Growing Pains: 3 Hard Truths Every New Cop Should Know


Hard Lessons

They say when one door closes, another opens.

Maybe so.

I do know the door of my police career is rounding third base and quickly coming to a close.

I’m not exactly sure what lies ahead for me or what my new purpose will be.

I know that I will likely continue to write satirical and humorous content centering around the profession of law enforcement.

And I hope to continue writing pieces that help those navigate the torrid environment that cops find themselves in.

I am not a police trainer.

I am not a subject matter expert or any other puffed up title that cops love to put on their resume.

I’m a cop just like you. With one exception.

I lay my thoughts out bare for all (or just a few) to scrutinize, dissect and pick apart. Most of the feedback has been positive. Some has not.

And that’s okay with me. It means I must be doing something right.

Culture Shock

Like my current Chief loves to say, “we can agree to disagree” (can’t believe I just wrote that).

I have always been the observer type, cataloging my experiences and later breaking them down. It helps me make sense of events that I have endured or witnessed throughout my career and my life.

Some of these lessons were difficult and challenged my view of the world. It also didn’t help being so young and already thinking that I knew everything.

So many variables go into how an officer, especially a new one, will respond under stress and during chaotic events.

“Want to be A Cop? Answer These 10 Questions First”

Bravado and what it means to have authority have been ingrained into cops, especially male cops, since they were young boys.

Most fall for the romantic element of being the hero or the guy who takes charge.

The culture shock of the streets usually hits a rookie like nothing else ever has. They understand quickly that not everyone has the same value system or was raised in the same environment.

For those who do not think they are a product of their environment and upbringing have never been exposed the way cops are.

A cops worldview and character, especially those with less than 3 years on the job, get literally challenged on the first day they mark in service.

These three lessons, or more fittingly, observations, are just the tip of the iceberg really. Obviously there are more.

When reflecting back on my early days, these three were the ones that come to the front of my head.

1. Accepting early on that most citizen encounters involve people who show no respect to law enforcement.

This one truth was the single most difficult pill to swallow as a rookie.

And here’s why — I had recently discharged from the Marine Corps (ooorah). I had begun to assimilate back to the world of civilians when I was hired by my current agency.

Although nothing like my beloved Corps, being a cop, and being around other former Marines who were now cops, felt normal again.

Until I started my field training on night shift.

Almost every contact reinforced my notion that it was us against them.

As a Marine, I was expected to show common courtesy and submit to authority with a yes sir or yes ma’am (when not blowing shit up and sending lead down range).

I was completely floored when the most simple of questions or commands were not followed. To my rookie cop and Marine mindset it would be the equivalent of telling my Drill Instructor to go fuck himself.

“10 Truths All Cops Know”

I had the hardest time squaring this with my worldview and upbringing.

After a while I came to accept that some of the citizens/suspects I would encounter would always be defiant assholes.

It soon came down to me turning off my “Marine” and using my quick wit and intellect to get what I needed from them.

I suggest you do the same.

2. Don’t ever take the bait

Everyone who has been a cop for more than a day knows exactly where I’m going with this one.

Let me paint a picture.

You respond to a domestic fight and end up going hands on (yes, we actually used to do that in police work). After a lot of spent energy on both sides, you get the dude in handcuffs.

While on your way to lock-up, your prisoner suddenly proposes the typical challenge to all green rookies.

“Hey officer (or deputy), why don’t you take these cuffs off and fight me like a real man,” or some variation of said threat.

Your best option is to ignore him.

Sadly, I’ve witnessed some officers take the bait and lose all bearing when this challenge is offered.

I have seen officers go as far as accepting the challenge as they begin to unbutton their uniform.

This is not good.

Looks real, real bad.

Fortunately, I and another officer were there to bring that officer to his senses.

And yes, I get it. Emotions are high, especially after a fight or pursuit.

My advice is to do the direct opposite.

What could be more bad ass than taking care of business while showing the same emotion as if you had written a parking ticket.

Always stay professional, no matter the circumstances. Keep your emotions in check.

3. Never, ever talk down to people

Every one of us has done it. Sometimes without even realizing.

I’m not talking about having a bad day or losing your patience. We all know that one cop who comes off as an arrogant prick to everyone he or she encounters.

On the street, this usually leads to a confrontation or worse.

Always treat everyone with dignity and respect.

This is sometimes easier said than done. If you keep having difficulty with almost everyone you deal with in patrol, take that as a hint.

Your life in patrol and out on the street will become exponentially easier if you follow this one rule.

Like you, people size you up and form an opinion of you in about 7 seconds. As corny as you may think this sounds, how you talk to people is actually an officer safety consideration.

You are far more likely to avoid a physical confrontation if that person feels you are empathetic and relate to him or her on their level.

Always remember, police work is more like a game of chess than it is a game of war.

You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.


  1. Use command presence to your advantage and be as nice as you can, without looking like you are weak. It is a balancing act that comes with time on the job.

    Don’t take things personal. You can call me a MF with Spock ears, I DON’T care. Not even a little bit. I don’t expect that the crook and I will be exchanging Christmas Cards, so what do I care what he thinks about me, my mother (God rest her soul), my wife, my chief or anyone else.

    It can be amazing the information that you can get by being nice to even the biggest AH.

    Remember, you ain’t “all that” and there are better cops out there than you and you are better than others. This job isn’t like any other.

  2. Well said. Retired Sgt now after 25 years in a big city. (Jacksonville,Florida). You sure hit the nail on the head. My favorite line was about the culture shock of realizing some people were raised with a very different value system than what you were. That is a truth I remember well the first time it hit me.
    Keep up the good work brother. Get that retirement. It’s also a cultural shock., but a good one.

  3. The wisdom given in this article by The Sarge is right on the money. It is critical not to “Take the bait” and never “talk down” to anyone. I used to tell my rookies about those points 30 years ago. It could save your life some day. One day you could be up to your ass in alligators, and a guy you arrested comes by and sees it. He will think one of two things, “There is that cop who arrested me and treated me like crap, he is getting what he deserves”. Or he may think, ” there is that cop who arrested me but he respected me”. I think I will help him out.

    I once saw two prostitutes on a corner in my district. I pulled up to tell them to go away. Before I could say a word one of them said to me, ” Curly, you always showed me respect, we respect you, and we are leaving now.” That rarely happens, but when it does it tells you that you are doing it right. The biggest drug busts I ever made in my district happened because prostitutes who were mad at dealers gave me info which I used to make an arrest. This could have got them murdered, yet they trusted me because even if I arrested them I treated them with respect. They sometimes complained to me about poor treatment from other Officers, but they would never make an official complaint.

    Fifteen years ago I retired after a 28 year career, then I served 5 more years a bailiff in two small nearby municipal courts. From the articles by The Sarge that I have read, it is very clear that he has been on the streets, and I would have taken him as a partner any time. Believe me, I dont say that lightly.

  4. From a cop 4 years on the job. I quickly realized that most of the time we arrest human beings. Youre human too and you made mistakes in life even though they might not have been crimes it ought to give you that understanding that keeps you from disrespecting your fellow man.

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