HOW DOES SOMEONE BECOME A COP?

When agencies are ready for new hires, they work real hard to pick the very best candidate(s) from the available group of applicants. In years past, it was common to have a hundred (or more) applicants for every opening.

Sadly, that is no longer the case. In many instances today, the quantity of applicants is LESS than the number of openings.

The job market is in constant change. When there are a lot of applicants, agencies will raise their requirements and then go in reverse when applicants are few in number. One of the criteria that is added and dropped (like a yoyo) is the requirement for a four-year college degree.

A college degree is not required in very many agencies now because there would likely be NO applicants for the cop jobs that are open.

 

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF THE HIRING PROCESS

 I recall one application I completed back when I was looking for a job. The app included four essay questions. When all of the blanks were filled, boxes were checked and the essays were written, the application was 233 pages in length. When the supporting docs were added (e.g. transcripts, etc.) the package approached 500 pages, in total.

I had to include references from at least ten people. All of them were interviewed. My neighbors had someone knock on their door to ask questions about me. There was also an in-home interview which involved my wife.

There was a psych evaluation, a thorough medical exam, a lie-detector exam and more. I joked with my wife that it seemed the department wanted to know everything about me – including the number of wrinkles in a certain body appendage.

 

PREP AND TRAINING

The academy was sixteen weeks in Michigan. Currently, the requirement in Florida is 26 weeks. The academy was a combination of classroom and practical training (range, gym/DT, first aid, etc.)

Recruits were required to be in top physical condition throughout the academy. Sadly, the concern with a cop’s physical condition evaporates once the academy ends in most agencies.

Of course, there was the twelve week FTO program.

Typically, a new cop is on probation for the first year. Every move, every thought – everything – is watched, listened to and evaluated. On and off the job.

Why?

We are being prepared and judged on our ability to do the job. The critical skill is exercising good judgement and selecting the best option available in order to solve the problems we will encounter when dealing with the public.

Once we’re on the job, we have the authority to take a person’s freedom by putting them in jail. We also have the authority to take a person’s life. Those are profound authorities. When we are new to the job, our employer must use every opportunity to measure our ability to handle them.

 

TRAIN THEM TO THE MAX AND TREAT THEM LIKE A FIVE-YEAR OLD

 A few years ago, I went on a ride-along with a cop buddy from NYPD. I was astonished to learn that each station house has a lieutenant whose job it is to create a list of eating establishments where officers may not go while on duty – unless sent by dispatch.

They cannot go there for a coffee break.

They cannot go there for a meal break.

They cannot go there to use the restroom.

If an officer is discovered in one of the ‘banned’ businesses, they are written up and disciplined for failure to follow orders.

The NYPD cops are watched, checked, followed and sneaked up on by their sergeants without warning anytime during the shift.

So, let’s get this straight: an NYPD street cop may use deadly force and kill another human being. But, we don’t trust that he is able to select a coffee shop where he can get something to drink.

That is ludicrous.


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HORRIBLE SUPERVISION

“How did he ever get promoted?” is a question frequently expressed between cops after promotions are announced. It usually references a new sergeant or lieutenant who is a failure as a cop, from a practical point of view. The kind of guy who surprised us when he made it to (and through) probation. A failure.

Of course, there are those who have bars or stripes and remain on an non-stop ego trip.

Making matters worse is that many agencies promote a cop from the bottom of the food chain. Then, they receive their first sergeant’s stripes. Unfortunately, they don’t spend five minutes getting any kind of management training. The new sergeant quickly prove themselves to be a management disaster.

This kind of supervisor drives good cops out the door.

ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA POLICE DEPARTMENT

The news hit the wire last week: Alpharetta officer Daniel Capps was fired. That’s unusual. Once past the probationary period, it is unusual to hear of a cop losing his job lest he has committed a serious offense.

Reports are that APD has a patrol lieutenant who fits the previous description of ‘whiz-bang’ supervisors and who is smitten with his own self-importance. His name is Lieutenant James Little. His crew says he likes to travel: he is on an ego-trip. Big time.

The LT has mandated that officers issue a traffic citation at every vehicle crash they handle. Apparently, APD street cops lack the discretionary skills to know when a citation is appropriate – and when it’s not. So, Lt. Little has decided for them.

The reality is this: there are some crashes where no one is legitimately at fault. Typically, these crashes involve some kind of equipment failure or medical emergency of a driver.

Then, there are crashes where there are multiple drivers at fault. Consider a chain reaction series of rear-end crashes on the freeway when the pavement is wet (or icy) and there are more than two drivers. Presumably, every driver behind the lead vehicle is at fault for following too closely or driving faster than conditions permit.

ALWAYS ISSUE ONE CITATION? That is flat-out nuts.

Why should the street cops in Alpharetta be called on to use their judgement and make decisions when they have a Lieutenant capable of making all of them? (Have you ever heard the term: Pompous Ass?)

The department could save a lot of money if traffic crashes were handled by trained monkeys or robots (see cover picture).

Any cop with more than a few months on the job knows that there are some supervisors for whom you would do ANYTHING. You would follow them to Hell and back.

Then, there are others that no one wants to get near.

Guess where Lt. Little falls on this spectrum of management excellence.

 

THE TERMINATION SONG-AND-DANCE

Daniel Capps was fired because he handled a crash and didn’t write a single citation. Using the discretion given him under the law, he decided a citation for either driver wasn’t appropriate. It happens that way, sometimes.

But Capps apparently bruised Lt. Little’s ego. (Shed a few tears here)

When the local TV reporter asked the City Manager about Capp’s termination, the city pulled out the old standby of, “Capp’s behavior was part of a pattern of performance …”

Ah yes. The old ‘pattern’ followed by ‘yadda, yadda, yadda.’

Translation: the city didn’t have anything else and firing the cop because he bruised the ego of a pompous assed lieutenant wouldn’t sound good on the six o’clock news.

If there really was a ‘pattern,’ there would have been previous disciplines on Capp’s record and the City Manager would have laid it out. But, he didn’t. Because there is no ‘pattern,’ only the bruised ego of a pompous assed lieutenant. But that wouldn’t sound good on the six o’clock news.

Street cops make many judgement calls on every shift. That’s what we are trained to do. If a cop gets on the boss’s Shit-List, there is no difficulty finding an incident (or two) for which the boss can claim discipline is due.

Believe me. I’ve been there.

The real problem: Most likely, Capps didn’t like being treated like a stooge and he said so. That’s what most likely got Officer Capps fired. Oh yeah, that and the bruised ego of a pompous assed lieutenant. We can’t forget that.

 

A BETTER PLACE

Given Lt. Little’s management skills, maybe he should confine himself to laying out a schedule for checking and filling the toilet paper dispensers in the station locker room.

At least that way, no one will bruise his ego.

The citizens have lost the services of one of their street cops who tried to Serve and Protect them. That’s sad. All over the bruised ego of a pompous ass with bars on his collar. But that wouldn’t sound good on the six o’clock news.

That’s my .02 worth. Your mileage may vary.

At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.

 

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