Months following the nationwide protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, the Nueces County sheriff believes one result is that people have become overly apprehensive to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“When a vocation like mine takes that constant barrage — whether it is warranted or not — some people do rethink getting into this public service,” Sheriff J.C. Cooper said. “That’s unfortunate.”
Although all of the protests within Corpus Christi were peaceful, Hooper said the perspective of law enforcement changed due to the media attention in Minneapolis.
“It’s unfortunate that something like that would affect in any way the local relationship here in Corpus Christi,” he said.
Todd Green, Assistant Chief within the Corpus Christi Police Department’s administrative bureau, said this year’s academy of cadets was largely unaffected since the recruiting cycle ended in March. One applicant who did drop out of the process cited the ongoing George Floyd movement as part of their reasoning.
“The current climate across the county had some impact,” Green said. “But it wasn’t every — it wasn’t the entire reason that candidate withdrew.”
The academy currently training will have 33 cadets. Some of which told Green they hope to change how locals see police.
“Many of them actually have spoken about their desire to present a very good image of law enforcement and maybe change the image that some people have,” Green said.
Nueces Co. Precinct 2 Constable Mitchell Clark, who has experience as a police officer and trial lawyer, also has a background in sociology. He says the current climate has pushed many police officers to go into early retirement.
“Since the Floyd incident, we have seen a decline — not necessarily tied to applications, but tied to people who wanted to actually stay in the business,” Clark said. “In this particular Floyd incident, one of the good things I think it’s coming out is — you’re starting to see dialogue and hear dialogue and talk about maybe some potential changes in police administration — of justice.”
Green said the community of police officers have built a long-level of trust with the Corpus Christi community. Looking ahead, he said maintaining that is important.
“It only takes one bad officer to taint all the hard work that’s been done throughout the years,” Green said. “So we press upon them — on that how important it is to act ethically, how to be a good professional police officer and the community depends on that — they expect it — and they deserve it.”
Hooper said his department is short by three deputies. Within the past two weeks, he said the interest in becoming a peace officer appears to be gradually coming back. As a sheriff, he understands his perspective is different from others, but he’s respectfully appreciative about the dialogue Floyd’s death has opened.
“If anything good came out of all of that and continues to come out of all of the conversation after the George Floyd murder — and it was a murder,” Hooper said. "That’s a good thing that we’re having even more conversation.”