By Charles Bausman
Updated April 26, 2017: This article was originally published Dec 1, 2016. We’ve continued to receive feedback from the Law Enforcement community, and have updated the responses to reflect their answers and thoughts.
The feedback we receive from MTI’s questions and surveys is always well thought out and candid. However, the quantity and quality of the responses from law enforcement regarding our question, “How Has Being a Cop Changed You?” was incredible. Many thanks go out to those officers who participated.
Here is what we learned about the effects of the law enforcement profession on individual officer’s lives.
- Police like being Police – Overwhelmingly, LE enjoy their line of work. 95% answered “Yes” or “Mostly Yes” to the question of “do you enjoy your work?”
- The game has changed – Many of the officers stated that the influx of social media, negative media coverage and declining community support has created an environment which constricts their abilities to conduct police work and encourages micromanagement from leadership (LE and local government). Multiple responses from seasoned veterans stated that the current public attitude towards the police is the worst they have ever experienced.
- Work/Life balance is a challenge – Marital problems, alcohol, and financial difficulties are common. The day to day stress is often brought home which can put significant strain on marriages and families. Many officers attributed issues with their significant other to the challenges associated with the profession. Low pay can cause additional hardships for the family, especially in single income homes.
- Most have thought about switching careers, but few do – Roughly half of the respondents stated they had considered getting out of law enforcement, but none reported they actually had. Reasons for why they stay varied from a desire to continue to put away criminals, a feeling of responsibility towards their fellow officers, and basic financial reasons.
- You need a hobby to decompress – Nearly all of the officers stated that an important part of their ability to decompress from the job was based in a hobby or activity. This included training in the gym, martial arts, hunting, reading, and spending time with the family.
- Expect to get hurt and expect to change how you see people – All officers reported getting banged up on the job. From cuts/bruises in altercations during arrests to broken bones and torn ligaments, the physical nature of the job is without question. Nearly all officers also reported they see people, on and off work, in a different light. They are more suspicious, less quick to trust, and constantly on watch.
Below are some of the responses we have received thus far. The feedback has been tremendous, and we’d like to keep the discussion going. Hopefully, this will bring some awareness to the challenges and benefits of being a law enforcement officer.
Q3: How has your view of the profession changed since your first day on the job?
I definitely felt I would be able to have an impact on bigger issues as a patrolman. I still believe in the “broken window theory” and that the handling of even small legitimate complaints are important to the community. But dealing with “her leaves blew on my grass” complaints can get weary on any Officer.
When I started I believed the organizational message that they (the police service) had our backs. I no longer believe this and have very little faith in upper police management. I still believe that the silent majority of people appreciate what we do and I come to work for them.
I’ve noticed a need for change in the profession. Many officers still aren’t humble enough, and think that having a badge will always protect them from disaster. Leaving many not willing to train more often to adapt to the ever changing field.
Absolutely. I was in love with the allure of the job. Like the show 3rd Watch or SouthLAnd. I picked my first gun I was issued off of Bosco’s character on 3rd watch. The allure and fantasy of catching bad guys and being rewarded for doing so, will not happen. And if it does, it’s incredibly rare. This job is more social work than anything. We are welfare case workers with guns today. I’ve been a narcotics and vice detective for some time, and even with all those warrants served and putting away criminals, I’ve spent a large portion of my career listening to people’s bullshit.
I used to think it would be great if one or more of my children followed in my footsteps in the military and law enforcement. I now sincerely hope my children do not become police officers.
I think its much harder now, because of lack of respect for law enforcement by the public. I was more naive then, and believed that my agency would back me up when I made good-faith mistakes. I don’t believe that anymore.
My overall opinion of the profession has declined. I love the line level guys and gals that I actually work with, but I’m disgusted by the internal politics of my department and the ruthless, destructive self interest of many people in positions of power.
Yes. I think I have a greater appreciation for the advantages I’ve had in my life. I also think that most criminals are victims of crime (domestic excuse their actions) rather than intrinsically bad people.
My view has changed dramatically as I have been apart of the massive and speedy technological boom. When I first started we had flip phones, which took horrible photographs and videos and in 11 years you now have almost the ability to take professional photographs/video. I have watched people become incredibly embolden in the last few years as they taunt law enforcement while video taping in an attempt to induce a use-of-force. This profession has gone from being incredibly respected, which was seen in earlier Television and movies, to disrespected and discredited when every movie and television show depicts police as walking some gray line and conducting illegal and immoral actions
It’s changed quite a bit although I still love it, constantly being thrown under the bus via media gets frustrating and is taxing. It translates on the streets when you hear POS talk shit to you while your on unrelated calls or simply doing extra patrols in bad neighborhoods. Also watching brothers and sisters murdered almost daily makes me rethink my decisions of joining the force but I have the mentality of if not me, then who which helps me stay positive daily.
