Sunday, April 7, 2019

"Militarized"? Nope. Just "Equipment".

*Bishop Police Department, California*

One of the bloodiest ambushes since July 2016 left seven officers bleeding and helpless in a giant field of fire, until an ugly old MRAP rumbled onto the scene, providing cover to evacuate them.
For one veteran Florence officer, it was too late.
Another fought mightily, and succumbed to her wounds two weeks later. The rest recovered as best they could.
Less than six months later, in an even smaller South Carolina town (Huger, population 3000-ish), a traffic stop in a rural neighborhood turned into a gunfight.
A solo officer was pinned behind his vehicle for half an hour, until yet another MRAP made its slow and homely way to his rescue.

Bad guys have always used the best technology available to them at the time.
It stands to reason that police must, as well.
In the early 20th Century, as gangsters and organized crime made use of the best tech money could buy, manufacturers made sure law enforcement could access it, too.

Armor has been in use since prehistory. Armored vehicles have been in use since the invention of wheels.
Specialized armored police vehicles have been built for nearly a hundred years.
Characterizing the use of technological advances as a sinister, modern development is both misleading and misinformed.

News and commentary critical of the 1033 Program emphasizes "grenade launchers", "machine guns" or "tanks".
Ignoring, for now, that an armored vehicle is not a tank, never mentioned are the other "militarized" items available under the program :
sleeping bags, cots, water filters, camel backs, rain jackets, or night vision goggles--- all items designed for and supplied to the military, and once again available to law enforcement, with minimal cost to their communities.
All of this gear, by the way, is used for health and safety applications; it's protective, and defensive, not offensive.
As much of it gets used to safeguard local citizens as their police: MRAPs are used all over the country for evacuations during floods and after hurricanes,and to safely remove innocents from active shooter scenes.
For that matter, even armed standoffs have a chance to resolve peacefully if officers have enough cover to wait them out in relative safety. If a bad guy's life can also be saved because police have better equipment, where exactly is that downside?
*Coral Springs PD transporting a newborn and her mother during Hurricane Irma*

Better equipment means better response, to any situation.
A pair of NVGs saved two Washington state deputies from ambush. In a place with no streetlights or backup, a domestic violence call in progress means responding officers need every possible advantage.
What reasonable person denies officers the ability to see on a dark night, because they don't like the way the goggles look, or who paid for them?

I can think of three officers saved by their helmets in 2016 and 2017, alone.
(Los Angeles, Orlando and Tulare County, if you don't want to look them up yourself.)
*clockwise- shield used in the Bataclan siege, helmet from Orlando Pulse shootout, and Ferguson riot helmet*

Any worker doing a job needs the correct tools to do the job proficiently.
If it's a hazardous job, it is ethical and moral to ensure they have the equipment to do that job as safely as possible, as well.
Assuming that a North Hollywood -style robbery won't happen again is silly.
Assuming that the U.S. is immune from a Beslan or Mumbai-style terrorist attack is, at best, ill-informed (although on hard days I may envy your optimism).

France, Belgium and other European countries respond to terrorist attacks with actual military, and their police have the safety equipment they need. (You DID see the picture, up there, of that body bunker from the Bataclan entry? )

Unlike Europe, in the U.S., the Posse Commitatus Act precludes military response to any attack on our soil that may involve our own citizens.
National Guard takes days to mobilize.
Therefore, local law enforcement will be the first responders to any violent threat.
Since this is the case, they need the equipment to respond effectively, and with a chance of surviving that response.
Dead and wounded officers cannot stop an attack already in motion, and they cannot defend their communities, either.
Rather than protecting anyone else, they're now a strain on resources, and a distraction.
If you want effective response, your officers have to be able to stay in the fight.

If U.S. citizens insist on pretending that Mumbai and Beslan (and Paris, and Brussels, and...)can't happen here, then they don't get to say "You should have done something" when they don't like the outcome.
And they get to take the blame when those who do respond reap the whirlwind , unprepared and ill-equipped.

