For the past several years I’ve been the commander of my agency’s training division. Recently we graduated a class of recruits. These folks were recruited by the recruiting section, then trained by my staff, then sent to the state academy.
When they graduate from the state academy, they come back home to me for more reindeer games. After a lengthy field training program, they test out and are released as solo officers. They must still spend a year on probative status until they test out of probation and become classified employees with my agency.
Anyway, after these recruits tested out and were waiting for the patrol division to assign them to their precinct and watch, I began to think about the future of law enforcement. Indeed, I was looking at it. Before me sat a group of smart young officers. Each was trained and eager and confident that they were ready to go out and meet the challenges of our profession.
Three Types of Officer
I looked at their uniforms — they were impeccable. Their badges were shined and their shoes were gleaming. They were the picture of confidence and professionalism. They were all physically in peak condition and I had no doubt they could run down a fleeing felon, or fight as long as it took to gain control of a suspect.
I was proud that my staff and I had something to do with the quality of the group I saw before me.
My thoughts turned to all of the officers who had come before. Some had decided that police work wasn’t for them. Many perished fighting the good fight. Of those who remained, I divided them into three groups.
1.) Malcontents: First, there are those who just barely meet performance standards. They are hanging on, waiting to get to retirement. No one wants to be around them because they are so negative. They never want to be a part of anything, even exciting things that are good for everyone.
They are bitter and hate the job. They do nothing, yet believe they are the best officers in the agency and have been passed over by other “brown-nosers.” They can’t see that their attitudes are what hold them back. These people rot the profession from the inside out.
2.) Back-stabbers: The second group is composed of officers who are out for themselves. These people never really accomplish much of anything, but they usually rise in the department. Often, they do this by deflecting attention away from their own ineptitude — usually by pointing out the mistakes of others.
These folks revel in the downfall of others, and never have the intestinal fortitude to tell someone else when they are about to make a mistake. Instead they stand by, wait for the mistake to happen, then yell, “Hey Chief, look what so-and-so did!”
These people breed distrust and animosity among the ranks. They feed on confusion and enjoy others’ failures. They never fail at anything because they never actually DO anything.
3.) The 5%-ers: Finally, my thoughts turned to the last group of officers. These are the ones I live for. These folks come to work every day and stick with the team.
When more money calls, they say, “Sorry, I made a commitment.”
These people learn everything they can about their profession. They never stop working on their proficiency, and they usually develop a keen interest in a specific aspect of the job. They then become experts at it.
Many of these people become instructors and pass their knowledge on to others in an official capacity, but all of them informally train others. These officers help others — they take the troubled officers under their wings.
These cops understand what the job is really all about. They have the guts to tell a brother or sister officer that they are about to make a serious mistake if they see them before it happens. Though this type of officer is getting rarer, they always win out over the other two types.
We Are Our Future
Returning from my momentary reverie, I turned my attention back to my bright-eyed new officers. I told them how proud I was of them. I reminded them what it meant to wear those badges on their chests. I reminded them that they should polish their badge every day before duty and, while they do that, remember how hard they had to work to earn the privilege to wear it.
I told them they were the future of law enforcement and that the profession would look like whatever they wanted it to look like in the coming years. If they wanted the job to be full of malcontents and back-stabbers, they simply had to become those people, and others will follow. But if they want to work in a field they love, with brothers and sisters who would die for them, all they have to do is be those people, and others will follow.
Either way, the new cops coming up are the future. We have to show them how to overcome adversity, even when we create it though our own attitudes.
It’s a cycle. If we want professional, well-trained, courteous officers with good attitudes, then we must demonstrate those attributes ourselves. If we do this, then the young ones coming up will too, and the cycle will continue. We are our future. Let’s make it one worth having.
Stay safe out there. All of you.