10 Arresting Reasons You Do Not Want to Be a Big-City Police Officer
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Ten Arresting Reasons to Walk the Other Way
So you wanna be a cop huh? Gonna change the World one bad guy at a time? Well, here's ten often-overlooked reasons that say you're making a really bad decision.
- Driving fatigue. Your derriere will spend more time in a Ford Crown Victoria than canned spam in an expired MRE (military field meal). Think you can handle that? Before you answer, strap twenty pounds of assorted cop tools around your waist with a stiff leather belt about two-inches wide. Then slide that sexy bullet-proof vest over your chest for an all-day sauna experience, cop-style. But wait Mr. Dude, there's much more. Thanks to in-car computers, video equipment, shotgun racks, police radios, and that immovable aluminum shield bolted behind your seat, you're now folded into a comfy fetal position that will remind you of test driving your first Big Wheel on Christmas Day 1977. Something about bouncing up and down like that, everyday for a decade or so, that will slowly grind your back into a herniated mess that only a chiropractor could love. And please, pray you make it to retirement before that ruptured back causes you to flunk the dreaded sit-and-reach test (known in cop circles as corporate torture). Yeah, that's right. Annual fit checks with push-ups, sit-ups, and running are mandatory. If you don't pass it, your out of a job Mr. Policeman.
- Shift work. Can you dig it? Rookies usually laugh at this like it's no problem. And for a while, it isn't. But shift work is a subtle little monster, grinding that reset button on your biological clock so often that you learn to live in a perpetual state of mind numbness. Get accustomed to staying up all night and then trying to sleep while your neighbor cuts the grass, the bus driver blows the horn, and church lady rings your doorbell to save your immortal soul. You won't see a weekend off until you're an old man with the same name tag dude. And the lovely Tuesdays and Wednesdays you do have off will change with little notice and no explanation. Why? Because they can.... And we haven't even mentioned those weekly court appearances, special assignments, extra jobs, or that ever-so sweet phone call from Internal Affairs demanding an immediate statement regarding Ms. Hildagard's lost cat. And Dude... forget those Holidays off. Rookies work those shifts, and that's you now. That big concert coming to town? You're guaranteed to be there Dude. Yes sir, you'll be directing traffic in front of the coliseum. Enjoy the show!
- What Vacation? While we're on the topic of shift work, let's talk about those vacation hours. As a rookie cop with a year of experience, you'll probably have a couple of weeks of vacation time banked. But jeez, the sergeant won't let you off in June, July, or August. You see, that's when the senior officers go on vacation. September is out too. That's when school starts back, and they need you at work for that. December? Nah, to many folks off for the holidays. But hey, there is still November, right? And January through May could work out, if your lucky. You can take off during those months as long as they don't interfere with any scheduled training days, court appearances, natural disasters, political gamesmanship, or just low manpower issues for whatever silly reason they can think of. In short, Rookies can't count on a full week off during any month. You will be able to take a Monday or Tuesday off here and there, but forget about making any kind of plans. They will often get cancelled the day before you leave. I once trained a year for a big marathon race, and the day before it took place, I was assigned traffic duty for the event! As a rookie, you will find that the Department generally doesn't care about your personal plans with the wife. Your body is needed for the alliance; you have been assimilated for the collective puny earthling.
- Friends abandon you. Having fun with the parties? Once you turn police-blue, write down all the names of the friends you have, then count the days until they stop calling you. Oh yeah Dude, THEY WILL STOP. After all, it's hard to enjoy a good tote on the MJ Train when your best bud is a cop. Think the chicks will dig your new gig Dude? Wrong uniform man. Girls like parties, alcohol, and ... well, more parties. As a cop, that lifestyle is over. What's that Mr. Dude? You're already married to a great gal, and this doesn't apply to you? Sorry to break it to you, but cop marriages don't last very long. You see, the wife will eventually get tired of going to the lake without you. Christmas and New Years at home alone will be a bummer too. But hey Dude, she will cope. It just wont be with you.
- The stress of keeping your job. So you want a reliable paycheck and job security? That's cool Dude. Just understand that if you fail to qualify with that service weapon on your hip, your 'done-gone' as we say here in the South. Huh? Yeah Mr. Police Dude. Shoot well, or go home in a non-pork status. It's a career-long stress factor that never goes away. Most departments also require yearly physical conditioning standards. That means you keep in shape, or you get fired. Get convicted of domestic abuse? Fired! Lose your driver's license? That will do the trick too, as will any drug offense conviction. You see Sir Dudeship, job security and law enforcement are an oxymoron. No Dude... not moron... oxymoron. I have seen many good officers fired for five-second mistakes that they can't take back. One bad urine test, one wrong word, even a simple driving error, and that dream job is history, along with your local reputation. Can you say "Hands up?" Come on, Can't we all just get along? Lives matter you know, but it usually isn't your life.... Sorry Dude.