Protective equipment is scary, you say?
You know what's actually scary?
Someone's son, husband, father was holding that shield, wearing those helmets.
I'm glad they had them. Their families are glad they had them.

I don't see "militarized" . I see "PPEs".
I see loved ones home again, safely.
I see officers who can wait out a barricaded subject.
I see safe evacuations during floods, blizzards and active shooters.

And then I see a lot of critics who never take a risk that doesn't involve their paycheck.
I see people who complain that the stuff is scary looking.
They don't like camouflage.
Their officers 'shouldn't look like soldiers'.
The scary Feds shouldn't provide surplus equipment to their local cops.
Well, then, ladies and gentlemen, pony up the funds to equip your officers with the appropriate gear your own selves, and you can paint that $350,000 Lenco Bearcat pink, if that makes you feel safer.
Buy the rifle plates and carriers yourself, and have your officers put unicorn morale patches on them. I don't care.
But these ARE your tax dollars at work, already bought and paid for.
Might as well use it wisely.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ten Things Your Agency Should Pay For, Not You

When I started writing this blog, and running a public Facebook page, I didn't expect the kind of behind-the-scenes feedback I get--good and bad-- about law enforcement agencies and leadership.
Living in a state with relatively stringent workplace safety codes, it never occured to me that, in the year 2019, there are still law enforcement agencies that fail to provide bedrock, dealbreaker basics for their officers.

I read a little article on titled "Ten Things Your Employer Should Pay For, Not You" ; it was written for an IT specialist at a financial services firm, but the principle is sound:
If you work for a business, there are expenses that are the responsibility of the business owner, not the employee.
If you work for a law enforcement agency, that principle still applies.
There are normal expenses that are the responsibility of the department- not you- as well.

The problem is that people become accustomed to their own environment, sometimes to the exclusion of reasonable perspective on a bigger issue.
This post is about what's actually reasonable, whether you see it locally or not.

It's not normal for an officer to be poorly equipped, or poorly trained.
It's not reasonable, it's not safe, and it's not acceptable.

Let's begin at the very beginning:

1. Your agency should pay for or issue your sidearm, a shotgun, and either pay for a patrol rifle or permit you to qualify with and carry your own.

2.Your agency should pay for your vest.
Rifle plates are a strongly recommended bonus, in today's new normal of high velocity, high risk.
It can be concealable, or external, but it needs to fit, and it needs to be replaced as it wears.

3. Your agency should pay for a vehicle appropriate to patrol in your beat.
It doesn't have to be new, it doesn't have to be pretty, and the fleet doesn't have to match.
It does have to be equipped with a cage, if you ever transport prisoners. Ever. Like, even once.

4. Your agency should pay for vehicle maintenance. Maybe they can only afford ugly vehicles. That's fine.
Vehicles with bald tires or bad brakes? That's not fine.
Keep it safe, or get it off the road. No excuses.

5. If you are expected to use a cell phone, on or off duty, your agency should pay for that.
Do not use your own cell phone for work-related calls, searches or messaging, even if your agency pays you a stipend to offset costs.
Established case law will permit your personal phone to be searched if there is information pertinent to an investigation, and one side or the other can make a case that the information is needed for court.
Your phone is your phone; don't blur that line.
It's not worth it.

6. Your agency should pay for continuing ed, to meet or exceed your state's POST.
All officers must have regular legal update training, training in perishable skills like EVOC and use of force, and advanced classes to develop them as professionals.
Yes, of course officers need to invest in their own professional development: read, collaborate, take classes.
But the agency's development is on agency leadership, and so are the costs.
Get creative to minimize expenses, but do it.
Share costs with other agencies, send one officer to certify as a trainer and come back to train the rest, piggyback on a bigger department's training, use webinars and online classes. It can be done.

