You made it through the academy. You will always remember the graduation ceremony when your first badge was pinned on your chest. Most of the important people in your life were there, too.
Then, there was that first roll call. You were introduced to your first Field Training Officer (F.T.O.) There were four phases, lots of D.O.R.s peppered liberally with fives and a few butt-chewing sessions. You finally made it.
At last, there was the ritual eagerly awaited by EVERY rookie: The Off-Probation Party.
DO I LOOK DIFFERENT?
Maybe – just maybe – you start seeing yourself a little differently.
Average citizens are routinely call you, “Sir.”
People are asking your opinion on a whole bunch of topics. “Me?” you think.
Your Mom or Dad asks you to help them make a decision. A few years ago, it seems you didn’t know squat. Hmmmm.
NO ONE EVER TALKED ABOUT THIS STUFF
You can drive as fast as you please. When responding to a call for service, you figure, “If they called for help now, they must want it now.” There is the occasional close-call, but ‘no harm – no foul,’ right?
The sarge pops you a couple of times and tells you to cool it on the driving speed. You dutifully nod – and keep your thoughts to yourself.
If you get stopped in your POV for speeding, you get cut loose as soon as the other cop sees your tin.
These days, the local restaurants recognize you – in and out of uniform. Lunch is on the house. The local Stop-and-Rob is only too happy to keep you in free drinks while you hang out in their store.
Every business owner likes having the public see police cars regularly in the parking lot. It’s like an unspoken endorsement of the place.
Then, there are the starry-eyes kids who look up at you as though you are God.
This is pretty sweet, isn’t it?
THE BADGE AND BOOZE
I could write, “We’ve all been there,” and it would mean nothing.
Instead, I will write, “I’ve been there.”
After the shift is over and your gear is safely tucked away in your locker, you head to the local watering hole for a few pops with the rest of the crew.
You don’t’ really keep track of how many because a full one just keeps appearing the moment the current one gets below half empty.
When it’s time to pay-up, you still don’t know. You’ve been there for a few hours and the tab comes to only five dollars.
Crazy, huh? But, true.
On the way to your car, you are thinking to yourself that you know better than to do this. But now that you are invincible, you figure: “What the Hell?” and off you drive.
If you get stopped by a Brother in Blue, he will likely either look the other way and cut you loose or get you a ride home.
Do the rules get ‘bent’ for a cop occasionally? Do the employees at Kohl’s get an employee discount? YES, on both counts.
There are lots of situations that allow a situation to be “fixed” so that everyone walks away clean.
Other times, it just can’t happen.
Cops cannot repeal the laws of gravity.
Cops cannot repeal the laws of inertia.
Cops cannot repeal the laws of physics.
Not even professional courtesy will alter these – and other fundamental laws.
WAR STORY #1
I worked on a gig in Flint for a few years. I made some tight friendships. One of the guys became my lifting partner in the gym. He was a bull moose.
On paydays, at the end of the shift, a whole tribe of cops swarmed into GBI – a local watering hole. Over a period of months, my buddy was getting a little too intimate with the bottle.
He assured me that all would be fine and he was cooling it.
One night, after a few pops, my good buddy was the at-fault driver in an injury accident. He got popped for OIUL/DUI.
It damn-near cost him his career. Though he remained a cop, the incident put a negative cast over him which affected his life for years to come.
WAR STORY #2
I opened an email early one morning this past week.
I was informed that a twenty-nine year old cop from the next town was killed in a wreck overnight. He was pronounced DRT at 0145.
He was off duty in his personal pickup truck. Preliminary report indicated the vehicle left the road, rolled and ultimately struck a tree. This happened in the city where the officer worked.
He would have made his two-year anniversary next month.
Now, the family is making funeral arrangements. Twenty-nine years old. A young cop. Full of piss-and-vinegar.
The badge changes your life – forever.
IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU INVINCIBLE
Think about what you are doing.
Be reasonable in your actions.
Too often, young cops become enamored with the changes in their lives. They can start to believe that they are ‘super-human.’ They aren’t.
If it were your funeral and people were stepping up to the podium to say something about you, what would these people say knowing that your body lies before them due to alcohol, driving and poor judgement:
Your seven year old son
THINK. PLEASE THINK
We need you.
You are my brother. I love you and want you to be around for a very long time.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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