“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Double standards

Roanoke Cop has had a good series of reader questions up, including advice for those looking to enter law enforcement. Just wanted to add my own comment on that tonight.

Being a cop means you're going to have to make a decision. I don't mean the simple everyday stuff "Where will I eat?" "What to wear today?" I don't even mean the normal police work "Do I want to stop this car?" "Should I write her a ticket or give her a break?"

No, I mean that late one night, when you're all alone with no one to ask for help, you will have to decide how to deal with someone who wants to fight you. Who doesn't want to go to jail, and who certainly isn't going to cooperate. And who has already made the decision about what they are going to do to avoid it. And you never know which call, which stop, which moment it is going to be.

Your backup is going to be a ways away, you will have two billion thoughts running through your head, and you have to make your choice right then.

And, whether you shoot them, fight them, spray them, use a baton or a TASER or whatever else you have to do, you make it home.

THEN the hard part of being a cop begins.

Because this is the one that is going to run to their attorneys, to the press, to internal affairs, and to everyone else they can think of - or their family will do it if it was that kind of unfortunate situation.

They will accuse you of every sort of misbehavior possible as they swear to the angelic innocence of the person you had to deal with.

They will demand you be fired, demand you be charged for crimes and sent to jail.

They will call you every name in the book that will raise the flags of their cause, whether based upon the slightest truth or not.

They will threaten lawsuit after lawsuit; and if you are lucky you will have a jurisdiction which helps you when this happens - otherwise you face the risk of your own home and assets being tied up for years while the courts decide whether you made the right choice in the split second you had.

You may even face the threat of Federal charges.

The stigma of being labeled by the press and the public as a bad cop, or a bad department. Of wondering, even after it is all said and done, if that is what they are going to whisper behind your back.

All based on that one moment's choice.

And the very worst part of it all - you will have to turn your cheek and suffer in silence. Sure, you will have your coworkers, family and friends that you can talk to. But when the press publishes these things, when the news shows you as the nightly headline, and when the crowds call for your head you have to keep your mouth shut, wait for things to be resolved and grimace every time someone asks a friend or family member what is going on with these accusations towards you. Even when you know you did the right thing, when you are innocent of everything they accuse you of being, you have to suffer in silence and play the game.

When you are ready for that, THEN you can start thinking about being a cop.


Ten 80 said...

You're right on the money about what kind of stress is out there. I've updated my Oct 4 post on "Preparing for the Job" and added a link back here. Excellent post!

Mrs. "Smith" said...

Sorry for this being off topic, but thanks for the link. I added you, too.

Captain Tightpants said...

Thank you both for the comments and links - sorry if this was a somewhat more negative post but kind of on my mind right now... hope to have something better to write this week.

Murphy's Law said...

Definitely stuff to consider...and I know all too well, as I worked for a department that was quicker than most to hang it's people out to dry when force had to be used and the media started carping.

Hell, any citizen complain leads to a full investigation, even ones where they won't put it in writing or even give their names. In how many other jobs can your career be sidetracked by anonymous phone calls alleging misconduct? Even worse, arrest stats and other positives aren't factored in at promotion time (because some shifts and assignments don't have the same opportunities as others) but complaints are. So the ones who do the most work run the risk of getting more complaints just by virtue of having the most citizen contacts, and the ones who do little or no work are virtually guaranteed to have a complaint-free jacket at evaluation time. Guess who moves up the ladder the quickest?