I feel like we are still out doing our job and we do it very well. It is more difficult in today’s profession to see the good when you have so much bad hovering over you. This is a thankless profession and I have known that from the start. But the amount of disrespect and ignorance from today’s society compared to when I first started is absolutely ridiculous. So that weighs on you and it’s hard to try and constantly brush that aside regardless of how hard you try. The profession is the same, we just deal with a lot more negativity and hate.
I used to think most people respected police as I did growing up. I have seen a growth of disregard for police officers as a profession and a disregard for our lives. I have always viewed the profession as a means to serve the community and protect them from the evils of the world, however there has become an increasing need to protect ourselves and our fellow officers. We used to be a trusted profession and now we are slaughtered in the media and social media when we take action and when we don’t. I used to think of us cops as normal people who are trying to help and make a difference and now I feel like we are a sinking ship trying to help everyone else before we are lost.
Social change in our country has brought about a different attitude and view about the job. As you stated in the article, violence towards police is concerning to say the least. Many officers now are constantly in a state awareness and it stresses many parts of our lives, from work to family.
I’ve come to realize the world most people see doesn’t really exist. The big house with the fancy car is lived in by a guy beating his wife. The boy scout leader is downloading child porn. The PTA president has 3 DWIs… etc etc etc. It’s all a show. We get called to look behind the curtain and it sucks.
I was unaware of the true psychological cost of the job and how the profession refuses to deal with it. Also the profession as a whole is becoming less professional as staff increases micro managing and restrictive policies in an attempt to counter poor hiring, training and supervision.
Ha. My own? From something to be proud if to something I rarely talk about.
Q4: Have you ever thought about quitting? If so, why? Ultimately, why did you decide to continue?
Yes, mainly because I am a family man and this job takes me away from my family on most holidays and weekends.
I did when I was on a small department in a rich city. I felt worthless and not needed. The brass was all about micromanagement. I continued when I finally got on a big department where I was a number. I really enjoy the violent crime and responding to and assisting real victims. I really enjoy putting violent criminals behind bars. I had a run where I put someone who just stabbed someone else to death in handcuffs and put them in jail. Very rewarding me in helping the decedent’s family.
Yes, often. Contract arbitration with the Town, no raises in 5 years, and the attempt to destroy our current Health Insurance are catalysts for thoughts of going elsewhere. In addition, new hiring appears to mostly be focused on meeting quotas in minority hiring as opposed to putting race and sex aside and simply hiring the best qualified applicants. I continued to stay on because I firmly believe in the necessity for a Police. Competent, Respectful, and Responsible Police. With that being said, I am actively pursuing other careers.
Yes, a few times, but never seriously. I have transferred a couple of times, due to toxic leadership. I thought about quitting after a couple of horrific events involving innocent civilians, but I never did.
No. If I enjoy my job this much, I can only imagine how great it would be if the city hired enough officers and started prosecuting cases.
Of course I have thought about it. There is nothing enjoyable about going to work and having shit talked to you for nearly 12 hours. I work in the murder capital of FL and in the most violent and poor community of that city. It never feels like you are making much of a true difference because no matter how many we arrest someone just fills the spot of that drug dealer or shooter. It’s easy to lose interest and motivation to care about a part of society that doesn’t much care for its self in a large way. I have stayed because I try not to let that part determine my future. It is not something that should be given up on and I know I am good at my job and enjoy what I do.
Yes. Dealing with the never ending pile of shit heads, calls in the middle of the night to go to a death scene, or knocking on a door to tell a mother their teenager just died in a car crash. I don’t know what I’d do. I could never go to a desk job or work retail.
Not really. What else would I do? You can’t switch it off, you know? If I left it’s not like the bad guys would just disappear; it would just mean that I wouldn’t be in a position to fight back against them anymore. Watchdogs don’t make good sheep, and vice versa, as much as I hate that analogy.
I have thought about quitting. I have had several friends here in Southern California killed in the line of duty, by gun fire, in these 11 years that I have been a police officer. However it was never the danger that made me want to quit, it the absolute lack of care by our politicians and media. Despite this lack of support I can honestly say that the community was nothing shy of supportive and reminded me of when I returned from Afghanistan. The saddening fact however, is that it took some of my brothers and a sister to get shot down to receive that support. I opted to continue because it was obvious that the larger percentage were citizens who do appreciate what I do and do come out to show support when we take those hard hits. Plus, since becoming an adult I have not had a job without a gun and would not know how or what else to do.
Not really. It’s cliché but if we’re not here to do it, who will? We soldier on because that’s what we do. I’m still energized by the good deeds cops do every day (albeit unnoticed by the media) and most of the positive feedback we receive individually. I have heard some of our cops complain about how the cops are being bullied. While on calls/out in public, people feel like they can walk up to the cops and begin verbally harassing them. They shove cameras in the cops’ faces and taunt them hoping the cop will respond in some negative fashion. While the cops are tough, this aspect of the job can wear on us. Day in, day out.