7.Your agency should pay for firearms training. Not qualifications: training. There's a difference.
Getting bodies out on a range to punch a few holes in paper once, or four, times a year, is not adequate.
Low light, crowded environment, weak hand, awkward position--- none of it is intuitive, and you're going to play like you practice. It's far more effective to send one or two senior officers to certify as trainers than send the whole department out. What you spend will make up for itself in reduced liability.
The very first question by an attorney after an OIS is "When did you last qualify?" followed by "Show me your training records."

8. Your agency should pay for practice ammunition.
Confidence and accuracy come only with repetition, and ammo is cheaper than failure.
Officers are far more likely to spend their own time on the range when they don't have to balance the cost of practice against purchasing diapers or groceries.

9. Your agency should pay for individual first aid kits (IFAKs), including tourniquets-- at least two TKs per officer.
Of course, this includes the training to go with them.
I don't ever, EVER want to hear again that an officer bled out from an extremity because someone above his paygrade wanted to save $40.

10. Your agency should pay for communications equipment that works.
That means dispatch consoles, portable and in-vehicle radios, and the repair or replacement of repeaters.
If you can't get help, or information, because you're THAT far from coverage, that's life.
If you can't get help or information because your comms fail that's... just failure

There's more--there's always more. But these are the basics.
Meeting a basic standard is within reach, and it's a reasonable expectation, for both an officer deciding whether to stay with your current agency, or a boss calculating whether your department is meeting the mark.

This isn't the Old West, even if you live in cowboy country, and we don't just wing this stuff anymore.
21st century law enforcement is a profession.

To be professional means standards and high expectations, from the agency, from the officer, from the public.
To hire, train and retain professional officers will mean time, money,and effort.

It will pay off in better morale and confidence among your officers,better applicants, improved officer safety, reduced liability, and better relationships with the public.
If your agency isn't there yet, find one that is and ask them how they got there.
Then, do the thing. All the things.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Photos and the Fallen : History Isn't About Our Feelings

*evidence photo from the Newhall incident, 1970*

*updated December 2018, originally posted in March 2017*

Photos from life's front lines force change, and sometimes change the course of history.
What we remember, and how we remember it, is shaped by the images we associate with the events. That's why we remember a boy named Emmett Till, but don't have names for thousands of other crime victims.
It's why modern law enforcement understands deeply the effects of the North Hollywood Bank Robbery, but not so much the effects of a century of train robberies.

Like everyone else, I've been monitoring the news from London. As usual, I'm going to sound less-than-sensitive just now.
You can disagree if you want;
If I were a delicate flower, I'd have had to find something else to do a long time ago.

I've seen some outrage over upsetting photos on news articles today, cries and criticism that they should be un-published.
*MP Tobias Ellwood renders aid to a fallen officer*
The photos are meant to be upsetting.
They are meant to be an outrage.
They're not supposed to be sensitive to anyone's feelings, even the families of the victims.
The photos are a record of history.
Photojournalists , and now dash cams, body cams and common citizens with cell phones, stop time and record it, so that we do not forget.

Someone committed acts of evil today.
Someone will tomorrow.
Someone will lose a loved one.
Their lives have meaning, and worth.
They deserve recording, and remembering.
There are iconic photos of moments in history, whether lovely, or heartbreaking or horrifying, that all of us have seen because someone else took a photo, and an editor published it.

These images and events, whether a churchyard in Antietam strewn with soldiers, emaciated corpses in a mass grave in Bergen, the Zapruder film, the scorched little girl fleeing napalm, the bravery of a student in Tienanmen Square, a thousand yard stare in Iraq, the Dinkheller video or the fallen in Westminster, must not be airbrushed, edited into acceptability or hidden away.
*Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy, Reagan assassination attempt*

It's not about your feelings.
It is evidence: that this happened, that real people fell, that we must remember, that this must not happen again.

If you are highly sensitive to visuals, or caring for someone who is, turn on the radio, turn off your TV, and get off social media for a while.
The fault is not with the photos.

