Monday, August 11, 2008

Why we Do this

I am a cop. I suppose some of the posts I have made in the past make that fact fairly obvious. I am proud to be a cop. It is a profession that I decided early on to pursue. I guess since I was in junior high (now called middle school) I have always wanted to be a cop. Now that I have achieved that goal, I cannot imagine doing anything else. It is the best job in the world. Being a cop is like an E-ticket at Disneyland (it’s been a while, I don’t know if Disneyland even has e-ticket rides anymore). I get a front row seat to some of life’s most exciting events. On the downside, I also get to see some of life’s most disheartening events. This job has provided me with some of the best moments in my life; and also some of the worst. Still, I wouldn’t change my career choice for anything. Because of that, I do not like to hear some of the negative comments made by, and towards my fellow cops. Oh, I guess the negatives that are heard from some citizens are to be expected. Many of them are made based on a lack of understanding of the job. Many are based on negative contacts they have encountered with a cop. And, regrettably, some are based on instances where cops have made mistakes or acted inappropriately.
But the negative comments heard by fellow cops are the ones that sting the most. Not because I always disagree with the comments; many are spot on. They sting because I think they reflect poorly on Police Officers as a whole. By nature we are thick skinned. We are often ripped up one side and down the other by an unhappy violator, yet we resist the opportunity to respond in kind. Our character and actions are often called into question while on the stand, yet we respond with professionalism and a certain amount of detachment to the attack. Why is it then that in the Chief’s blog and other venues, many negative comments are posted in reply by someone who is obviously a cop? You know the ones. The ones where an officer is complaining about having to take the time to remove a dating.com sign from the right of way. Or miffed because they were called on a child neglect regarding kids climbing a tree unsupervised. Or having to spend hours investigating the feces filled candelabra left on a front porch.
The response from some citizens is ‘That’s what you are paid for’, or ‘I pay your salary’, or ‘You shouldn’t be a cop if you don’t want to do those things’.
Well, for those people I have a response: When I was in junior high thinking about becoming a cop, I did not envision saving the world by removing signs from the right of way. I did not think I was going to make a difference by acting as parent for someone else’s children. I was not thinking of saving humanity from invading hoards throwing flaming poop bombs. I really did want to make a difference. I wanted to save the city from murderers, robbers, and thieves. I wanted to protect the poor and defend the weak. I wanted to help create peace out of chaos. I wanted to be a positive role model in a young person’s life, just like SRO Stacey was for me when I was a kid.
The truth is I have had some encounters that have fulfilled those dreams. I have helped people in need and I have protected some from harm. I have helped make peace in some chaotic incidents. Many days I have ended my shift feeling as if I did make a difference. But in reality, those instances are the exception, not the rule. A good deal of time is put into taking belated reports of fairly minor incidents, or handling the truly mundane calls that are sent out to me via the radio. I frequently act as babysitter or referee to both youth, and adults.
So to the citizens I would say this: I will handle your call no matter how minor. I will do it to the best of my ability and will try to uphold the honor of the badge I wear. But if I feel somewhat less than satisfied, and that occasionally comes out as a complaint in a blog, please understand that those complaints are from frustration, not laziness or a lack of concern. It is hard to gear myself down to pulling a sign from a right of way, when I have been trained and have prepared to save lives and protect those who need protection.
To the officers I would say this: This is the job we have chosen and we must take the good with the bad and the satisfying with the unsatisfying. Most calls we respond to will not be the kind of calls that we envisioned ourselves doing when we applied for the job, but that call may still positively effect someone beyond what we perceive. And the call that forever affects your life or the life of someone else, may be the next call dispatched to you.

33 comments:

Mary said...

When something irritates me because I think it's a waste of my time, I look at it as a pixel in the corner of a computer screen. If I focus on that thing, I don't see the bigger picture.

Sure, removing a sign from a corner is a pain in the neck. But what if the sign is to solicit people for nefarious activities? So you are called to referree domestic calls, or when parents can't or won't guide their kids. Think of the kids to whom, right or wrong, the police are the only authority figure in their lives.

Small things the police do help create order out of chaos. Small calls, one after the other after the other, responded to by professional peace officers, result in a culture of order and structure wherein bigger crimes are less likely.

If you spent every single day working the bigger crimes, that might be an adrenaline rush. But it would also be a sign that our city has lost its order, that there is so much crime you can't attend to the smaller things.

I'm impressed by our police department and grateful every day to live in a city with such vigilant law enforcement--even for the "small stuff."

Zen said...

Good post, Atticus. I have a friend that was a So. Sioux officer for 5 years, then topped out because he wanted to stay streetside and so went to Omaha PD. I think Lincolnites have it pretty easy, really, based on what I hear from him on a weekly basis-maybe its a bit of social myopia on their part that the best call they can come up with is rousting someone out of a tree. Of course it's also sad that they called it in at all, but I suppose it's better than having a 'No Snitch' populace as he finds up there.

Nivek said...

