Why Cops Develop These 6 Weird and Often Strange Character Traits

character traits

A bunch of weirdos 

Yes, cops are weird. How do I know? Because I’ve been one for a long time.

Maybe weird is too harsh of a word. To say we are only different would be a big underscore. If you are one of those cops or deputy’s who thinks otherwise, this article may sting a bit.

From the day we graduated from the police academy, up until the first murder case we worked, the change has happened.

Very slowly and very subtle.

Some of you may not even be aware of your weirdness.

Don’t worry, like I said, it didn’t happen overnight. For you rookies reading this, you may have already noticed the distance that has begun to grow between you and everyone else.

As time goes on the reality of your world has become vastly different. Without trying to sound too much like Joe Friday, this change has happened for a reason.

The longer you stay on the job, the more habits or characteristics you begin to develop that run counter to everyone else. I’ve come up with this list of 6 but in reality there are many more.

And let’s not get caught up with semantics on this one. I call them traits for the sake of readability. You can call them anything you like.

Some of these “traits” you may have already heard of or read about. For that I am eternally sorry. I have never claimed to be Earnest Hemingway or Stephen King.

I’m just a cop like you.

Except I have a blog.

I write down what you already know anyway.

Okay, on with the list. These are in no particular order or importance.

1. Cops are control freaks 

Because we have to be.

Most jobs don’t require their workers to repeatedly immerse themselves in chaos everyday. Cops don’t have that luxury. Cops usually have about 5 seconds to take control of a scene.

If they don’t, it usually ends up with tasers and batons coming out with Chelsea Handler providing the play by play on late night TV.

Some cops can turn this off but others can’t.

Everyone knows that one cop you absolutely dread having in your car. They not only insist on telling you how to drive but also what kind of cop you should be.

2. Cops are king at catastrophic thinking

This is what I like to call the “we’re all gonna die” mentality.

Guilty as charged. My wife loves to remind me of the complete freak-out I had over a play set for our boys in our backyard.

I just knew that they would both end up paralyzed or suffer double broken femurs within a week.

Also See: “The Top Ten Rules of Good Police Leadership”

I didn’t always think this way.

I guess after your sergeant tells you and your trainee to go through an intersection and pick up the rest of the body parts from a pedestrian accident, it might have some residual psychological effect on you.

Just sayin.

3. We have a sick and sometimes twisted sense of humor

And as much as I love doctors, nurses and morticians, please stop saying that your profession compares to ours in this category.

Nothing is off limits for cops.

Nothing.

Not moms, wives, kids, girlfriends or even grandmothers.

I have a co-worker sergeant that I interact with on a regular basis who routinely greets me with the varying ways he has had my mom since we last spoke.

Another blurted out to me one time, after taking an almost lethal zinger from yours truly, “at least my kids live with me”.

Ouch.

Cops reading this know exactly where I’m coming from.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

4. Everyone is a liar

This is not just applied to the vermin we deal with on the regular. When I say everyone, I mean EV-REE-ONE!! This is another one of those habits or traits that is developed over time.

I love to see brand new detectives emerge from their first interview. It really is the cutest thing you will ever see.

Almost without fail, they all come out of the room saying the same thing.

“He gave his side of the story….and I think he’s telling the truth..” they solemnly avow.

No.

They are lying.

Everyone lies.

5. Cops suck at relationships

I have thought long and hard about this one.

Their is no better friendship than that of a cop. A cop’s natural inclination is to help those in need.

I remember seeing a comment from a family member once praising their husband for always looking out for the one’s he loves.

Cops routinely make the giant leap of looking out for people they don’t even know.

But when it comes to interpersonal relationships, mostly of the sexual kind, cops struggle.

I’m not sure if it’s the wall we must build to keep us from going crazy from the things we see or something else.

These are not excuses, just stating my observations over a couple of decades. I think that the way cops must bury their feelings to cope plays a major factor in their struggles in relationships.

Or I could be completely wrong.

6. Cops work way too much overtime and extra duty

As far as pay, cops don’t make shit.

Oh, is that language too harsh? Sorry not sorry. That article will have to wait for another day.

This is where cops essentially shoot themselves in the foot. I used to kill myself too trying to pay the bills. But let’s face it, cops are notorious for living outside of their means.

I always know when the new academy is about to graduate.

The recruit parking lot suddenly becomes full with brand new Mustangs and F-150’s being driven by a bunch of shower shoe rookies. Even worse, and it was quite sad, was watching a bunch of cops fall for the ARMS (adjustable rate mortgages) back in the late 2000’s.

I can’t think of anything more pitiful than having your dream “McMansion”, but can’t actually live in it because you have to work 110 hours a week just to keep it from foreclosing.

A better option would be to get your college degree if you don’t have it or develop a nice side hustle that is sustainable over the long haul.

