6 mistakes every police rookie will make
Every rookie makes mistakes. Just remember, you'll survive. The rest of us did.
It’s been quite a spell since I was a rookie, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the experience.
I remember sitting quietly in lineup while the more experienced officers kibitzed and carried on. It was from them I would learn how to actually do this job.
The academy didn’t teach me. Training officers offered some guidance. But, it was those who would quickly become my peers who taught me the most. Every rookie makes mistakes and it is incumbent upon those of us that have been around for a while to pass along the wisdom we’ve learned.
With that in mind, here are six mistakes every rookie makes. Perhaps if you read them here, your odds of committing them will be reduced.
1. Giving your personal cell number to a victim.
Congrats! You now have your very own stalker/victim/wannabe bestest buddy. That person is going to call you all the time. Every time their ex calls them/drives by/looks in their direction? Ring, ring. Doesn’t matter if you’re on duty or not, by the way. You are now their personal police officer.
2. Not asking for help when you should because you feel you can “handle it.”
I remember it being my first week off training. I responded to a residential burglary. My beat partner (whose nickname was the “Axe Man” as he was the pre-eminent training officer well-known for recycling officers) responded to cover me. I was in the middle of dusting for prints when he came in and laconically asked if I needed a hand. I felt like I needed to prove myself, so I declined his kind offer. I was an idiot. It took me twice as long as it should have to complete that investigation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Acting like a know-it-all.
Listen, if that’s you, allow me to be the first to tell you: No one likes you...knock it the hell off. Whatever you think you know, I guarantee you there is someone on duty as we speak who knows more and has done more in the last week than you have in your life. Take a deep breath, do what you’re told and understand this character flaw you currently exhibit will one day drive you crazy, too.
4. Acting like “one of the guys.”
You just showed up. Your contribution to team jocularity isn’t warranted as of yet. Pace yourself. You’ll get there, it just ain’t gonna be today. Don’t show up to your first assignment and start giving the other officers “the business.” You haven’t earned that right yet. If I find out you’re the one who duct-taped my boots together, I’m going to slash three of your tires...just so you wonder when I’ll come for the fourth.
5. Not listening to the radio.
When dispatch calls you, it’d behoove you to respond. Because, believe me, the rest of us hear them calling you and we’re all yelling at you to pay freaking attention. Listen, I know it’s a difficult skill to perfect and it comes with time, but if you could do the rest of us a favor and spend less time on your cellphone and more time listening for your call sign, that’d be fantastic.
6. Not knowing your call sign.
Alongside #5 is simply not knowing who in the hell you are. Some jurisdictions change beats daily, some weekly, and some (like yours truly) have the same call sign for a decade. It can be difficult to remember your call sign and what areas your beat covers. I don’t care if you have to write your call sign on your hand like a second grader trying to remember his homeroom number. Just answer up when you hear that number come from the voices on that radio you carry.
Six mistakes are not even close to the number of missteps or straight-up mess-ups a rookie will make. At the end of the day, mistakes are part of the learning process and a right of passage. If you’re a rookie and you avoid these six, I assure you that you’ll make others.
You’ll survive. The rest of us did.
This article, originally published 09/21/2015, has been updated.