I have the utmost respect for officers. The fact the vast majority of your calls are rather mundane, though, is good news for city residents.

Atticus, your job sounds like the majority of folks' jobs: A few moments of self-fulfillment sprinkled in between layers of the routine.

Remember -- the vast majority of the populace look up to officers, especially kids, no matter what you're working on.

Anonymous said...

Honestly Atticus, you talk like cops act, completly full of themselves, arrogant to the max. You probally shave your head too. Gives you that supreme tough guy look.

Enzo said...

Mary,

I agree with you, however, I don't feel the police should be the only authority figure in a child's life. We all know children grow to resent authority figures and as officers, we are constantly fighting a battle of gaining respect from the people we serve. If children grow up with parents who are always calling the police to enforce simple house rules, who do you think they grow to resent? It quickly becomes a situation where the neighborhood cop is the one always making the child do their chores or follow their curfew or whatever the rule may be. We enforce LAWS not house rules. Parents enforce HOUSE RULES not laws. For some reason society has taken a turn and has chosen to believe that when a child refuses to do the dishes as their nightly chore, the right thing to do is to call the police. (Yes, I have taken this very call) What am I, as the POLICE OFFICER, supposed to do? Ground them to their room, take away their cell phone privileges, take away the Playstation? How are we supposed to handle these calls? I don't even have children of my own but I am being forced to parent other people's children because they choose not to.
I don't think people should be allowed to become dependent on the police to raise their children. I understand that parenting doesn't come with a handbook, however, the police academy doesn't include a parenting course, either. What are we teaching our kids by doing this? I can tell you that we are not teaching them coping skills that are needed to survive everyday life. We are not teaching them responsibility or accountability. I can almost guarantee you that if the parent who called to report that their teenage son wouldn't do the dishes couldn't control that situation, they probably also couldn't control it when he refused to stay in his room for the rest of the night. So what good did I do on that call?
I enabled a parent who doesn't want to enforce the rules and I was the "bad guy" to a teenager for grounding him to his room.
During a time when staffing is at a critical level and calls are being held on a daily basis, this just doesn't seem like something we should have to respond to.
I'm all for being a role model and I like nothing more than to drive in my marked cruiser and look over at the little boy sitting in the back seat staring in awe at the lights and me in my uniform. Or the shy little girl at the convenience store who wants to come up and say hi, while I stand in line in my uniform. It makes me proud. But these types of calls don't fall into the category of being a role model.

Atticus said...

Wow 4:06. Someone has an anger issue. Nothing in that post was meant to sound arrogant and I'm not sure where you got that. Most cops are type A personalities though. It works out well that way when victims are looking to us for security and reassurance. I wouldn't call that trait arrogance. I'd call it confidence.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the little calls. It's important to someone or there would not have been a call. I think sometimes we as police officers see so much that that we probably look bored to the average citizen when taking their call so they feel like we don't care. I find that when the caller starts apologizing for bothering me that I am probably looking like I'm bored.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned SRO Stacey; he gave quite a few kids (including myself) a positive first impression of LPD officers and also law enforcement in general. A good man.

I'm a civilian, but shaving your head really does keep you a lot cooler in the summer (as well as depriving others of a handle to grab in a scuffle). You don't have to worry about "nappy head" either, you save on shampoo cost & shower time, and if you add up the cost of all those years of haircuts...

Anonymous said...

You say "yet we resist the opportunity to respond in kind"

I am not a shrink. I do know that this is called an urge. Much like porn, I suspect that if one has plenty of the "urge" sensations that in time the "urge" will be acted on.

So here is the question. Does LPD have counseling to help the urge situations. And if so do you use this? Are you just going to be one that says "I have it under controll" and blow it off. The pro's tell me that the time to take action is prior to an urge becoming and "oops"
Signed, porn addict

Anonymous said...

August 11, 2008 4:06 PM,

Good point...well said

Porn addict

Anonymous said...

August 11, 2008 5:05 PM:

i would guess you are one of the cops
"On the way out" as the Chief put it in a post some time ago.

Anonymous said...

August 11, 2008 5:17 PM

Your response is an example of "thick skinned"

How about some consideration to the poster that may be looking at what you do not see. I also see that in the blog. Arrogance is not a "bad" character trait but we learn it is, and that brings rejection of our (as Phill collins sings) true colors. It is hard to see things in the mirror, but requires a look if some person spots it in writing or in person.
Jane PsyD

Atticus said...

9:33-I think I said 'opportunity', not 'urge'. Two different things. I try not to throw good energy into fruitless efforts; like trying to change an opinion that is obviously secure in someone's mind.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:06
What do you have against the shaved head? Is that worse or better than the 'male pattern baldness' look that I have going for me otherwise?? Or maybe I'm a competitive swimmer....you don't knwo me. How about this: Don't judge me, just like I won't judge you until I walk a mile in your penny loafers while wearing your tommy bahama shirt and carrying your blackberry.....
thanks

Atticus said...

7:44- Fitting comment. Especially as it directly relates to what Atticus told Scout. 'You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them'.