Also see: “Cop Extends Streak to 12 Years on Day Shift”


**If you have other traits or habits that I failed to mention please feel free to comment. I may not always respond to each individual comment but I read every single one.

-The Salty Sarge

22 Comments

  1. I always worked someextra shifts but it was more something we wanted but didn’t Have to have, although my daighter’s college tuition was more in the “essential” category. Unfortunately, a high school disploma will not get you anywhere anymore.
    I’ve always bought new cars, but then kept them until were no longer viable to keep. My current modest SUV has 145,000 miles on it and no payments. It’s still in pretty good shape, looking at another couple of years. Same with my house, modest in size and payments. Leaves you enough money to take care of it.

  2. I walked into the locker room once, at the end of a shift and 2 guys were, of course, insulting each other from across the room. One said “I hope you get into a horrible car accident on the way home, but have just enough life left to get home, crawl into your kids bedroom and then die on their floor”. We all laughed our asses off! I tell people who aren’t on the job this story and they are shocked. Horrified. But, this is how we are.

  3. Yeah. Sounds about right. Curious… What if you already had these “traits” BEFORE becoming a cop. Is that bad?

  4. Yeah. My wife is a nurse. She has shown up at some demos I have done and heard crap I have said to her co-workers at various social function and there is laughter that I don’t realize is uncomfortable until we get home. Most people don’t understand, we have to laugh at the worst stuff or we die inside. I have worked a big city and now a rural county. I have worked sex crimes, homicides and patrol. After 23 years, I am a different guy. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

  5. We always ASSESS people. And the conclusion is usually “must be an asshole” or “what’s he up to?” And grown men riding bikes wearing jeans and boots have DUI’s.

  6. Damn. Guilty as charged on every single one of these. Except maybe the relationship one. I’m still married after 20 years. But it could be she finally gave in and assimilated into my way of thinking.. or the fact she has been in some form of criminal justice profession since I met her.

  7. I agree, but I also think it depends on where you work. I don’t know where this author works, but Cops here in Nj do pretty well. Some northern Nj patrolmen (lowest rank here) make $120,000 per year base. You look at sheriffs departments in Virginia and they’re making $50,000.

  8. I retired after 25 yrs. on the road and you are right on. You also begin to suspect everyone. I have been dignosed with PTSD and find it hard to have any non-police friends because they just don’t understand.

  9. My wife says I am a tiny bit fast to judge people. I don’t deny it at all, after 27 years I trust me snap judgements. You have those first few seconds on every call to judge people. Sure I have been wrong but I have been right a heck of a lot more, saved myself from getting stabbed a few times and shot once. After a while we all learn to use our “spider sense “. Besides we all know a grown man riding a ten speed in Levi’s is suspended!

  10. I have been retired for 23 years after working for a little over 28 years for the California Highway Patrol. You hit the nail on the head. I still have no tolerance for assholes. I may be misinformed, inexact, bullheaded, fickle, ignorant, even abnormally stupid but I am a Sergeant and I am never wrong.

  11. Martin, I was treated for about a year and a half for PTSD and I did not even know why I was having such a hard time. It was a relief to let go of a lot of grief. Today I try to avoid triggers and so far I have made it for 23 years after 28 years in the trenches.

  12. Regarding marriages and LEOs – I’ve noticed that if the person is married BEFORE he/she becomes an officer, the marriage is likely to fail. The officer changes too much mentally/physically/socially over the life of his/her career and the changes are often very difficult for a spouse to deal with. If the officer gets married AFTER beginning his/her career, the marriages have a better chance of surviving. The spouse typically “knows” the officer’s good and bad traits from the beginning of the relationship.

  13. my son has been a police officer for almost 3 years he worked at a prison for a year before he became a police officer. I don’t have to put in the multitude of horrible horrible things he’s seen or has to do on a daily basis because you already know them. And I get to listen to them because my son’s father doesn’t necessarily want to hear the really bad stuff. So Mom listens to it because I love him and I want him to have someone to talk to and many times after we hang up the phone I Cry, because my baby has chosen this profession and the things that he has seen has had to do I don’t think any mom wants their child to go through that. But I’m very very proud of him and I think he’s very good at what he does and will only continue to get better. But I want you to know that reading your articles really helps me to understand Jared and reading your articles gives me Comfort because you do still have a sense of humor after years of doing this and you’re still here LOL. So I want to thank you thank you for helping me to understand my son and what he’s going through. So even though you may not know it you’re helping a lot of people other than officers. I will continue to read your articles and be thankful for the perspective that they give me so that I can be a better mom to my cop son

    • Thank you Leslie. You are a super Mom for listening to your son talk about the events that he has witnessed without passing judgement.

  14. Retired cops see all traffic violations and there is never a cop around. I have also found that in relationships, we as cops fail to listen to concerns of our spouses. We don’t have to respond, but we need to listen more.

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