By Greg Ellison
National negativity causes number of job applicants to fall far below usual level
(July 2, 2020) The Ocean Pines Police Department is facing mounting recruitment challenges at a time when demands on the department are rising as well.
Police Chief Dave Massey said increased rates of domestic incidents have been evidenced since the pandemic outbreak earlier this year.
“With everyone cooped up, we get more domestic calls, which is maybe being exacerbated by being around each other all the time,” he said.
With summer here and pandemic restrictions being eased, an uptick in traffic and travel has been apparent.
“People are coming out and people are going places,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of drunk driving and domestics.”
For example, on Saturday Ocean Pines Police responded to a single-vehicle accident at the North Gate Bridge.
“We had an accident on the North Gate Bridge,” he said. “They flipped a vehicle [and] were drunk.”
Massey said between health-safety issues and national protests against police brutality, the usual challenges of recruiting new officers have intensified.
“The negativity … it’s going to hurt recruitment,” he said. “My recruitment is down 50 percent as far as applicants … in the last few years.”
The continuing spotlighting of bad conduct by police deters potential applicants, Massey said.
“It’s really been a detriment but despite that there’s still a lot of good people that apply,” he said.
Promoting ethical behavior by police officers starts from the top, Massey said.
“It’s all about holding people accountable,” he said.
Massey stressed the importance of law enforcement leadership clearly defining intolerable policing procedures.
“You lay out boundaries and you fight for what you think is right,” he said. “They know the boundaries, and if they step over those … there’s going to be heavy consequences.”
Reflecting on more than four decades in law enforcement, Massey recalled addressing police misconduct following the Rodney King beating on March 3, 1991. That incident resulted in six days of massive rioting in Los Angeles in April 1992 after a jury acquitted several officers captured on video assaulting the 25-year old at the conclusion of a high-speed chase stemming from a drunk driving arrest.
“I … did a training session on use of force,” he said. “I showed them the video and said, ‘If I ever see you guys doing any of this stuff you’re going to be fired and … charged criminally.’”
Massey, who was Ocean City’s police chief at that time, highlighted the importance of establishing a no-tolerance approach to brutality and use of excessive force.
“Leaders need to come forward and not be afraid to say, ‘we’re going to terminate anybody that does this,’” he said. “I don’t care if you have a union or not.”
The widely broadcast citizen video of the King beating, and subsequent outpouring of outrage, was a precursor to the digital age and barrage of viral footage documenting police abuses.
“I’d love to say we’re a perfect profession, but no profession is perfect,” he said. “There’s always going to be a few who don’t live up to the standards.”
Massey said police misconduct shatters community trust.
“I’ve had officers I had to terminate, and they didn’t fight it because they knew where I stood,” he said. “If you can’t trust the police, who the hell can you trust?”
Massey espouses a straightforward policing philosophy.
“You treat everybody with dignity and respect,” he said. “You’re not always going to get that back, but you have to endure.”
In terms of future police recruits, Massey said the best advice for long-term career success is exercising restraint.
“I’ve been a cop for 46 years and never shot anybody [or] choked anybody,” he said. “As long as you walk that straight line, you’ll never have a problem as a police officer.”