of being dirty(a judge says so), they should be “in the loop”. Hiding behind a lame excuse just makes them look worse.

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