ICYMI, I recently accepted an invitation to join the Authors On The Air Global Radio Network. I’m hosting a podcast called “Writers On The Beat,” which focuses on helping writers of all genres add more authentic cops, crimes, and criminals into their stories. It should be an interesting listen for anyone who wants in a short, behind-the-scenes look into the American criminal justice system, as well. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out:
Without further ado, on to the topic de jour…
It takes all kinds of clowns to make a good circus. Accordingly, the few variations on type-A cop personalities tend to break themselves out among different long-term assignments. Here, for your edu-tainment pleasure, is a breakdown of how that plays out. I should credit similar posts on the topic, for I’m sure there’s some bleed-over somewhere in here. Lastly, in the current environment, I feel compelled to point out that I intend this as satirical, self-deprecating humor, a little chuckle at our own expense. If you can’t laugh at yourself…
Narcotics Detective: AKA “Narc,” “Freakshow,” or “The Bearded Ladies.”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your tactical and street experience to build positive inroads into underserved populations while reducing illicit drug sales, addiction rates, and related crimes within our jurisdiction.
What the reality is: As the junior detective, they get the worst assignments in the unit. Immediately grows gnarly biker beard and long hair. Gets new tattoos and earrings, claims they were “ordered to.” Starts to see a potential “dope-angle” in every case. Two words: afternoon golf. Poo-poos anyone who’s not doing “real cop work.” Joins a pro-cop motorcycle club before buying the bike. Never drives home the same way twice, just in case the bad guys are finally after them. Starts to look a lot like their snitches. Demand to be called after every drug arrest, but refuses to come in to help with any of them. Bills the department every time their work cell rings.
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT): AKA “Skip Work and Train” or “Sit, Wait, and Talk.”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your tactical and street experience to aid our agency’s response to spontaneous high-risk, low-frequency events and planned warrant service. Build positive inroads into various populations through public demonstrations and regional interagency response training.
What the reality is: New guys do ALL the grunt work. Show up at least an hour early for EVERYTHING, but don’t put it on your timesheet. You’re the only one who washes the armored truck, transports the ammunition boxes, and is subjected to uniform inspections. Two possible haircuts: shaved, or high-and-tight. Works “tactical” into every conversation, and finds multiple ways to use it in one sentence. Entire wardrobe becomes black, olive-drab, and Velcro. Only acknowledges other “operators,” and only then with a nod and a critical eye to their tactical appearance. Entire team goes by tactical callsigns made to sound über-tactical when used over the PD’s tactical radio channel. Tactical.
Task Force Liaison: AKA “Who?” or “That guy still works here?”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your tactical and street experience to build positive inroads through cooperative, interagency assignment targeted to specific high-risk criminal populations.
What the reality is: Immediately disappear from the face of the earth. No one knows where you go, what you do, or how you do it. You bill for overtime and that no one can corroborate and you refuse to explain in detail. You work from an undisclosed location you call the “off-site” and refuse to confirm anything about it, for “operational security reasons.” You work the phrase, “need-to-know” into the few and rare conversations you have with former colleagues, none of whom can be trusted with what you now know. You are convinced that you and your new friends are literally the CIA of the police force, only better.
School Resource Officer (SRO): AKA “Semi-Retired Officer.”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your tactical and street experience to build positive inroads into juvenile populations while primarily working Mon-Fri, 7am-3pm.
What the reality is: Paid by the PD, but mostly answers to the whims of the school district and their occasional insanity and perceived emergencies. Rolls in early enough to stop a couple speeders in the school zone, and disappears into their “office” for the rest of the morning. Pretends to like being called “Officer First-Name.” Hates enforcing “zero tolerance anything.” Knows just enough of the kid’s slang to sound cool to other adults and silly to the students. Loves the schedule and tolerates the kids.
Bicycle Patrol Officer: AKA “Jing-Jing” or “21 Jump Street.”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your tactical and street experience to build positive inroads into a variety of populations through increased accessibility and personal interactions with the public.
What the reality is: You get paid to “workout,” as long as that workout is defined as slowly pedaling from the specialty coffee shop to Dunkin Donuts. You talk about how effective tactical bike operations are at combating drug sales, but haven’t found a dope case in years. You pull over cars just to make drivers feel like an asshole. Weird tan lines. Overcompensates to emanate “command presence” while rocking a bike helmet and short shorts. Obsessed with equipment upgrades and silent hubs. Has enough lighting mounted on helmet and bike to be seen from space.
Rookie Patrol Cop: AKA “Boot,” or “F-N-G,” or “Bullet Sponge.”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your personal life experience to build positive inroads and serve and protect our community.
What the reality is: You’ve worked five different shifts this year. Can’t remember the last time you slept eight straight hours, but you’re too excited to care. See danger around every corner and can’t wait to walk into it. Can’t talk in a restaurant without your back to the wall and your eyes on the entrance. Knows where every closest exit is at all times and in all places. Mows the front lawn with a Glock hidden in your pants. Sees the tactical benefits of fanny packs. Buys said fanny pack and nods knowingly to other fanny-packers at the local gym. Loses all skin pigment from working in the dark.
Veteran Patrol Cop: AKA “Salty.”
What the marketing brochure says: There is no brochure. You threw that false advertising out years ago with your third wife. The only positive inroad that you see leads you home at night.
What the reality is: You’ve driven a squad car on dayshift for so long that your left forearm is the only tanned part of your body. You literally count the days until retirement, even if it’s still years away. You may have the actual, minimum number of remaining patrol shifts memorized. Any cop with less than ten years on is a “stupid rookie.” Most people are “assholes.” You only talk to three other veteran cops, begrudge every “stupid rookie,” and see malice in every administrative decision. The bosses are out to get you, and only you, often with complex, supervillain-esque conspiracies. Sometimes, you’re right. You attend trainings designed to passive-aggressively insult the admin, like “Ethics in Policing,” “Lawful Internal Affairs Investigations,” and “Effective Police Leadership.” You no longer work to pay your own bills, you’re working to pay all the alimony, divorce settlements, and child support necessary to keep your magical pension intact. You bleed Jack Daniels, Folgers, and Copenhagen. You fondly remember the good old days and deeply miss your first Chevy Caprice and your last Crown Vic.
Patrol Sergeant: AKA “Sarge” or “Sam Unit”
What the marketing brochure says: Use all your tactical and street experience to build positive inroads while managing, supervising, directly, and leading your patrol colleagues to protect and serve our community.
What the reality is: You are obsessed with “vicarious liability” and work the phrase “risk management” into every conversation. You eat Tums like breath mints and have an ulcer that’s taken over most of your stomach. Busy protecting “your guys” from admin, which you universally refer to as “The Ivory Tower.” You envy your academy classmates who went into investigations and don’t have to supervise a squad of knuckleheads and boots. Vicarious. Liability. You haven’t seen a “new” call or case in years, and you know decades of Supreme Court cases by memory. You often correct the on-call city attorney, who always seems to have graduated from law school in the last 30 days. You have attended multigenerational police leadership training every year and still don’t know how to motivate these damned kids coming on today. Vicarious. Liability. You miss how your first road sergeant swore a blue streak and left your scenes without ever officially coming on-scene. That guy knew how to do it.
I’ve got a few more to add, maybe another day in another post. You should check out my friend’s book, Ghost Order. This is a great series and I think it’s gonna be right up your alley!
Thanks for reading and letting me take a few minutes from my work on The Absolver: Vienna. That installment launches on 11-February and is now up on Amazon pre-order. Have a great weekend.
Be safe out there.