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March 25, 2011
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Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D. Passion for the Job
with Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

How to be an arrogant cop

Arrogance is a poor substitute for confidence — arrogance appears where confidence is lacking

Genuine confidence shows in a competent officer’s speech, bearing, and most importantly in the quality of work he or she does. Confidence is associated with career success, street survival, and it engenders the respect of peers. Confidence comes from real knowledge, experience, and skilled performance of one’s work. None of these positive attributes are associated with arrogance.

Arrogance is a poor substitute for confidence — arrogance appears where confidence is lacking. Arrogance is shallow, serves no purpose beyond one’s own ego, and is an impediment to real success. Arrogance continues because it works on some level with some people. It is sometimes mistaken for confidence, success, or genuine superiority. There are always the ignorant groupies that have no ability to filter out the baloney and will mistake arrogant posturing for genuineness. It also relieves the arrogant person of a drive to learn more, be a better person, and invest in the wisdom of others since he or she believes they have achieved the pinnacle of knowledge.

If you feel that arrogance might work for you or a colleague, here are some tips to increase your arrogance quotient.

1.) Work on “The Look”
Lean your head back a little bit and almost imperceptibly squint your eyes so that you appear to be looking down at everyone you meet. Cock your head slightly to the side as a sign of disbelief and skepticism at everything you hear. Roll your eyes subtly, or at least flutter your eyelids. Pose with one foot slightly ahead of the other, as though you were sipping a martini at a Hollywood party. Let your head bob and use a condescending laugh when someone else proposes an idea or plan - or just come right out and say “yeah, right.”

2.) Make Your Organization Your Shield
You’re a state cop, an investigator, the top paid agency, the biggest organization, with the best cars, the baddest bad guys, or whatever makes you feel superior. Whatever job you have, it’s the best and we should all envy you for it. You might have gotten where you are by a fluke or the seat of your pants, but your association with some notion of superiority bolsters your reputation. By merely carrying a certain badge you’ve obviously seen more, done more, been braver, been better trained, and seen more awful stuff than the next guy. The discussion is over — if you ain’t like me, you ain’t nothing.

3.) Prop Yourself Up By Putting Others Down
Amplify the mistakes of others. Make no effort to put yourself in their shoes - they should be in yours. Assume the worst of others and play your own mistakes off as professional discretion. You’re a rule breaker because the rules are for other schmucks. Other professionals will eventually stop sharing their experiences with you since you always have to have the last word and the better story. They’ll know if you’re talking everybody else down then they will get treated the same way behind their back.

Eventually all you’ll ever hear is yourself repeating how great you are with no one wasting their breath to tell you otherwise.

4.) Shut Yourself Off from Learning
After all, there are two ways to do something: your way and the wrong way. When you go to a class, be sure to tell any instructor how you see it. Talk to the people next to you about your experience and ignore the trainer. Lean back with your arms folded, avoid participating unless it’s to challenge or correct. Don’t put yourself in a position to be vulnerable or admit you’re not an expert. If you are motivated to be the best, do it to beat your peers, not to improve yourself or be a better public servant. Rely on your past achievements and tell the same war stories over and over.

5.) Make Sure the Public Knows
Establish your authority in citizen contacts by bullying behavior. Be personally offended by traffic violations and petty offenses. Lecture everyone and treat them like wayward teenagers. Point out the obvious, and be ready with a tart response for every predictable excuse or comment. Don’t ask sincere questions seeking information; ask questions with a goal of embarrassing the person. Make sure they understand you and make no effort to understand them.

If you know a cop who just isn’t quite arrogant enough, share this article with them. Maybe they’ll correct me on something. After all, they already know everything, right?


About the author

Joel Shults currently serves as Chief of Police for Adams State College in Alamosa, Co. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He currently serves on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at www.joelshults.com

Follow Joel on Twitter @ChiefShults.

Contact Joel Shults





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