It is not correct that only what is lovely should be visible.
We who can bear it owe it to those who died and those who survive them not to look away--and to make sure that those responsible are called to account.

That is not only for someone in a uniform.
Any of us with a mind and a voice or a keyboard can do this.
Turn the page, if you must.
But don't turn your back because that's easier.
And don't require that anyone else does.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hypocrisy and Free Speech : Words Mean Things

I shouldn't have to qualify this, but I will-- I am an ardent believer in the freedom of the press.
It's one of the five First Freedoms enshrined in the constitution, and I frequently annoy friends and readers who haven't worked with journalists, by defending them.
I'm an advocate for free speech, another of those First Freedoms.
That said, I'm stuck.

^^ Up there is a quote from Assemblywoman Michele Fiore , NV (R) during a 2016 news interview. She was exercising her right to free speech, and access to a free press.

Following the coverage of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate, I heard the following accusation against influential people who have been critical of the press:
that saying nasty things about people incites violence, and allows those committing crimes to justify their actions against The Other, the one who 'deserves' it, the one who has been demonized.

When progressive politicians and news outlets were targeted by a domestic terrorist sending explosives through the mail, the refrain was repeated again, this time on behalf of the elected officials as well.
Criticism of insulting metaphors, and controversial depictions of representatives from past political contests filled the airwaves, and acres of print.

While activists and commentators blame ugly political speech for violence against women, immigrants and racial or religious minorities, I want to know why divisive politicized rhetoric is acceptable when it targets cops, even after violence resulting in multiple casualties at a time.
(In 2008, 42 officers were killed by gunfire; at this point in 2018, we're already up to 49. Despite the protests from copblockers, more cops have been killed feloniously than accidentally for a long time now.
Go ahead and fact check me on's statistics page. )

I have been told many times to shut up and get over myself--- that it's free speech, protesters blowing off steam, people expressing themselves, words don't have that power, cops know what they signed up for and can stop being one any time they want.
I was told that people just doing a job they can quit shouldn't expect any sort of protection from threats,stereotyping or dehumanization, whether it's by an authority figure or on social media.

Hypocrisy makes me angry.

Journalism is a profession, like law enforcement, not a protected class like sex, race or religion.
So is being an elected official, like the ones targeted with mail bombs by the nutter from Florida.
Law enforcement officers are United States citizens just like journalists and elected officials.
Just like them, they have civil rights, including an expectation that they may live without being targeted for the job they do.

Academics, journalists, politicians and the public have a choice to make here:
either words can be destructive and incite destructive behavior, or it's all just permissible free speech, immune to criticism.
No one gets to have it both ways.
It's time to grow up and own the damage.

In the words of the famous, fictional LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, "Everybody counts, or nobody counts."
We don't have second class citizens in our country.
Or, at least, we shouldn't.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Sheepdogs of His Pasture

I've got a Sunday story to tell.
I write for people who call themselves sheepdogs.
They're my family--blood, not just blue. Sheepdogs, I get.

But sheepdogs necessitate the existence of sheep, and I confess: even as a believer, I never understood that sheep metaphor.

I'd learned all the right verses, and names.
"It is He who made us, and we are his: his people, the sheep of his pasture." (Ps. 100:3)
And that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
And we know his voice, and He knows our names.
Lost sheep.
Found sheep.
Gently-carried sheep.
Sheep walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death without fear, know.
I got it.
But I didn't get it.

I grew up on military bases, and in cities, surrounded by concrete, jet engines and chain link fences.
There wasn't any context for farming and ranching analogies.
I only knew what I'd heard about sheep, and goats, and cattle, and other flock- and- herd creatures--- and honestly, I was vaguely insulted.

Sheep seem kind of dumb.
They get scared, of everything. They don't smell very good, and they get lost all the time.
They fall down and get stuck, until someone else helps them up.
They can't even find their own food, or clean water to drink, or keep their own lambs safe.

