I recently went with the girlfriend over to a social gathering of non law enforcement party go-er’s. These were long time friends and co-workers of her’s. Knowing that my girlfriend has no clue what it is like to wear a badge, it was completely foreign to her “why” I made my introductions to her friends slowly and methodically. At one point she even accused me of “standing like a cop.” When I asked her what that meant, she said, “I don’t know but you just look scary.”
I took an evaluation of myself and the way I was standing and I had to really think about it. I was standing in the corner, so nobody could be behind me (Officer safety first), my arms were folded width wise in front of me resting on my stomach and I was sizing up the party go-ers in the crowd. Looking at and evaluating everyone. Checking tattoo’s, clothing, bulges, intoxication levels, etc..etc.. I sized up what I was wearing; blue jeans, athletic t-shirt, running shoes, work watch on wrist, cleanly shaven…you know, the poster child for a Police Officer off duty.
“Why do you stand like that?”, the girlfriend fires off. So I took the time to explain to her all the reasons I had for being a social stand-off. So I started with the lack of knowledge of the group of people at this particular event and the implications/repercussions for me as a Law Enforcement Officer. She of course advised me that “they are not druggies.”, in which I replied, “Would you bet my job on it?” I had to explain to her that not knowing these people had serious potential to become a huge problem for me. It’s not as if we are in public place where I have no control over certain possessions and my involvement around those possessions. No, this was someone’s house that while, not intimately known, my girlfriend is well versed with and associates. Can you imagine trying to explain to your supervisors why you were at a party where illegal substances were being used? Not saying that was the case in this instance, and in-fact I can say there wasn’t, however, the scenario is a real potential.
The freedom and liberties of the average person that is not a Law Enforcement Officer is the ability to remain gullible. Our training and experience makes it so we have no valid excuse. Imagine your Lieutenant asking you, “So why were you hanging out with a wanted felon?” I guess you can play the, “I didn’t know he was.”, but how far is that going to get you? Days off maybe? Internal Affairs investigation? Fired? Bad reputation?
Normal social conforms for an Officer is so much greater than the average person. There is so much risk and responsibility involved. If someone is smoking marijuana, you can’t stay. Why would you? As a person growing in this day and age, marijuana is perceived as a little above a cigarette. It’s “no big deal” to most people now. But something as minor as a “no big deal” to them, can cost you your livelihood.
Now take all of your fears and worries aside and say no one has or is doing anything illegal. Do you tell them you are a “Cop?” If you don’t, give your girlfriend a glass of wine and she will. Even after telling her NOT to say anything. Now once that information has been let out, there’s no way to put that cat back into the bag. “My brother got a speeding ticket. Can you write off tickets for me?” “Most cops I know are assholes.” “Did you ever break the law?” – The questions just keep coming. It’s funny, a show that debuted in 1952 still has a clip that carries the same weight to social events today. Ever watched that infamous Joe Friday clip “What it means to be a cop?” That clip hits home to this very day. But the average person doesn’t realize it. If you haven’t seen it, I advise you to youtube it. Joe kills it. There is a reason L.A.P.D. buried that man with full honors.
Now you take all these awkward social missteps that Law Enforcement have to navigate in their home life, then you add it to the stress of having to deal with the on the job stress of knowing and retaining thousands of laws, policies, case laws, etc..etc., it’s enough to drive anyone to insanity. Well anyone except the hundreds of thousands of us that are doing it every single day for a low-adequate pay with decent benefits. So the next time you run into a “Cop” at a party, do him/her a favor and talk about something interesting besides his/her job. – Thanks..
Stay safe all.. and when a Police Officer tells you something, please listen and do it. They don’t know you or your intentions.
– Frank Three
Joe Friday Clip