The Summer Update

July 10, 2008

I am completely amazed at how quickly the last six-odd months of my life have sped by.  Academy has become a rock-solid part of my life’s routine, which has had both good and bad effects.  On the good side, the constant exposure to law enforcment training has slowly transformed me from computer nerd/slacker into something resembling a police recruit.  On the bad side, some of Academy life has become a little too routine.  I’ve been guilty of neglecting to bring required equipment to class on an occasion or two, and have committed other slips of the mind which wouldn’t have happened had I been more focused on the task at hand.

The most exciting activity recently was an opportunity to volunteer for a local police department during their city’s July 4th celebrations.  I was able to stand around looking very official and help people with various things while disappointing others by informing them that X road was closed.  I directed traffic with the classic red-coned flashlight, and perhaps most exciting event of the evening was when I was able to put my voice over a live police radio for the first time ever.

This week was an especially important one in my town, as we observed the one-year anniversary of the city’s most recent line-of-duty police officer death.  The fallen officer had deep local roots and so his passing was felt very powerfully throughout the community.  My Academy squad walked down to the city’s headquarters and observed a long moment of silence infront of the memorial, after which we heard a lieutenant’s recounting of the tragic event.  Walking home I felt a deep sense of pride and responsibility, reaffirmed in my desire to live and work in a city where a good man once died to help others.


Acts of God

April 25, 2008

The last six weeks have been particularly intense. Balancing the Academy with the other aspects of life has been the main challenge. Between PT, the classroom, the firearms range, my job, my friends/family, the doctor (physical therapy on a knee injury), and whatever other scraps of time I have to spare on myself, life has been very busy lately. On the plus side, plenty of new stuff has been learned.

We’ve completed our firearms course, and have become very familiar with Glock 22s and somewhat familiar with Remington 870s and Smith & Wesson M&P 15s. Today we completed our main PT requirement by passing the state-regulated battery of tests for which failure would mean dismissal from the Academy. As far as police physical requirements, my state isn’t the easiest but it’s not the toughest either.

Moving into May the Academy schedule is a bit lighter, and I am quite happy to simply still be in it. Today I was literally one push-up away from being a very sad regular guy instead of being a police recruit. The fact that I was able to pass was partially due to two weeks of intensive preparation and primarily due to the intervention of the Most High.  The fact that I nearly didn’t was due to the annoying fact that I simply seem to have a weak upper body.


The Right to Ignorance Shall Not Be Infringed

March 12, 2008

I had a Statistics professor in Undergrad whose pet peeve was the website ratemyprofessor.com. He spent three whole lectures talking about how ridiculous the concept was. “I could have gone on there and left ALL the comments about me by myself, and nobody would know the difference!”, he’d say. I hope he never goes into Law Enforcement, because now we have ratemycop.com, which operates in about the same way. I’ll spare you all the usual “they have the right to say what they want, bla bla bla” disclaimer and go right into three reasons why something like ratemycom.com is just not a good idea.

1) The public in general has very little understanding about what police officers actually do, specifically about what good officers do. The media is to blame here. The actions of the nation’s best police largely go unreported, while news outlets strive to dig up any mistakes or corruption and spread it around like manure on a field. Thus, the public isn’t in any position to comment intelligently on whether or not a police officer is doing his or her job properly. Hence, it’s not a good idea to make a website that by its nature will only exacerbate the ignorance about police activities.

2) Since few people know what good police work really is, to include the makers of the website evidently, the rating system concocted by these guys is really lame. Authority, Fairness, and Satisfaction are the three rated categories for officers. I don’t even get what Authority is supposed to mean. Does a high rating indicate overbearing tyrannical power-hunger or does it mean self-assertion and being in control of tough situations? Does a low rating mean the same officer is a wimp, and isn’t that just as bad as the other end of the pendulum? Fairness is a strange idea when you’re dealing with drunk drivers, homicidal 5th graders, wife-beating crackheads, an ex-convicts. Satisfaction is the most ridiculous one of all. It’s basically saying that the only way to be a good police is to keep everybody “satisfied”. So don’t put that drunk driver or wife-beater or jail escapee in jail, because then your Satisfaction rating just took a huge nosedive.

3) The results of any of these “ratings” cannot be anything but entirely subjective and wholly misleading as to the actual conduct and ability of a police officer. The only people that are going to take time out of their lives to go on the Internet, look up police officers on some random website, and leave a comment are those who are really pissed off at them. Interestingly, that accounts for the majority of people with which the police come into contact. As has been said in the past, police see people at their “saddest, maddest, and baddest”. Not only that, but there’s no way of knowing just who is leaving the comments, how many they leave, and if they even know anything about who they leave them about. The whole thing is like putting jet fuel into the gas tank of the Ignorancemobile, and with what purpose?

Not to mention that it’s not a good idea to piss off an entire nation of Law Enforcement agencies, which is exactly what these einsteins have done with their little nickel thrown into the wishing-well of Free Speech.


No Word Bank This Time

March 6, 2008

graduation_hat3.jpgI read a cool article today on PoliceOne about Use of Force; it’s basically a 10-question, true or false quiz on the topic. I found myself involuntarily reading the questions and marking down answers. As a warning to Across-the-ponders, the test is written in the context of U.S. Law Enforcement which of course depends heavily on the Constitution. Thusly the test might not be quite as relevant to such as do not find themselves ruled by said venerable body of law. At any rate, I had fun with it, and you no doubt will do the same. Click here to take the test.

