They say when one door closes, another opens.
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.
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.
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.
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.