IACP Digest: Memo to veteran officers: Be a mentor
I remember looking at the “old guys” at the office when I first became a cop. They would come to work with the uniform wrinkled, an old revolver looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a year strapped to their hip that, no vest with a daily agenda of how little can I do and where am I going to eat lunch. We called those guys “ROD” (retired on duty). I told myself I would never become one of them.
But after years and years of seeing what we see — neglected children, drug dealers and habitual drunk drivers getting off on light sentences, and the BS, political red tape, and favoritism within the department — I started to realize how those “ROD” guys became the way they were.
But then, something inside of me told me that staying on top of my game would have to be a choice — even a fight — not to morph into an unproductive officer. So on those days when I want to throw in the towel, I find myself making little choices to keep my mind and body in the best shape to be an effective cop.
What motivates me now is that I don’t want the young, officers looking at me and thinking the same thing I thought so many years ago about the old guys.
An older, more experienced cop who stays on top of his game has the ability to influence and set an example to the young guys. A 40-something cop with 20 years on the job who comes to work in good physical shape, with a crisp uniform, eager to help people, and eager to do his job will set an example to those younger officers.
I’m not saying as a veteran cop you don’t get sick and tired of the BS. What I am saying is use your maturity as a cop to hide those feelings a little bit from the younger guys. Then you and your best bud who has just as much experience can get away alone and bitch about things in private.
Remember always that someone’s perception is their reality. As a veteran officer, it is not only your duty to serve and protect, but it is also your duty to be an example to the next generation of officers. And who knows, 10 years from now, when those rookies have some experience, they will sit around and tell war stories about you, and remember you as “Officer so and so, that old guy on our shift that really knew how to be a great cop and taught us everything we know.”
The example you set is how you will be remembered. Young officers look to you just like a child looks up to their parents, even if they don’t say it to your face. You control your legacy as an officer.
As for me, I have no intention of being remembered as “Retired on Duty,” so if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find me a criminal to put in jail today.