So I've been browsing survival forums for a few months now and I've mainly seen 2 views on the police during SHTF (total collapse): 1. They're going to control the area with martial law, stealing guns, food, and ammo from preppers, and 2. They're going to disband there aren't going to be able police at all. I'm happy to find this forum, because it seems like there are more reasonable people on here than other forums where people plan on shooting anyone that comes within 1/2 mile of their super secret (and probably non-existant) compound.
A little of my background before I start the main post. I'm 30 years old and I've been a police officer since I was 21, but no prior military. I worked for a larger metro-Atlanta police department (about 750 officers) and recently left for a smaller metro-Atlanta city department (about 100 officers). I was working for the larger department when Katrina hit and we were flooded with "survivas," as well as worked during major incidents and training exercises. Now I'll get on with the 2 views.
Not only is declaring martial law not going to happen at any large scale, it isn't even feasable. I currently live/work in a county with almost 800,000 people. If you take every police officer, sheriff deputy, and reserve officer/deputy, you wouldn't even have 2,500 total law enforcement officers (and count 500 as being supervisory). 2,000 officers cannot control a population of 800,000, even with the help of the National Guard. Right now, on this gorgeous Sunday morning, I'm protecting about 50,000 people with 6 other officers...how about that ratio. Now the county seat, areas around the police departments, hospitals, and thouroughfares to each may be protected, the outlying areas will not. Not to mention you would not receive cooperation with city and college departments to leave their city centers, police departments, or local hospitals. Even if you called in 100% of your police force, you'd still have some that live outside of the local area, not even respond to protect their own family.
Also, during SHTF, I doubt there will be any paychecks (even if money is worth anything) coming anytime soon. My city doesn't have a super secret food storage basement, nor did my previous employer, so I don't foresee getting paid in food. That being said, many in law enforcement would abandon their posts, just as they did during Katrina, to protect their family....I would. Now I don't foresee this as a bad thing, because you have law enforcement spread out amongst the community to help (with like minded people) organize and stabalize. This brings me onto view 2.
Once a cop, always a cop...at least for most of us. Once you're in law enforcement for any signifigant time, you don't stop being a cop when you're home or out in public. If SHTF and all law enforcement disbands, they'll be spread out in the community, most likely trying to stabalize and restore order. A surprising amount of police, at least in the south, are preppers (and double or triple that number that are hunters). They will be secure enough with their own resources to help the community and band together. They will inherently be looked upto to solve the problem, because, like it or not, most people see the government as a stabalizing force.
Now a problem with that is there will be a percentage, I work with one now, who believe that because they have a stock-pile of guns/ammo, they'll be fine. They'll band together, and under the false pretense of the law, they'll steal/rob/kill to get what they need to survive. With the access to AR platformed rifles and ammo (I can get to 10,000 rounds of .223 within 10 minutes if I needed to during SHTF), they'll be well armed and decently trained.
Most people over-estimate or under-estimate the capabilities of police. I have more active shooter training than most people at my current department, and I've participated in multiple active shooter drills....and every single one has been a mess. However, I still have that training and knowledge that I could pass on to a small and capable group and be deadly. I have more firearms training than the average person, but I'm only required to shoot once a year to get a minimum passing score on paper targets. People also view police as robots, acting the same way every time, and often forget they're human. Police suffer from the same problems the rest of humanity does, including bias, arrogance, bad days, depression, etc. However, since we're subjected to more stress than the average person, many times being placed in life/death situations, we're better equipped mentally to handle a SHTF situation, which makes us valuable or deadly....depending on the person.