I know that most of us hear the majority of our close friends and family say that they could never do our job for one reason or another.
I have had more than a few tell me, with absolute sincerity, that they would make a great cop.
I usually just nod my head and say something like, “oh really?”
Never mind the fact that everyone knows that (your non-cop friend) suffers from anxiety and that they have what many call a slight “anger management” problem.
Oh and that little drug arrest they think no one knows about, or the two DUI’s after the divorce. Or, based on their Facebook statuses, they are not exactly Bill Shakespeare when it comes to writing.
A lot of people think they can do our job.
Some even think they can do it better.
Thanks to 85% of TV shows being in some way or fashion about police work, most think they have a grasp on what the job is like or what it really takes to do the job.
I don’t watch a lot of TV. I certainly don’t watch Cop TV.
My experience on the streets, both as a uniform guy and a detective, have taught me what traits make the best cops.
There are obviously more that could be added to this list but I know that each of you have a life.
Again, they are in no particular order of importance.
1. Common sense
Unfortunately, common sense cannot be learned or taught.
You either have it or you don’t.
The cops who have it, know it. And they can recognize it in other cops too. Cops who possess this trait tend to gravitate towards other cops who have it.
The ones who possess common sense will usually evolve into cops who have “street sense.”
This is no guarantee.
Cops with street sense usually developed this trait while growing up in less than ideal conditions versus those who grew up in suburbia that included a community pool with annual beach vacations.
Now I’m not saying that those cops who went to college right after high school on their parents dime can’t develop or have the same grit. I’m merely saying that it’s extremely rare.
The ultimate cops possess both book smarts and street smarts.
Just like Bigfoot, a lot of people have claimed to have worked with or seen this officer but no one can convince me that he or she actually exists.
2. Critical thinkers
Just to become a cop requires a person to have above average intelligence compared to the general population. In reality, you better be a whole lot smarter than your average Joe.
This is where great cops separate themselves from the herd. Your average cop can quickly analyze a situation and come up with a solution.
The great ones can come up with multiple solutions to a problem while the event is unfolding and pivot quickly as the situation evolves.
This is similar to the great chess player who can see 3 to 4 moves ahead, even factoring in possible moves from his opponent. Having only one solution to a problem usually works well in most professions.
Not in police work.
Especially with the highly charged political cluster fuck our profession has evolved into.
It used to be easy.
Dumb-ass breaks the law, same dumb-ass goes to jail. Oh how the times have changed.
Now it’s dumb-ass breaks the law, give dumb-ass other options other than jail.
Now we are encouraged to enforce in him a victim mentality where he never really gets that he is a fuck up and needs to fix it..
3. Thick skin
This may be the most important. Anyone who is trying to excel above the group is usually met with jealousy and opposition.
Many cops are perfectly fine with doing the bare minimum. Living a life of mediocrity.
The ones who try to take it to the next level are usually met with the worst that men can put on them.
To be proactive in law enforcement means you will anger and even enrage a lot of people. They will play mental mind games with you in order to break your will.
They will try every low down dirty trick to keep you off your game and even question why you chose this vocation.
They will question your manhood (or womanhood).
They will question your race.
Your motives will be questioned.
Really mean things about your mother will be said to your face.
This is where some disagree.
Let me explain.
Their have been many experts who have held advanced degrees that have written extensively on the topic of policing.
I have read many of them.
Other than watching golf on TV on a Saturday afternoon, nothing puts me to sleep faster.
A great cop is one who can immediately identify with a wide group of people. This can only happen if he has lived a life that has exposed him or her to different cultures.
This includes that they have actually seen and have experienced different parts of the country. It also helps if they have been outside of their small town bubble where not everyone looks or has the same beliefs as him or her.
I know that many who are reading this may work in small towns or communities and feel that they have the advantage because they know everyone. To a certain degree they may be right.
In the city where I work, I’m considered a “come here,” meaning, I’m not from the city where I police.
And that has its advantages also.
I know no one.
I favor no one.
All start on the same footing with me.
I’m not related to Ed, the town dirt bag, who thinks he can call on me every time he gets stopped.
I have never worked at the paper mill in town where the VP has just been stopped for DUI and has dropped my name.
I have no allegiance to the “from here’s” who carry on their secret cliques against outsiders.
In short, the best cops have “been around the block” and are not easily swayed by “good ole boy” politics or intimidated by the local power players.
As Always, I love to hear from my readers and their take on what has been presented in my articles. Please feel free to comment on this site or on The Salty Sarge Facebook Page
Also, I am in no way implying that I am a great cop or I possess all of the qualities mentioned above. That is for my peers to decide.