That's how He thinks of me?
What do I do with that?

Military and law enforcement families pride themselves on strength, on resourcefulness, on self-sufficiency.
Sheep never seemed like a good fit with that, at all.
I never said it out loud, because I never heard anyone else admit they didn't get it, either.
What did stuff about sheep even have to do with me or my family?
We were a family of sheepdogs.
How can you be both, at the same time? And if you can't, then who am I?

My family had learned the hard way that it's crushing to be self-sufficient, and resourceful, and fearless every minute.
We didn't know how to be anything else, though, so we just kept on, pretending when it wasn't the truth anymore.
That was exhausting too.
The veneer got thinner and thinner over time, as we pretended even to each other.
After a while, it was like rotting ice on an Arctic pond: it looks solid and safe, if you don't know any better.
As long as the sun reflects just right, you can't see the cracks, and dark spots.

An interpreter for confusing metaphor showed up in the most unlikely place: Paul, a contractor friend from church whom we hired to help us add on to our little house. (It had good bones, that house, but a monster case of ugly--the product of decades as a rental before we bought it. )

As we worked alongside Paul, and got to know him better, he told us that he raised goats.
Some were milk goats, and his wife made yogurt and cheese with the milk.
The others were pack goats.


"Pack goats. I like to hike long distance, and they carry my stuff."

Pack goats.
I knew of pack horses, and mules, even llamas. But goats? They're kind of like sheep, aren't they?
Prey animals, flock animals.

"How do you keep them together? What happens when they get scared? Don't they run away? How do you ever catch them again?"
I ask a lot of questions.
(Who knew, right?)

I envisioned goats trailing behind Paul on a tether, like a miniature string of mules.
I envisioned goats spooked by mountain lions or bears, scattering through the chaparral in inky, starless night.
I envisioned Paul's stuff , strewn off-trail to the sound of pointy hooves clattering on granite and shale.
Paul looked down from the trusses, and laughed at me.
"No," he said.
"I don't tie them. They follow me.
I'm the first one they see when they're born, and they're all imprinted on me. Wherever I go, they follow.
When I make camp each night, they lie down around me, and we keep each other warm.
And when they're scared, they don't run away---they run to me and hide behind me.
I'm their safe place, and they know it."

It was like the sun coming out after years of fog and drizzle.
Paul never knew, but I finally---finally--got it.

If I'm a sheep, I don't have to be big, or strong, or smart, or brave.
I don't have to figure everything out.
All I have to do is get up every day,and look for the Shepherd.
My job is just to follow, and carry whatever He gave me that day.
I don't even have to know where we're going.
I'll stop where He stops, and He'll keep me warm that night.
If I'm scared, I run to Him, and it's His job to keep me safe.
Then, we do it again the day after that.
That's all.

That's the thing: God has no trouble keeping two opposing thoughts in his head at once.
We are the ones who have a problem with that.
Turns out that we are a family of sheepdogs, and we are sheep.

It really is that simple.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What a Rural Badge Wears

I want to clear up any misunderstanding about who matters, and what this blog is about.
It's called The Rural Badge---but, what is that?

I'll explain. It's what I do.
A rural badge works in small towns, and out in the country.
They work in the desert, and in the mountains.

They may be sheriff's deputies.

Or park rangers.

Some live way up north. Like, RCMP definitely counts, including (especially) their K-9s.
Some are even further north than that.
They drive (and drive) or fly, or boat to the next call. Same as with city cops, bad guys are involved, but also sometimes a SAR and once in a while, grizzlies. ( City cops don't get grizzly calls much.)

