Are you my friend?
Everyone knows the value of a good friend.
In today’s world, with the advent of social media, the term “friend” has developed into something entirely different.
Not to bore you or make you feel small, I currently have over 600 “friends” on Facebook. Heck, some of you may even say those are loser numbers.
Out of the 600, maybe 20 or so are what I would call legitimate friends. Taking it even further, an even smaller group, 5 or fewer, would gain the title as good friend.
Prior to becoming a cop, I maintained regular communication with those I considered my “good friends.”
Until one day I realized that I no longer talked to anyone but fellow cops.
And it didn’t matter if they were male or female cops.
Police officers, male or female, black or white, gay or straight, American or Australian, all speak the same language. It’s the language that can only be understood by those who have worn the badge. To the outsider listening in, the words are no different but there is something slightly amiss.
Like we, not them, are in on the joke.
This bond and connection between cops is strong.
But like anything, balance and moderation are the true pillars that keep your outlook in check without losing your sanity. Especially considering the climate and culture of today’s modern policing.
Having “normal” friends is strongly encouraged to keep this balance. Sometimes, just to hear regular people talk about their day-to-day activities and struggles without any expectation from you the person and not the cop is refreshing.
But maintaining these “regular” friendships is not easy.
Can we still be friends?
It’s not easy maintaining good friendships outside of police work.
Everyone is so damn busy spending un-godly amounts of time either at work or on their phone.
Cops are no different in that regard.
There are, however, distinct barriers and hurdles that cops must overcome in order to have friends and a social life outside of police work.
Here are 5 reasons that seem to be the most prevalent with other cops I know and also from my own experience.
1. Your eyes are wide open – Veteran cops know exactly what I am referring to. Once you have been doing the job for a few years or even less, your vision and worldview has drastically changed based on the events you have witnessed.
I mention frequently to my wife that I am looking forward to the day where I can stick my head back in the sand and live in ignorant bliss like everyone else. This makes it extremely difficult to connect with “normal” people.
2. You become hyper-vigilant on every word or “like” they give on Facebook – Lets real talk this one. You do it. I do it. In the last two years, people have taken sides. Unfortunately, we are caught in the middle.
People either hate us or they love us.
There really is no middle ground. Remember, your “normal” friends have absolutely no personal stake in the argument. When we see the vitriol aimed towards us, we get mad. We may not say anything but we don’t like it.
Someone who you may have thought was a supporter of you and your profession may throw a like at an anti-cop post or page. That friend is now essentially dead to you.
You move on without him or her.
3. The schedule – This one really is a no brainer. I can’t tell you how many times I have been invited to meet up with my “normal” friends just to tell them that, once again, I have to work.
They then ask me to meet up after work when I have to tell them that I have to work again in the morning, a 12 hour shift.
“Why don’t you just take off,” they ask at the last minute.
I don’t have the patience to tell them how low our staffing has become and to do that could get an officer hurt or killed.
I’ll save that rant for another day.
4. Your off putting and sometime sick sense of humor – This one gets me in trouble. Most “normal” people in general play it safe when expressing humor or when giving their friends a hard time.
Not so with cops.
We are brutal with each other.
When we try this vulgar teasing with our “normal” friends it may come off mean-spirited or downright weird. I have gotten better at gauging my audience but now and again I will slip up.
I usually know when I have slipped up when I realize I haven’t heard from that friend in a while.
5. You don’t know when to turn off your “cop” – I have to admit, guilty as charged. Some of you may be scratching your head on this one. Good, bad, or indifferent, the job has become the larger part of who you are.
The reason why you seek out “normal” non-cop friends in the first place is to have a break and escape this persona.
It goes down something like this; your friend has expressed a problem or concern to you and instead of just trying to listen, you instantly morph into “cop” friend mode.
You essentially hijack the conversation with either concrete no-nonsense advice or go straight into “you’re lucky you don’t have to deal with this AND work the streets like I do let me tell ya…”
We’ve all done it. Some of your normal friends may even like this approach. I’m betting most don’t.
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