Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Is cop work the same anymore?

     I love this picture.  To me, it is what policing is.  Making connections, meeting people, helping people.  In my internal dialogue, the officer is having a snack, or a drink with the young run-away, and will eventually take him back home after a little chat.  The officer is genuine, and cares about his job, and the safety of the young boy, but takes the time to listen to him, and his problems.

     When I started as a young rookie back in '98, times were different.  We were post Rodney King, but pre 9-11.  It was the beginning of "Community Policing".  The job shifted from a stricter enforcement role to a problem oriented role.  Cops went to community meetings, listened to the concerns, and tailored the enforcement activities to help curb the quality of life issues in the communities.  It wasn't perfect.  It wasn't always ideal, and didn't always work, but it was what we did.  There was a true connection with the communities we served, and the officers who worked the beat.

     As the years passed, and after the attacks on Sept 11, 01, we moved farther away from community policing, and in my opinion, policing in general.  We became the people to call for anything and everything.  As technology made the world smaller, the distance between neighbors grew larger. Instead of going next door and talking to your neighbor if you had a problem, just call 911.  Neighbor blows leaves in your yard? 911.  Kids throwing snowballs? 911.  Party too loud next door?  911.  Dog barking? 911.  Power out?  Power company, right?  Nope. 911!

     Recently, I had a call for a neighbor dispute in one of the more "affluent" neighborhoods I patrol.  The background was that these neighbors have been fighting for 15 years.  The things they fight over?  Leaves.  They live across the street from each other, and one old dude blows his leaves into the street and over to the other old dude's curb.  We're not talking all the leaves. We're talking the little bit of leftovers after the yard work is done, and the stragglers are left behind.  So, I try to talk to the "victim" and see if he wanted me to talk to the "suspect" and see if he would agree to help sweep up the debris.  NOPE.  He wanted none of that.  So, I try to get the "victim" to agree to go to mediation with the "suspect" over these leaves.  NOPE!  He wont have that either.  He just "wanted us to know" that he planned on suing the other old dude.  Yup.  This guy wanted to call 911, an emergency number, to tell the police, an emergency service, that he was going to handle a non issue civilly, in civil court. 
     THIS is what more and more of our calls for service have become.  Not helping communities deal with quality of life issues, or combating crime, but dealing with people who can't deal with people.

     Oh, yeah.  We still have robberies, assaults, thefts, bad car wrecks, and all the regular stuff you see on COPS too.  We also have fewer police officers, more houses and occupants, and an increase in commercial development and shopping centers to contend with.

     We have also taken less of a law enforcement or community policing role, and more of a consultation, problem solving, feel good role within the community.  As people become more reliable on the 911 system, the medics have become people's primary medical care, and the police have become, for lack of a better analogy, another set of parents, to help with life's "little problems".

     Don't get me wrong here, we still want to do the job.  We still want to be in the communities, and we have a community oriented mission still in place, and have community meetings and groups. MOST officers still get out of their cars, and walk shopping centers, and do business checks.  I know I do, and I'm training my rookies to do the same.  The TIME just isn't there anymore to do it right. 

     All of this is happening as the role of the modern day police officer is made to be the villain, and is hated by the public we serve.  We are viewed as the boogieman, Parents teach their children to fear us rather than to run to us for help.  Officers are accused of being racist in our motives and accused of unequally enforcing the laws by the media, and the focus is on corruption and misuse of power, because That's what sells.  The focus has become, "If it bleeds, it leads" in the news.  We are guilty until proven innocent, recorded, and edited to fill an agenda.  We are made to feel powerless in the court of public opinion.  We are constantly berated with slogans of "Hands up! Don't shoot!", "______ lives matter!", and told we need "softer uniforms".  In recent years I have been spat on, my car defaced, cursed out, and given the "one finger salute" just for showing up to do my job.

    As a kid, being a cop was my dream.  Man, I thought it was going to be full of excitement and adventure.  I had aspirations of being influential in my community, and making a difference.  I thought I'd be locking up the bad guy, getting in car chases, solving crimes.  In the beginning, there was a lot of that.  I had a great time, learned a lot.  But, times change, the mission changes, the job changes.  We still have fun, and go after the bad guys.  But, I find myself helping a lot of people with a lot of "non police" issues along the way.  Some are genuine, and people do need help, but a lot are not.  In my agency, if you dial 9-1-1, and ask for the police, you get an officer.  Regardless of what it's for.  People tend to abuse it.  It clogs an already overworked system, and delays response to other calls for service that we should be going to.

     So, this begs the question, "What is cop work, and is it really the same anymore?"