There are rural badges in the green forests and hills of New York.
They patrol the White Mountains of New Hampshire on snow machines, protecting wildlife, the environment, and humans from each other and their own sketchy decision making skills. (Pro tip: use a paper map. GPS and cell phones aren't as reliable as the officers who will eventually find your lost self.)
They work for the state, for the feds, for small towns, or for sovereign native tribes with their own police force.
Some work in settings so beautiful that rich people and movie stars have bought all the good parts up and fenced it for their own private playgrounds, driving prices up till waitresses sleep in shifts in vans behind the diner, and game wardens live in elderly, state-owned cabins.
Some work in desolate places where poverty grinds hope and prospects and hard work to powder, gritty and stinging when the wind blows.

They work where the sun is hotter, the cold is colder, where humidity can drown a strong swimmer.
They work where city cops drive for hours 'to get away', because they think there aren't any people here.
There are people everywhere. Anywhere there are people, bad things can happen.
Rural badges are just farther from everything--backup, a gas station, the cell tower, a trauma center, a flush toilet.
Their uniforms come in green, and brown, black or blue or khaki, and their patches and badges are all different. Ball caps, campaign hats, Stetsons and helmets cover their heads.
They're men, and women, of all sizes and ages.
Rural badges will drive lights and sirens for as long as it takes, wherever they have to, to back up someone else, because they know next time it could be--will be--them. They don't care what's on the patch or who issued the badge.

Just, come.
Bring a gun. Bring two. Drive fast. Tell dispatch where you are, at least till you lose radio contact and cell coverage. Hope someone's listening when you talk anyway.

Rural badges love their angels---the eyes in the sky that look out for them, back them up, longline task force guys in or out, evacuate them when they bleed. There aren't many fancy toys out here. No one takes the wings for granted.

Rural badges love to drive fast, like any other cop.
Where there are huge distances to patrol, the faster you can cover it,the better.

Traveling fast isn't always an option on a rural badge's beat. In some places, even a four wheel drive won't hack it.
Four legs are slower, but getting there is better than not getting there.
Horses make good patrol partners: they're tall, quiet and suspicious. Nothing sneaks up on your camp when a horse is picketed there. You have to brush him out, balance your packs and check his feet, but there's no back seat for drunks to puke in either.
City horses are a novelty, not a necessity.

Besides, you can't cut sign from inside a truck, and there aren't any gas stations out here.

The rural badges are hard to tell from their city counterparts, in a picture.
The difference is in what they do, and how they do it.
There's a lot of smugness in an urban attitude that stems from not knowing what they don't know: that there aren't any specialists in a rural agency.

There's no supervisor to make the hard call, if there's only one deputy on in the whole county,only one warden in the district.
There's no crime scene tech, no photographer, sometimes not even a detective.

Dead moose mystery?
Post your own moose.
What are you waiting for?
Get your hands dirty, actually , really dirty.

Take the measurements, and the pictures, lift the prints your own self, there isn't anyone else.
Rural badges from solid agencies learn to process their own scenes, and do their own followup, from the initial call to the courtroom.

What makes a rural badge isn't uniforms, or agencies, or training, it's the places they work and the people they protect.
It isn't the government branch that issues the badge or certification they have in common, but that, no matter what color the uniform, they all bleed red. That they're all real , with real people who love them.
And that I write about them, advocate for them, and tell their stories.
I'm a small writer, from a small place, who believes they matter.
I've made it my mission to convince you that they matter, too.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Trouble with The Cops

The trouble with "The Cops" is that there's no such thing.

The term implies that US law enforcement is a homogeneous monolith, a single,blue entity recruited from the same population, trained the same way, paid at the same levels,
performing the same functions, and governed everywhere by the same laws and policies.

Nothing could be further from the truth.
And, unlike most topics, the Gordian knot of modern policing becomes more intricate the more you learn.

When a citizenry is already frustrated, partly because their only frame of reference for The Cops is the last TV show they watched (or a dimly remembered Civics class in high school), how do you explain that words they use don't even mean what they think they mean?
(You may go now, Inigo Montoya.)

Just look at 'sheriff'.
It's so traditional an office that cliches are built around it (there's a new sheriff in town!),
songs are written about it (I shot the sheriff...), and people who pretty much hate all other forms of law enforcement build romantic fictions around it.

