The police car. To the non officer, it's just a car. To us, it's a car, office, home, safety, comfort, the list goes on. You see the hood, there? Over the span of my career, I have had many conversations while leaning back on the hood of the car. Some good, some bad.
Recently, I had a good chat with a young rookie officer, while leaning on the hood of my car. I thought I'd share some of that chat here.
We were talking about the age differences in our line of work, and how a lot of the rookies coming out are in their EARLY 20's, while I am knocking on 40, and towards the tail end of my career. You see, I used to be one of those young guys. One of the really young guys. I started a month after my 22nd birthday.
A bit of advice I had gotten when I was young, was to watch the old timers, and do what they did. Now, in theory, this seems like good advice. However, in practice, it wasn't so good. The older guys that I watched were all miserable, disgruntled, cinical older guys. Well. Watching those guys, and trying to do what they did, and being around all that negativity took a young officer, and made him a young, cinical, disgruntled officer. I wasn't happy, I started taking short cuts, I was always focused on what I didn't have, instead of the positives, and what I did. Within my first five years, I had been to Internal Affairs so much that I was on a first name basis with the union lawyer. I was miserable.
Looking back, I think that this is part of what lead me down the path where I had contemplated suicide. (If you haven't yet, read the police suicide tab up top, it tells the story) It has taken me a lot of time since to figure out who I am, what I want, and where I want to go. I wish I could have that time back, and do my rookie years over again. I would have followed the advice I gave this young officer a couple days ago, while I was leaning on the hood of my car.
I told this kid that I find it refreshing that these young kids are coming out of the academy excited, and full of piss and vinegar. I told him that he should turn to the older guys for advice and guidance, HOWEVER, not to get sucked in by the negativity. To seek out the senior guys that seem to be content, and happy with their job. The guys that seem to be squared away. I also told him to make sure he keeps connections with the other younger guys, and to try to stay excited about the job.
He was asking me if I thought it was bad that he was feeling like he got into a rut last week, after only having a few months of "street time". Here are my thoughts on that. It is perfectly fine to get discouraged and get into a rut. Even when you are still new. However, it is NOT ok to stay there. That's when you should talk to someone. You need to evaluate why you are feeling like you are in a rut. Is it that you have been to the same house three times that week? Because that happens. And it gets frustrating every time you go back, and tell people the same thing as the last. But, one day it will either sink in, or it just won't bother you any more. Or, is it that you are feeling overwhelmed? Because that happens too. And when it does, it's ok to ask for help. It is a priority that you get out of the rut. Find a way, get some help, talk to someone. The good senior guys will be there to help you out of the rut. The miserable older guys will make it easy to stay there. Misery loves company.
It's too bad I have learned this so late in my career. I wish I could go back. I made a promise to myself that I would be the senior guy who encourages, instead of discourages. That is one of the main reasons I decided to push to get into FTO school.
You know, funny thing about the hood. It is the setting of a lot of joking around, and funny stories. It's also the setting of heartache, pain, anguish, dispair. The same hood that you lean against to tell stories, is the same hood you might have to tell someone their loved one has died, or that you are taking their freedom away. It's also the same hood that catches the palms of bad guys, or the contraband you pull from their pockets during an arrest. It's also the same hood that have caught tears. Tears of laughter, tears of sadness, tears of pain.
It's been a table. A table where I've shared a pizza, or a meal with my side partners. A table where I've filled out paperwork, or a table that I plotted a course out on a map.
To some, it's just a hood. The part of the car that hides the engine.
Take care out there,