    What say you?

Stay safe out there.





Monday, June 22, 2015

Sometimes it's a dark place to live.


 I've been battling some depression lately.  I have been for years, off and on, so it's really nothing new. If you haven't read my story on Police Suicide, I recommend you give it a read.  It's dark, but important.  Depression is a life long battle, and I've come to discover, fairly common.  Especially for guys like me.

     PTSD and the question of the effects of military and emergency service has on mental health has been in the news for returning military personnel, cops, fire department personnel, and veterans lately.

     Unfortunately, I have also seen this, and other "popular" diagnoses slapped on just about anyone in the general population that has ever been exposed to anything that they deem as traumatic.  While I believe that a lot of the cases are valid, in one way or another, I also question the nonchalant way they slap "depression" on anyone who is sad, or "PTSD" for any accident or trauma victim.  With this feeling, I start to wonder if MY issues are valid.  Is what I've been through enough to warrant, or justify, how I feel?

    I have always had a little dark spot in my life.  I used to just express it with anger.  It was the only emotion I really knew how to show.  As a kid, I had a temper.  Still do.  But as I got older, and started to experience life and death, I started to experience different feelings.  I would feel guilt for the lives I couldn't save back when I was an EMT.  I would have nightmares, and dream about the calls I went on. This would continue on when I became a Police Officer.  I would dream about weapon failure, being unable to scream out proper verbal commands in times of stress, and I would dream about the "no-win" scenarios.

    Eventually I would seek help.  It DID help, for a while.  As I start to write this, I am actually sitting in my therapists' parking lot, waiting to be seen.  One of the main problems with mental health is that it's always changing.  Something that may bother me today, may not have even hit my radar any other day.  Even with regular and consistent therapy, and taking my meds, things hit me from the side, and knock me off track.

I'm not alone.

     If you take the time to look around you, there are a lot of workers in Emergency Services that fight this battle.   I share this stuff not for a cry for attention, or a cry for help (anymore), but so that it's out there, and hopefully it gets talked about.  There are a LOT of people like me out here.  We are wearing a badge,  serving our public.  We are your Police, Fire, Emergency Medical personnel, the Dispatchers behind the scenes, and the people that run towards danger, as others run from it.

You're not alone either.

     I had the chance to see Bobby Smith talk a few years back.  If you ever get the opportunity to see him speak, GO!  His story can be found at .  Pony up a few bucks, and buy the man's book.  He is an excellent guy.  GREAT speaker, and a survivor.

     If you, or someone you know, is struggling with depression, or are in a dark place, talk.  Sometimes that's all you need.

     I have a short list of sites here for you:      (Dispatchers)    (EMS)  (Suppression/fire fighters)  (Police)

       I'm not affiliated with any of these sites in any way, but I feel the need to share some information with you.  You never know when you, or your partner might need to reach out for help.

       I have read Cop Shock, and Bobby Smith's book.  Both excellent reads.

       Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Stay safe,


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lessons learned as a new FTO

Howdy, y'all. 

I've been an FTO (Field Training Officer) for a couple months now and I think I'm learning as much as the rookies I'm training. I thought I'd share a few things I've learned and experienced so far. 

First thing I've learned is that training new officers is way different than just doing the job. I had decided to take more of "coaching" role as a trainer, because that was the method that I learned better from when I was a trainee. Taking this type of role, I believe, has allowed the trainees to be more relaxed, and not so afraid to make mistakes. This has also allowed me to form a better relationship of trust with the trainees while they are learning. It has also allowed me to be more candid in my assessment and critique of their performance. 

The second thing I've learned is that no trainee is the same. Even remotely the same. I have had four different trainees over the past month or so, because I am a secondary FTO, and each one was completely different in their learning style, and knowledge from academy. They are also completely different in their confidence level, and what they perceive as their ability. From recognizing things, to even talking on the radio. I've been careful to try and reenforce what they are strong in, while trying to trying to build their confidence in what they are weak in. 

One of the hardest things for me has been learning to take a back seat, and letting them handle calls in their way, and learning how to become their own officer. I recently found myself rewriting a rookie's report instead of telling him what to change, and letting him do it. It's like trying to teach my son. It's hard to watch your kid fail at something, and I have learned that it is hard to let the rookie fail on their own as well. That is something I am constantly working on. 

So far I have gotten along with each rookie I've trained, and look forward to watching them progress on their training and become police officers. This has breathed a new life into my career, and so far I really enjoy this role as a Field Training Officer. 

I'm sure some funny stories are soon to come, and believe me, I WILL be sharing them. 

Until next time, take care of each other and be safe,