It should be easy, then, to define 'sheriff'.
Everyone knows what they do.
Except, they don't.
No, Mr. Sovereign, the Olde English shire reeve wasn't your hero. He was an appointed judge and tax collector, answerable only to the king.
It gets more complicated from there.

In some states, sheriffs and their deputies have full police powers throughout the state, and consistent, mandated standards of training.
Those states (sometimes) also require that candidates for sheriff be POST-certified officers in their own right.

There are places (hi, Virginia!) where all you need to run for sheriff is to be a county resident, and registered to vote.
There are states with no sheriffs (Alaska, Connecticut, and Hawaii....although Hawaii has deputy sheriffs. So,that's weird.)
There are places where sheriffs don't investigate crimes--Pennsylvania, for instance--and states where each county decides whether or not to have one.
Los Alamos, NM, still has a sheriff, just one without significant police powers. The sheriff serves process and keeps track of sex offenders, mostly. Last fall, the position was nearly abolished by the city council who see little point in preserving it, when effective law enforcement authority has been delegated to the police department.

In New York, each county has an elected sheriff.
New York City, though, has one sheriff appointed by the mayor, who performs mostly civil and fiscal functions, with criminal investigation limited to matters of fraud.

Confused yet?
Try understanding what a constable is. Or does. Or doesn't, for that matter.

Texas constables are fully sworn and trained peace officers ; they are elected, and their deputies are also sworn and certified. They work alongside police and sheriffs, all with slightly different responsibilities, but more or less the same authority.
In Pennsylvania , constables occupy a grey area, elected and self-employed. Their compensation is the fees they collect for the warrants and civil process they serve. They're required to have 80 hours of training, a little more if they carry a weapon. The depth and breadth of their authority is a constant source of disagreement within the state's law enforcement communities.
*Pennsylvania state constable*

In other states--Kentucky, Massachusetts, and so on--constables are variously elected, appointed, trained, untrained, regarded as law enforcement, process servers, or filling roles other states manage with reserve officers, or CSOs.
California abolished the office of constable in the 90s, when it consolidated the courts.

A police officer may be one of thousands in an agency with state of the art everything, or they may be volunteers with a day job, in a village patrolled solely by reserves. Their authority may end at the city limits, or not till the state line.
In some states, city governments choose between a police chief, or marshal.
In others, marshals provide court security and civil process.
Or, all those offices may be filled by the sheriff's department.

It just depends.
It's confusing.

And if it's still a learning curve for me, part of a blue family for decades, who sits in on conversations with officers from across this country and at least two others, how much more so is it for teachers, and nurses, payroll clerks and Piggly Wiggly night stock help?

US citizens are highly resistant to far-reaching national standards, for anything.
For law enforcement, that insistence on local control (and therefore, local funding) means that officers from agencies that require college degrees and train constantly, make headlines right alongside officers working where they may be hitting the streets solo weeks, or months, before ever attending an academy.

When every single state---sometimes every county, or city--sets its own standards for certifying, training and hiring its officers, there has to be an understanding that The Cops are as diverse as the nation itself.

Somehow (I'm going with too much TV, again), news readers acquired the idea that every officer in a uniform should be a SWAT-trained, ninja marksman with a law degree.
That's not realistic, of course, or reasonable.

In a nation this fractious and individualistic, there's never going to be a case for a cookie-cutter cop.
I do believe there's a case for professionalism, at every level, and in every state, no matter what the uniform looks like, or what's written on a badge.

Ultimately, that's the decision that needs to be made:
How do we define a law enforcement professional?
I don't know if we can agree what it means to hire, to train, to compensate, to equip and retain professional law enforcement at every level.
I do know that if it can be achieved, the differences between The Cops won't matter.
There still won't be a big, blue monolith, but the differences won't be obstacles--they'll be strengths.