Geoffrey said...

Why Atticus?
Atticus Finch was the attorney in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Got an attorney lurking behind one of those french blue uniforms?

Atticus said...

Geoffrey- He was way more than just an attorney. Here's an old one: What the difference between a rooster and an attorney...? Roosters cluck defiance.

Anonymous said...

How about doing a segment on training?
I've heard the training isn't consistent from one FTO to the next.
I've also found that a number of former officers, who left before their training was complete (ie they were told it would be best if they resigned), have gone on to be long-term law enforcement officers in other agencies. Any connection? Are the FTOs not consistent? Are they trained to be FTOs or are they just given the chance if they apply?

Anonymous said...

1:14

The officers that could not make it or simply left LPD that have gone on to "long law enforcement careers" are going to places like LSO where it is a lot slower pace to say the least. LPD does not need to settle for mediocre officers that can make it at LSO or other smaller agencies.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 7:44

If your white, stick with the male pattern baldness. Otherwise you look like a white supremist. To bad those guys have given that look bad conotations, but they have and most guys I've met with it have that tough guy attitude to go along with it.
As far as your guess about me, all wrong.

anonymous 9:47,

Arrogance is always wrong and very ugly.

Anonymous said...

ooohhhhh!!! Let me respond to 1:14 Atticus!! First off, I'm sorry you or your friend didn't make it through the program, the job LPD does is not for everyone. Secondly, FTO's are trained and have monthly meetings to discuss the consistency you speak of. There are certain criteria that must be met to make an acceptable score and allow the young officer in training to continue on. Absolutely officers that have been shown the door have went to other departments and have been successful. Keep in mind one thing: The Lincoln Police Officer is a generalist officer; meaning they do every aspect of law enforcement multiple times daily (interviews, fingerprints, investigations, traffic enforcement, etc. etc) while officers of other departments might just respond to 911 calls. The pace and expectations are much higher at LPD than at other departments. An officer that has trouble with the way LPD does things might find it easier at a smaller and less busy department. And before you mention that LPD should change the way it does its business - you would have to add about 70 more officers to have a traditionalist department (all investigations worked by detectives, accidents handled by the traffic unit, etc. etc.)

Anonymous said...

you have as much hot air as the chief.hurt your arm patting yourself and the other blue shirts on your backs.puke.lets talk about drug testing the cops,now that we know there is trouble in the fire houses.drug users and thiefs.lets open the can of worms at the hall of justice if you have the guts.pay offs and looking the otherway,did you forget about northcott and a few others.lets hear it,if you can.

Anonymous said...

Drug testing? General Order 1270, it's already in place. I'm not a cop, just a civilian that does a little research.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, Northcott was arrested by an LPD Officer, prosecuted, and spent prison time. yeah, sounds like a real coverup, payoff, look the other way.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:01-

I don't know, I would much rather prefer the Vick Mackey look vs. the Dr. Phil look..... If the only thing you have to compare me to a white supremecist is my hair-do, then I must not be doing too bad on the ethics portion of my job and, by all means, drug test me any time you want! One question, are YOU gonna pay the tax hike to cove rthe cost of all that testing?? It's not free you know. I mean, it was YOUR idea after all..

Anonymous said...

August 12, 2008 5:27 PM says: Arrogance is always wrong and very ugly.

Ok, here is a example of good arrogance.
"I am better than my addiction"

Jane PsyD

Anonymous said...

Jane we are taught arrogance is wrong because it is.
As for your second comment, you've now put the in a whole different context. Are you sure you got that degree by going to school?

Anonymous said...

I think atticus should be in charge of "the cheif's corner" at least he let's some dialog happen. If your not patting Tommy Boy on the back or totally agreeing with him he won't post your comment. Thin skinned, I'd say!

Pierre said...

Having spent of few years at the LPD, I would comment on the FTO process. It is a shame that we've used some veteran officers just because of their years of service. It's to bad that their actual work ethic wasn't examined first. I realize not every officer is going to be gung-ho for DWI's or speeders, or just look for late night burlgaries like our recently retired Aksamit did for 34 years.
Atticus obviously has a lot of time on at the LPD as most on wouldn't have a clue who Officer Stacy was. Nice comments though!!

Anonymous said...

I loved SRO Stacey!!! Nevermind the role model thing; he was hot!!! Thanks for reminding me of him!

Atticus said...

Pierre & 7:54- The FTO selection process is constantly evolving so hopefully we will come up with a process that picks the most qualified officers in the end. As far as Ofc Stacey goes, I am old but not that old. I was in elementary school when he was an SRO. We used to visit with him at the old 'swing-in' store when I was buying candy. And yes, I guess he was a handsome man.

Anonymous said...

Swing-In! A happy blast from the past; a good friend of mine lived a block away. Did you do grade school at Maude Rousseau or Cathedral?

You probably used to stop at Elmer's to pump up your bike tires.

Atticus said...

10:15-I lived just down the street from swing-in. Not sure I remember elmer's though. I am a Ram.