I got a 70%, which of course means I passed. One of my favorite quotes from Undergrad was “C’s get degrees”, and the fact is that truer words were never spoken. But I digress. The questions I miffed on were 1, 2, and 7. I won’t discuss the answers in this post so as not to give any unfair advantage to folks who should want to give the test a go for themselves.


Reflections

March 4, 2008

Two months down. A successful two months by any standard. My perspective on the world of Law Enforcement has changed considerably since the pre-Academy days, mostly because I have begun realizing what it must take to do the job well. The two best parts so far would have to be the physical training and my internship.

Physical training has taught me how to push myself to do things that both my body and mind don’t want to do. It’s also partially been about overcoming obstacles. I ran two miles without taping my foot this past Saturday, which to me was a big deal as I’ve been taping the thing since the beginning of the year. No problem there, so that’s one scare behind me. However, last Tuesday I came away from PT with a sharp pain on the side of my leg right by the knee – and it didn’t go away. Looks like it could be a muscle pull or even a tear. So the hurdles just keep coming.

I’m interning at the local Sheriff’s Department. Interning basically means doing lots of ride-alongs in addition to observing some of the other units doing their job. Ride-alongs are a special thing for me. I never find myself so intimidated as when I show up for a ride-along. Imagine a police recruit that nobody knows from Adam, and a police officer who is usually a 6-10 year veteran is going to be stuck with him in a squad car for the next 12 hours. I always feel at the start of a shift that I am quite out of place; intruding into a world where I haven’t yet earned the right to be, in some sense.

Ride-alongs in my area often involve long periods of inactivity. Some officers will fill this time with proactive stuff like lots of traffic stops and other what-not. Usually all will make mention at some point about how they’re sorry it was so slow and boring, and how it’s not usually that way, and so on. To me, traffic stops and even just patrolling an area is exciting. An officer will go on at length about some inter-departmental drama and how it’s affecting everybody, then they’ll feel bad about dumping on you. As someone wanting to eventually be in their place, I highly value that kind of interaction because it reinforces the lesson that the police are real people, not just a big collection of emotionless stoics.


Deer in the Headlights

February 19, 2008

The snow started to come down thick and heavy as the cruiser rolled to a slow stop. The officer noticed two figures shuffling in between the vehicles, realizing that they didn’t belong in the parking lot.

Baker 5, I’ll be out with two.

The officer and his partner approached them; a middle-aged woman and teenage boy, both looking guilty as sin. They stood sandwiched by parked cars of all description. He started asking the woman questions; her name, her address, her date of birth. Her answers were all rather dubious. Ma’am, are you SURE you were born in 1934? The boy was her son, she said. The car next to her was also hers, she said. She was in the parking lot waiting for a friend. The officer kept asking questions; soon he ran out of them. Meanwhile, the woman and the boy continued to meander in and out of the parked cars. “What else can I possibly ask her?” he wondered to himself as he followed the two around, occasionally glancing woefully at his partner who glanced just as woefully back at him. His notepad had become damp from the snow, and his ballpoint had ceased to function entirely.

Suddenly, a flash of inspiration came upon him. He retreated from the maze of vehicles, leaving his partner to hold down the fort while he took care of business with the dispatcher.

Baker 5, file-check! First of, uh, rather last of Juju, that’s um, J-Juliette… ah…

He finally got through the file check, but the airwaves offered no help. He tried again with the license plate of the car claimed by the woman and again was met with silence. Jumping back into the fray, the officer prodded the woman for information about the car. She circled around the vehicle in question, reading bumper-stickers in an attempt to sound knowledgeable about the thing. A light-bulb went on in the officer’s head. I bet it’s not her car! Ask for her keys! He did so. The car was dead, she told him. Emboldened by her unwillingness, the officer decided it was time to act. He was too late.

The woman casually strolled towards the cruiser. Following her, the officer yelled, “Hey, you can’t go in there, ma’am!” Undaunted, the woman hopped in the driver’s seat and began rolling toward the now-helpless officer.

Baker 5, um, I need backup to my location! 10-39!

And so the recruit’s first scenario came to a close.


Becoming a Poh-leece

February 16, 2008

cops_logo.jpgTonight I sat down for the traditional hour of COPS on Fox. Even though the show adheres to a strict pattern and is heavily edited, I still really enjoy watching. As I learn more and more about the profession, I notice more and more things about what I see on the show that I didn’t before. For example, I just learned this past week what it means to double-lock handcuffs; tonight I saw it happen for the first time on TV, even though I previously had watched handcuffs being double-locked on the show a dozen times or more.

It’s a lot like percussion. As a drummer, I notice so much more about music that I listen to than I ever thought possible. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a drummer is a curse because I can no longer just listen to music and enjoy it (unless it’s the Beatles). I hear the drums. That’s all. I interpret the music from the perspective of a percussionist, no longer just a listener.

This phenomenon is beginning to happen to me with law enforcement. As I watch COPS, I now see the officer taking notes on his hand because he forgot his notebook that night. I see the slight tremor in an officer’s hands as he attempts to double-lock handcuffs after a fight with a suspect. I wonder to myself why the nameplate is attached to the pocket flap rather than just over it. The little details that are lost on the average observer are beginning to stand out.

These days when I listen to a song, especially if it’s funk or jazz, I think about what I would play if I were the one with the sticks in my hand. I listen to the groove, the breaks, the fills, the accents, and make a note to try them out myself later on. Similarly, these days instead of watching COPS for entertainment, I think of every segment as a training video. It’s a bit of a bummer because I can remember watching the show and just wanting to drive fast with the lights on.