Work smarter…not harder.
Now, he didn’t say those exact words, but the meaning was the same. He was talking about attitudes and personalities during citizen contacts, be they calls for service or traffic stops. He implored the class to be more human, to be less robotic. Try hard not to be a “cop”.
When I put “cop” in those quotation marks, it likely elicits some kind of response in you. You can conceptualize what a “cop” represents. It may be positive. It may be negative. But, I think we can all agree that if we are to formulate a stereotype of a police officer, certain characteristics come to mind.
Perhaps those characteristics include:
I think we can further agree that none of these characteristics are particularly positive. I can confidently say I’ve been accused of each of these over the last 16 years of my career. Sometimes, deservedly so. I won’t make excuses about those times other than to say a selection of them were by design and some were reactionary.
The point is this. If we as police officers are more personable during a contact (be it with the public at large or an arrestee), things tend to go more smoothly. Why go out of your way to exhibit any of the characteristics listed above? More often than not, all your going to do is make things harder on yourself.
I have no lack of experiences in which I’ve seen other officers, not to mention myself, react poorly to a given situation and have it only make the following few hours of their shift go to shit because either something was taken personally, or worse yet, an officer felt the need to exert their authority in wildly stupid circumstances to accomplish nothing more than to show someone they were “the man” (irrespective of actual ownership of a Y-chromosome).
Why make things harder for ourselves? If we go out of our way to treat others with some modicum of respect (regardless of whether or not they deserve it), it only serves to make what we have to do that much simpler.
I’m all about making my day as easy as conceivable possible.
That is not to say that when it’s time to, as that sage Patrick Swayze once said, “Not be nice…”, that we don’t handle business. Just the opposite. When it’s time to go to work, go to work. But if the other option is to act more human and achieve the same end goal with less effort, less drama, less injury, and less IAs…I’d argue that is a preferable blueprint.
For all of you young officers out there that make it a point to let everyone know what a “badass” you are, take a moment to think about the coming repercussions. There’s a time and place to be that guy, but the set of circumstances in which that approach is beneficial is so very small, it’s laughable. If you want to make an actual impact in your career and have a lasting effect in your community, it would behoove you to take a moment. Take a breath. Consider the long-term goals instead of the short-term satisfactions of reacting to a given stimulus.
In short, work smarter not harder.