- You are required to keep silent. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech right? Sure Rookie. You can say anything you want, but don't expect to have a job the next day. As far as police matters are concerned, YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK FREELY. All police-related correspondence will be handled by your superiors, and they rarely feel compelled to protect your personal interests. If you should ever get into a bad situation, it will often be reported incorrectly by local media. And the public? They will buy into the media's story like it is the Gospel of St. Matthew on resurrection day. You WILL NOT be allowed to respond to allegations publicly. By the time Internal Affairs clears you (often months later), no one will even care anymore. You're a cop now Mr. Dude, AKA fall guy for corrupt politicians, political activists, and attorneys. You're the target for pointed fingers now, the reason everyone is having a bad day, and the source of all social injustice. Justice, what a word huh Dude? Forget about it. That only applies for non-uniformed personnel.
- Guilty until proven innocent. Like the concept? Get used to it. As a cop, you will be the easy one to finger. When public emotion swells over a significant event, they believe what they read, fail to understand what they see on video, and choose to form lynch mobs instead of waiting on established facts. You see Dude, hating cops is sort of a required core course nowadays for the cool crowd. And those crazy kids really know how to throw a street party. Marches, protests, YouTube videos, and really cool Twitter comments documenting their hard fought struggles blocking street traffic to fight your authority. Pressure from these love gatherings gets gnarly for Mr. Big in the Mayor's office. And Dude, Mr. Big and the other politicians of "Yes Land" will not hesitate to sacrifice you for the greater good (of their careers). Nobody ever stands up to a mob Dude. It's just bad politics.
- Big Brother is watching you. Is this a bad thing? I hope you don't think so, because your entire working life will be recorded. Unless you are Jesus Christ in flesh, you will make a mistake out there, and it will be analyzed and dissected by everyone that thinks they are an expert (okay, everyone). Whatever your mistake is, there will be no denying the charge. Big Brother is here, and he loves to film inexperienced rookie cops. Jesus for Sheriff Dude!
- Promotions that suck. Looking forward to those in-house promotions and the big salary paychecks? Sorry Rookie, there is more bad news for you here as well. A promotion in police work means you go back to the bottom of the seniority pile. That means more bad shifts and mid-week off days. The pay raise will be modest, and the stress of being a new supervisor will wear you down quickly. There is also the phenomenon I call "The Star Trek Principle." This is the concept that all police supervisors are held responsible for the actions of their subordinates. Sound ridiculous Dude? Maybe it is, but it is true in military and police work. You don't even have to screw up to get in trouble now Dude. Your officers do it for you man.
- Your Country steals your overtime pay. It's almost like a spit in the face if you have been a cop for a while. The United States Government passed a special law that basically took three hours of overtime pay per week away from all police officers and firemen in the country. This means that a municipal government agency can work an officer 86 hours in a two-week period and not be required to pay him any overtime for the work (as is normally required for other civilian labor). This is a special exception to the FLSA overtime law , and it discriminates solely against police officers and firemen. Never heard about it? You're not alone.
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Is The Job Really Worth It?
Although the ten compelling reasons listed above are all excellent reasons to never become a police officer, the very best reason to skip a career in this field is the negative impact that it will have on your family life. Before you take that civil service exam, think about those family gatherings during the holidays. They're more important than you realize to mental health and your wife and children. Sure, you may be able to go to one of the gatherings every other year, but things will never be the same once you put that uniform on.
Official statistics regarding divorce rates among police officers will be argued by university egg heads forever. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that cops and wrecked marriages go hand in hand. When divorce strikes a cop, its impact is often more severe than on a person working a normal schedule. Nights and weekend work simply does not equate to a good dating routine, nor does it allow the schedule required to conform to rigid court-ordered visitation hours.
Being a big-city police officer isn't what it is portrayed to be on TV. Not even the reality shows like "Cops" can accurately illustrate the gut-gnawing stress that you will deal with daily. There will scarcely be a day at work when the dispatcher is not pushing you to take more calls than you can handle. And many people just hate cops. You will see it in their eyes daily, and you have to accept that. In the end, it all adds up to stress, lots of it. And it will test your emotional stability like no other career. And all of these challenges will play out in a highly machismo environment in which compassion and sympathy are alien concepts reserved only for sheepish civilians.
If you think you're tough enough to handle these obstacles, maybe you're just the one we want in that blue uniform. It is certainly a profession that desperately needs honest, brave, and compassionate people in the field. Just keep your fingers crossed Mr. Dude. You'll need all the luck you can muster.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.