This job can turn sour for a variety of reasons. Maybe you got hurt in your last fight with a suspect. Maybe you have enough pending citizen complaints that it seems your solid, aggressive police work is actually being punished; you wonder if being a proactive officer is even worth the hassle. Perhaps a sergeant is breathing down your neck or your squad partner is good for nothing. Whatever the reason, you can adopt a lousy attitude rather quickly.
You start to show up at assignments not because you want to make anything better, but because you have to. Then you do just enough at that assignment not to get written up or fired. You look at citizens with a growing Us versus Them disgust, resentful of a community quick to criticize the police for being heavy-handed, but at the same time not exactly lining up themselves to take a job where there is a reasonable chance of getting shot at and an excellent chance of working weekends and holidays.
You will order zippers on your uniform shirts in addition to the buttons not because you want zippers, but because it will cost the city a few extra dollars per shirt so screw ’em. Or when the district captain comes into roll call and asks people to come up with ideas to stop auto thefts in the area, you might grumble, “I’ll take the assignments dispatch gives me, but you can’t order me to have an idea.” Or when you and your co-workers aren’t getting the off-days you request, you’ll band together and call in sick, the fabled “blue flu,” leaving the citizens short on protection, and leaving your fellow officers, who did choose to come in, short on backup.
These attitudes are most prevalent among veteran officers. As a newer cop, you look at them and wonder if you’re seeing your future.
At the same time, despite the challenges that come with the job, it’s good to keep in mind that this is the profession you chose. Not much point in bellyaching about it. During tough economic times when workers are being laid off across the country, you have a position that will not be outsourced any time soon. You are in an industry where business is always booming. Until the crime-fighting robot is perfected, you have plenty of job security.
September 30, 2014
Sometimes it's just a job
The seventh in a series from Sgt. Adam Plantinga's excellent 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman: