13 things we wish the general public knew about police work

High-speed chases look like fun because they are

I was recently asked, “What have you learned as a police officer about life and society that most people don’t know or underestimate?”

Here is my reply...


1.) One of the things my upbringing did not prepare me for was the complete lack of civility that some people have. I didn’t think of myself as having been sheltered from evil as a child, but I did not learn that some people have absolutely no regard for the welfare of anyone but themselves, and lash out at anyone who tries to make them aware they are not the only people on the planet.

2. ) Everyone has a “hot button.” Calm and even-tempered as you might be, there is some topic that will set you off, especially if it’s referenced to you personally. It might be your height, your weight, your sexuality, your education, how much money you have, your mom, whatever. Rational people can become maniacs if someone pushes their buttons.

3.) Although they may not know it, there are people who find these hot buttons instinctively, and they live to push them.

4.) Never underestimate what people will do for sex, money, and/or power. That applies to everyone, from the basest criminal to the most saint-like person you know.

5.) People can be sexually aroused by almost anything. There are practices people engage in for sexual reasons that you will find baffling and utterly disgusting. You can gain some limited insight here by going to a reasonably-well-stocked adult bookstore and examining the diversity of the materials. If your thing is watching overweight Asian women give each other enemas, there are not just other people who enjoy the same thing, there is probably a regular magazine and series of videos devoted to it.

6.) No matter how bizarre you find other folks’ sexual preferences, you have to be at peace with knowing that what consenting adults do in private is their business alone. If they decide to take it public or engage people who either don’t consent or are too young to do so, you can get involved.

7.) Law enforcement is a very stressful occupation, but most of the stress comes from the political interactions and power games within each law enforcement agency. The stuff on the street can be stressful, but you learn to deal with that quickly or you get out. About half of the people who become law enforcement officers leave before they have five years on the job. Some get fired for unsuitability, incompetence, or misconduct, but others find out it’s just not for them.

8.) High-speed chases look like fun because they are.

9.) Once you become a cop, very few of your non-cop friends will ever again treat you the same way. You will be introduced by your profession for the rest of your life. People are never going to be comfortable with the group charged with detecting and making them accountable for their bad conduct.

10.) Many criminals can be reformed, and eventually do come to the point in their lives that a criminal lifestyle is more trouble than it’s worth to them. Unfortunately, by the time some of them do that, they have incurred a prison sentence that will keep them behind bars until they die.

11.) Criminals who do not fit into the above category are mostly predators, and should be locked up permanently.

12.) Never say, “Now I’ve seen it all.” There will always be innovators.

13.) Take away alcohol and stupid, and the world would require about 90 percent fewer cops.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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