I recently attended a birthday gathering for a fellow cop – one that I’m particularly close with – who I refer to as brother and mean it wholeheartedly. For four hours, give-or-take, five cops and our significant others sat around a large table at a private residence, eating pizza, and talking. That’s all we did – and it was great. We spent the entire time reminiscing about adventures and misadventures – and we laughed – mostly at each other. It was a good night and I left there feeling refreshed. I left feeling human. Those guys, and many others like them, just “get it.” They understand that our job is the best job and the worst job in the world, and they understand why that’s true. You might be wondering what I mean by “feeling human.” The truth is that cops are expected to be superhuman, but around trusted cohorts, removed from the constant life and death decisions that are so often our day-to-day reality, there’s no pressure to be “super” at all. Sometimes, for a little while, we get to be just like you – and it’s nice.
The public expects us to wear all the proverbial hats – law enforcer, family therapist, attorney, mechanic, lifeguard, social worker, medic, weapons specialist, UFC fighter, English major, and many more. Not only that, but we’re also used as fact checkers for your personal gossip hour. We’re called on our personal time and asked, “What’s happening over at Bill’s house?” or “What happened with that car chase / shooting / arrest?” or “My kid won’t act right. Can you ‘scare’ him?” Here are some hard truths you need to know:
- What happened at Bill’s house is probably none of your damn business.
- Whatever incident or case we’re involved with, often can’t be discussed right away, (if ever) assuming we wanted to discuss it with you in the first place. So, please stop treating us like your personal information kiosk.
- Most cops don’t handle civil law – we handle criminal law. If you need advice on an eviction, a divorce, or child support payments, call a lawyer. Although, most cops could successfully argue their own divorce case based on personal experience, but I digress. It’s not just about us – it’s really bad for you! Don’t believe me? Stand up in court and tell a judge that you got legal advice on a civil matter from a cop and see how quickly he rules in favor of the other party.
- Lastly, if your teenager is out of control, we can’t fix in 15 minutes what it took you 15 years to screw up. So, no. I won’t scare your kid – but I will put him in prison if you continue to drop the ball. And parents, STOP threatening your children, even jokingly, with arrest when you see a cop. “If you don’t straighten up that cop is gonna get you.” That burns us up! No, little Timmy, I’m not going to “get you,” but if stupidity was against the law, I’d be first in line to arrest your mommy.
Stop complaining about cops to other cops. “He was soooooo rude to me.” – “He used a curse word when he spoke to me.” – “He wrote me a ticket and I wasn’t even speeding! I was only doing like 8-mph over the speed limit.” If you’ve ever been guilty of that last one, God bless your pea-pickin’ heart. I hope you’re attractive because you weren’t gifted much by way of brain power. If there’s a rude cop at our office, we identified them long before you did. We don’t need a play-by-play of how they upset you. If you’re mistreated by the police, by all means file an official complaint with their supervisor, department head, or anyone in a position of authority. Just be sure that everything you report is true. If you lie in an official complaint about how the mean policeman hurt your feelings, that’s a crime – and we’ll arrest your ass for that. Uh-oh. I said “ass.” I hope nobody tattles on me.
Cops know something the general public does not. We know what it’s like to be a cop AND a non-cop because none of us were born wearing a badge. The fact is cops understand the general public far better than the general public understands cops because cops have walked in both worlds. Regardless of your social status, your job, your criminal history, (or lack thereof) your income, your education level, or what your upbringing was like, cops know more about you than you’ll ever know about us because we see people, from all walks of life, in their most vulnerable situations, every single day.
“Cops are always rude.” What do you mean “always?” Just how many police encounters have you had? If it’s more than a few, we call that a “pattern of behavior.” Here’s a wild notion, perhaps you should stop doing things that attract the attention of law enforcement. If a cop is rude to you, it’s probably because you’re a total jerk-face. If a cop doesn’t smile at you or coddle you the way you feel you should be coddled, and you’re offended by that, then you’re just a snowflake. Granted, cops can be very robotic at times, but we take verbal abuse on a regular basis that would prompt most people to smack someone in the mouth.
We covered last week that there are absolutely bad / dirty / crooked cops out there, and I’m sure it happens, albeit rarely, but I can tell you that in 15 years, I’ve never seen a cop hurt anyone just because of what they were saying. I usually don’t comment on ongoing cases in the media because there’s always more information to be had than what’s initially put out for public consumption, but to assure readers that I’m not blind, as Ricky Ricardo would say “Memphis, you have some splainin’ to do!”
Cops don’t mind answering some questions about our job. For example, if you want to know the hiring process, we’ll be glad to explain them. Hell, we’ll even bring you an application, so long as you’re not a felon or a total moron. But don’t complain to us about “Officer X” hurting your feelings. You have no idea how many dead children he’s scraped off the pavement or failed to resuscitate in his career, and you have no idea how many times he has come within inches or seconds of death. For all you know it happened earlier in his shift the same day he pissed you off, or more accurately, wounded your precious sensibilities. That seems extreme, doesn’t it? Good – it was meant to.
You might think we’re offensive now, but every one of us, with unadulterated honesty, could tell you things that would truly offend your senses – and trust me, you don’t want that. Moreover, we don’t want it for you. We carry some burdens that the public, shouldn’t have to bear – and we do it willingly – but that doesn’t mean we smile about it all the time. Being cops is what we choose to do – it’s not who we are, although the work does change us. So, if a cop is actually being rude, kill him with kindness – genuine kindness. Your attitude, good or bad, will affect the rest of his day, and maybe the rest of week or month, and there’s great power in that.
Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.
(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official legal or medical advice.)
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