Thursday, June 25, 2009

Guest Post from Hot Fuzz

My wife has been on vacation for almost a week now and asked me to post something as a guest writer.

I'm just over half way done with my field training. I'm learning tons, keeping my mouth shut and my head down. Throughout all this, one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me:

People don't understand cops. Us. Me.

The general public thinks they understand us but the more I interact with the public in my role as a police officer, the more I see that they really don't. I had an experience the other day where a man was locked out of his car. He had called us to come help him get back in and we were happy to help. When we arrived, he explained to us how he was visiting our city with his sons so they could attend a father and sons football camp together. He described how his sons had locked the keys in the trunk of the car. After my FTO and I verified ownership of the vehicle we began to get our tools out. Then just as we're approaching the car one of the man's sons comes up with the car keys and he's crying. He couldn't have been more than eight years old.

"What's wrong son?" asks the man.

"I had the keys in my pocket the whole time and I didn't realize it."

"Well, that's great! Why are you crying about it?" asks the man.

"Because I saw the cops and I was afraid they were going to get me in trouble for losing the keys," sobbed the boy.

I bent down and introduced myself to the boy. I told him that we were the good guys and that we were here to help. "We don't get people in trouble and we're not out to take little kids to jail. Our job is to serve you and your family and protect you from the bad guys," I said.

I guess it worked, he stopped crying and the boy's father thanked us for coming out. As we drove away I couldn't help but wonder why a little kid would be worried about me being the "bad guy." When I was a kid, the cops were my heroes. I mean, who didn't love T.J., Ponch, or Baker? I idolized the police and everything about them and all of my friends did too. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

People get us. They think we're too heavy handed or paranoid. They think we want to make life miserable for good people "just because [we] can." They judge how tough or competent we are based on what jurisdiction we're in or based on what they see on TV.

I'm starting to see the world in a completely different way. I'm learning just how naive I was before I became a police officer. Even that title seems a little foreign to me still, like I'm half in and half out of that world. My FTO tells me that it's natural for me to feel that way and that I won't start to really feel like a cop until I'm cut loose from FTO and out on my own.

I definitely feel like a rookie and everyone in my department makes sure to remind me every chance they get. And I expected that to be the case. But I've always been a really nice guy and I never expected to be so misunderstood by so many people. I guess that's what has surprised me the most.

One of the veteran officers on my department pulled me aside the first week and half jokingly said,

"[HF], it's us versus them. The sooner you figure that out, the safer you'll be."

In a way I'm starting to see what he meant. Many of the people I've interacted and dealt with have definitely had that mentality. Because of that I am starting to understand the bond that cops share with one another and I appreciate that bond more and more every day. I love my job. I love what I'm becoming and I love the sacrifice required. I know I'm changing and I feel good about that too. I'm just glad that I have a great family backing me up throughout all of this.


thewarriorpoets said...

I've been doing this for 12 years. It can't be us versus them. Despite the misunderstandings, even anomosity, we need them, and they need us.

We'll always be misunderstood. A few bad exceptions will always be mistaken for the norm. Our mistakes will always be amplified in the public eye. But you had it right when you told that kid we are here for him and his family.

On another note- by unsolicited advice to any rookie- Make as many contacts as you can in as many places as you can. Treat everyone with respect, but treat everyone like they might be armed. Don't hide the hard parts from your wife- they do better knowing it up front. Spend less time worrying about being safe and more time being ready. One is defensive, the other offensive. Anticipate.

Erin said...

As the wife of a cop who's been on the streets about 2 years, I know exactly where you're coming from. And I think that's why police communities are so tight. Stay positive, though. There will be ordinary citizens who appreciate you. And, like you said, you know you'll always have your family backing you up.

copswife said...

After 2 years on the job I've been hearing my husband say things like, everybody and all the time, when talking about crime. I keep reminding him that, most people are law abiding citizens, sending their kids to school, driving to work (sometimes speeding but not much) and making hotdishes for supper. After a while, going to people's homes for the same things over and over, sometimes the same homes over and over, it starts to wear on a cop. Like my husband, you might start to think that the majority of people are like that because that's the type of people you deal with the majority of the time. But it's important to remember that's not the case. There is good out there in this world!!

Natalie said...

I really appreciated this post! I read it aloud to my cop husband as well as the comments, and we completely agree with everything! It's easy to get cynical and SO much harder to see good in people after seeing so much of the bad. One thing that we've realized is that we know how NOT to act by seeing the bad examples, but it's a constant battle.

Good luck with the FTO program! You're doing a great job.

Slamdunk said...

It is good to hear that you are liking it.

I am with WP--fully digesting the us versus them attitude can lead to job burnout very quickly.

Paula said...

Hi...I am the mom of a cop. He has been one four the past 9 years. I worry about him all the time as there are some crazy people out there. But there are a lot of good people out there who respect cops too. You have to treat people the way you want to be treated. Even the criminals have moms and families. Maybe you can make a difference in someones life. Keep up the good work. Be proud of what you do.

Texas Ghostrider said...

I go into the worse sections of the city and the best sections. I always treat people with respect no matter who they are. If you learn to treat everyone with respect you will be received better. Treat everyone with respect but have a plan to kill them. Thats how I roll. One the person disrespects you then feel free to take care of business. you will get a rep. of being fair to everyone and the thugs will help you out at times.good luck, be safe stay safe. TGR

OrdinaryLife said...

My husband has been a cop for a little over 2 years now, and was a jail officer before that. I completely understand where you are coming from (and posted something to this effect on my blog today). It's hard to feel 100% comfortable interacting with the public....and you're right, they don't get "us"(I also work for a law enforcement agency). I feel that it is my job as the wife to help my husband keep one foot in the "real world." It can be difficult. I also agree that you need to share as much as you can with your wife...the more she knows the better!
It's hard, but it's the best life I can imagine!