DETROIT (AP) — It has come to this: Even some criminals sympathize with Detroit's cops.
Baron Coleman thought he'd heard it all in his 17 years patrolling the streets. But then came the city's bankruptcy, a 10 percent cut in police salaries, followed by support from a most unlikely corner — the bad guys.
"When they saw us take a pay cut they were in shock. We were arresting guys ... and they were like, 'I can't believe your city would do you like this.' ... I say, 'Thanks for caring,'" the veteran officer says with a smile. "It's just funny because I don't like communicating with a person who has just committed a robbery how sad my life is."
Detroit police officers have long known adversity: They've worked in crumbling station houses with busted pipes, driven run-down cars, tangled with balky radios. They've navigated darkened streets — Detroit has thousands of broken street lights — chasing criminals, breaking up fights, encountering drug dealers who may be carrying AK-47s or wearing their own bulletproof vests.
As Detroit tries to rebound — a plan to emerge from bankruptcy was filed Friday — few groups, if any, have been feeling the pain of the city's financial collapse more than the police. Despite some recent positive changes — a new chief, new cruisers, new plans — there's worry, frustration and anger among the rank and file. Paychecks have shrunk. Morale is low. Co-workers have fled to more lucrative jobs. And those who remain face a formidable task: trying to protect a sprawling, often violent city where hidden dangers lurk among tens of thousands of abandoned houses.
Baron Coleman knows it's hard being a police officer anywhere. In these trying times, it may be a lot harder in Detroit.
Nearly a generation ago, when Coleman traded a factory job for a badge and crisp blue uniform, he had certain expectations: a good salary, great benefits and a pension.