Civilians armed with cellphones keep catching cops falling asleep on the job. And no one’s happy about it.
Most recently, a video of a Massachusetts state trooper napping in his patrol car made its way onto YouTube and gathered nearly 35,000 views. Users on Twitter and Reddit, including the popular subreddit r/Bad_Cop_No_Donut, also shared it.
“Bro, I see you sleeping here every single morning, OK,” an unidentified man says to the startled trooper in the video. “Going on Facebook Live. Every morning I drive by, you’re fucking sleeping, I can’t even see you in the front seat.”
The video was even enough to prompt an internal investigation in the Massachusetts State Police Department, according to local newspaper The Republican.
But the incident is hardly an isolated one. As the police reform movement continues to lob criticism that departments are overfunded and unproductive, cellphone videos or photos of officers sleeping on the job are making the rounds on social media as evidence.
“That’s a huge embarrassment,” one YouTube user commented on the video. “We fund them so they could fall asleep while on duty and milking the clock.
The Massachusetts State Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their internal investigation into the video.
In August, the police department in Dover, Delaware, opened an investigation into two police officers caught sleeping on the job in photos taken by civilians that made the rounds on social media.
“We are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding this issue and the appropriate corrective action will occur in short order,” the department said in a statement at the time. “The behavior is unacceptable to our agency, unfair to our citizens, and certainly outside of department policy.”
In 2020, an officer in Kansas City was caught on video catching a nap in his patrol car while sitting in a traffic lane at 4 a.m. Though the officer told the person recording him that he was working a detail job, he was, in fact, on duty.
In 2019, an officer in Baltimore faced similar scrutiny after video recorded by a civilian and uploaded to Instagram went viral. That same year, an officer in Cleveland was caught sleeping in public while armed with his service weapon by a civilian who uploaded the photo to Facebook. The post resulted in a six-day suspension for the officer after an internal investigation.
In 2018, two Chicago police officers were disciplined after photos of them sleeping on the job were shared over 20,000 times on social media.
Supporters of law enforcement say sleeping officers are indicative of the staffing shortages that have become a major concern for several departments around the country. With officers leaving their jobs or retiring early over vaccine mandates and historically low-morale, the ones still working are stretched thin more than ever.
On the other hand, if cops are sleeping on the job, people wonder if the shortages have impacted the job in any serious way.
“State police staffing shortage is stated in every other article, but this guy sleeps,” wrote another commenter on the YouTube video of the Massachusetts officer. “How do we need more of these guys? Tired from doing detail work, has to sleep during regular hours.”
Both theories may hold some truth, according to Dennis Kenney, a John Jay College College of Criminal Justice professor and former Florida cop. Fatigue has always been a big problem for U.S. police officers, who often work other gigs outside of their police duties because of the high demand, great pay, and ready availability of these kinds of gigs.
“A majority of police have part-time jobs. Part-time jobs are everything from working security to normal second jobs.” Kenney said. “Family needs, education needs, training needs, sitting in court in your off times, and all these sorts of things,… We found extremely high levels of fatigue among police. I’m not terribly surprised that sleeping on duty is still an issue.”
Regardless of the reason for their tiredness, police officers need to remember that accountability is now a priority for much of the country.
“Cellphone cameras have kind of leveled the playing field on accountability,” Kenney said. “It’s a fact of police life now.”
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