- Your boss isn’t always telling you how to do your job. Being a cop isn’t for those who are indecisive and fickle minded. Once you’re trained and working the streets, you are granted incredible discretion and flexibility throughout your day. Every single call is different and has its own set of decisions to make. You’ll be making tons of choices by yourself, and you’ll have no one else to blame for the consequences, good or bad.
- The weight of your responsibility is heavy. Winston Churchill (and Spider-Man’s uncle) said that with great power comes great responsibility. Whether you’re on- or off-duty, with friends or family, tired, hungry, angry, sober or drunk, you’re always a cop and a lot of people know it. People look at you differently and expect a higher level of integrity and service. You have the force of the United States government backing your decisions to take action, and possibly even take a life, when and where you see fit. That badge gets heavy when you realize what it really signifies.
- We don’t need any more cocky cops. “Pride comes before a fall,” said the wisest king who ever lived – and I’m assuming he was talking about a cop. I once worked with a fellow officer who was downright toxic. I would rather have no backup at all than have him there. He was so cocky and prideful about his shiny blue lights and badge that any insult from a suspect was taken personally. He needlessly escalated a mentally ill patient once so high that we had to use a baton to control him – and I got hit more than our suspect. If you think you’re “hot stuff,” please do us a favor and become a fireman. You’ll get much more beauty sleep, and the station has plenty of chrome bumpers so you can check out your reflection. Seriously, check your ego at the roll call door.
- Compassion is a requirement. I once had a neighbor who was a retired inner city cop. He had been shot three different times and lived through some horrific scenes. Yet he once told me that during winter, between calls, he often went to the Lowe’s in his district, bought as much lumber as he could fit in his trunk, and helped some of the needy families insulate their broken windows and door. After a hellish career, he still didn’t let the streets take his heart. You’ll see some soul-numbing things out there. If the cry of a mother who just lost her son doesn’t mean anything to you now, you’re too far gone to be of any help to us on the streets.
- It’s a scary world out there. You never know what your call will bring. I was once working a boring, routine call about vandalism. When I knocked on a neighbor’s door, an enormous pit bull charged out of the open storm door, chasing me through the front yard. Just before I pulled the trigger, a toddler called the dog back in the house. You can never let your guard down. If you’re looking for a safe, clock-in-clock-out job, look elsewhere. Law enforcement will surprise you every shift.