I'm a seven-year cop. I've worked for a sheriff's department, in the jail and on patrol. At my current department, we head home after midnight, and the sheriff's department where I used to work handles things. Been this way for years; the city has limited money, and it's slow at night. Is this what police work is about? I make a couple arrests a week. Usually drunks or drunk drivers. Sometimes disturbing the peace, shoplifting, maybe a traffic accident. No homicides since I've worked here, and people take us for granted. I'm considering trying another agency. I don't know what's out there. It seems like there are differences in activity, pay and equipment. I grew up here, so this is home, but things are slow. I feel like a security guard.
I want more. How do I know if I can handle real police work?
Dear Hometown Guy:
Holy white picket fence, Batman. Where in Apple Pieville do you live? I need to move there to raise baby bulletheads. I live in a nice suburb and I see more crime than you just walking to the corner for a cup of coffee. If your agency hired me, I wouldn't have to stay up all night as a graveyard dog. Naahhh, I like to prowl the yard so I can howl at the moon...
So, your town features only drunks, shoplifting and disturbances? I don't believe it, look harder. I find crime wherever I go. I recently visited a small town for a game at my niece's college. At the supermarket I watched some white-trash chump do two hand-to-hand sales. I'm not special; all good cops have the same hyper-vigilant, always-see-crime tendencies. If I came to your town with a team we would find plenty of crime. Why do you think people shoplift? Take out kids looking for a candy bar, and the rest are looking for drug money. Start talking to these people they'll tell you how to find more dopers. Drugs are everywhere. You bring the right cops to any town, including your little slice of apple pie, and they'll find people using and selling drugs.
You grew up there what happened to the troublemakers? Every town has roughnecks you could focus on to figure out what's up. Maybe you have department pressure to ignore things and not kick over rocks. If so, you can fold up and leave, or ignore it and go do police work. I'd stick around because I enjoy a good brawl with bosses. Then I'd go arrest the star football player for having a sack of meth. The kid might get help he needs, and the town might finally open its eyes and start spending more on public safety.
Second, let me address real police work. I've spent time in the nastiest, back-alley poop-holes around. I've met cops there I could tie up like a pretzel without breaking a sweat. I've also been to ritzy areas and met cops who could pop my head like a zit. So, if being able to handle it means being a tough guy, you're crazy. Living in a place without murders sounds nice, and responding to one isn't that great. It doesn't take a hard-core cop to string up yellow tape and write a long-ass report. Most of the cops who see the carnage humans create on a regular basis end up half nuts. These folks probably wouldn't change their experiences, but they wouldn't wish them on others either.
You live in a little slice of heaven with little visible crime and no graveyard duty. I would let your roots grow and raise kids there. At work, start digging. Talk to people. Develop informants at the high-school level and at the 20-something level. They don't need to know they're informants you're just BSing. Break through the surface. Get away from nice people and those who take you for granted. They're the ones who want to think there isn't crime and will ignore it.
It isn't because you work in a small town that makes people take you for granted and think you're a security guard that happens in every city, county and state. If you want to get past that, just hook a few people from that crowd for DUI a set of cuffs brings people down to earth quickly.
Learn about real police work by doing it. Use the tools cops are entrusted with to the extent we're allowed. When you serve a warrant at the mayor's kid's apartment because he's supplying the entire high school with bud, people will notice. When you nail another kid for running a Beavis and Butthead meth lab in Mom and Dad's garage, you will have arrived.
Remember: Officer safety remains the most important part of doing real police work. If you start digging, you're gonna end up in a few donnybrooks.
And last, send me the name and phone number of a realtor because I might just be pulling chalks and moving to Apple Pieville.
Got a question or complaint?
Let Bullethead hear about it. He ll give you his opinion with both barrels.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax him at 619/699-6246.