We all have days on our job where we want to quit. After seeing brutal beatings and death I have thought about quitting. The reason I keep going is because innocent people need help and LEO’s can be that defense.
I have thought about changing professions, but I always come back to the old saying, “if not me then who?” I do a job most people are unwilling or unable to do. There are fewer people applying to fill vacancies and most departments are running short on manning. I know that when that call comes in and everything is going wrong, I want to be the first one through the door to help stop the violence and try to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Because if I do nothing, then I have failed.
Q5: What is the best part of the job, and the worst part of the job?
Seeing the smile on childrens faces when they get a high five and a photo with the Boys in Blue. when parents actively teach their kids to hate the Boys in Blue.
Best: The other Officer’s you work with and the bonds you create with them. Also, being able to see a case to completion, catching the bad guy, and helping to find some justice to the victim (simply put). Worst: Civilian complaints that are based on asinine accusations. (these are generally cleared up with our body mics and cameras and, more often than not, the Officer is found innocent of any wrongdoing professionally and personally) These unfounded complaints can sometimes spread like cancer through a community and embarrass the Officer and the department.
Best part is giving my hard earned knowledge to young, inpresssionable officers that are eager to learn. I love teaching them. Worst? The internal politics. I wasn’t ready for that. I’m not a suck ass. I work hard and am good police. That no longer matters unless the rounds are flying. Then and only then, do they want the real gunfighters to come out. After it’s over, it’s like “go back under the rock you”.
Truly getting to help people is awesome. Going home knowing you made a difference in someone’s life is a wonderful feeling. Constantly getting let down by the court system and dealing with the same people over and over is probably the worst part.
Best part- the guys I work beside, love them to death Worst part- seeing the absolute worst in people. Murderers, thieves, child molesters, etc. And knowing that there’s a lawyer willing to get them cleared of their evil actions.
Best part of my job know is getting to impact new police recruits and help mold them into fully function patrol officers. The worst part is seeing how our profession continues to be attacked in the media and how upper command across the nation folds to groups like BLM and does not take stand for the patrol officer.
The best part of my job is that I do not have to set behind a desk all day and like I mentioned above, I enjoy helping others. Worst part of the job is that we as LE’s are constantly being judged on our split second decisions by people who have no idea what they would do in the same situation.
Knowing that I helped just one person change their life for the better. It’s a thankless job. Even after the day is done I can’t help but think that I did my best to help everyone and it probably didn’t make a difference.
Locking up really bad people. The kind the general public doesnt know or want to know exist
Best- THEM, the other men and women on the job in law enforcement. Worst- The politics
Q6: What has been your most dangerous on the job mistake? How did you learn from it, and what have you changed?
Failure to completely search a kitchen during a search warrant. After skinny bad guy was found wedged in-between fridge and wall.. Luckily guy did not have a gun and bad intentions. Attention to detail over the smallest perceived things.
Six months in i trusted my patrol partner to have my back – a trust that was absolute in my military unit just months before – in a 4 v’s 2 street stop. when things got heatdirealised he was no longer there with me and my green monster had to come out to save me. It wasn’t pretty, but i went home that night swearing to never trust another LEO unless I HAVE DECIDED they have earned thet trust. I the 168 members of my team there are any 25 I could trust when things get bad.
I had a guy reach for a gun under his seat on a traffic stop while I was speaking with him. I said thirtieth street instead of ‘three – zero’. Everyone thought I was at 38th street. I try to be super critical of how I talk on the radio.
While my partner and I were serving an arrest warrant for a check fraud case, the suspect pulled a shotgun on us. We failed to properly look into the suspect’s prior history to find he was a gangster with prior weapons arrests. We would have approached the situation differently had we found that information before simply showing up at his house for what we thought was a paper/white collar crime. We let our guard down. We were lucky we weren’t killed, but we can’t confuse good luck with good tactics.
As a new Border Patrol agent, in one six week rotation on Mids, I had two people try to stab me, one tried to bean me with a nine-ball in a sock, one guy in a fight tried to pull my pistol out of my snapped holster as we rolled around on the ground. I self-analyzed those situations, and realized that my “shit-magnet” mentality was the common denominator, and took steps to work smarter and safer while still producing the same results.
I had a fight with an individual with a gun who voiced his intent to kill me and my partner. I successfully took him into custody but in doing so I employed a level of violent strikes I was uncomfortable with in terms of being able to control him on the ground. I learned I needed a better ground control technique. So I implemented Gracie Survival Tactics in my departments DT program.
Allowing a fellow officer to talk me out of a justified use of force that led to a foot pursuit and injured suspect and me almost being hit by a car. My coworker was concerned about the amount of paperwork associated with a taser deployment so he pleaded with me not to tase a combative subject armed with a “spear”. I listened to him because of his “experience” and wound up chasing the subject through a crowded city, putting myself and others at risk. The situation could have been avoided by doing what I know was right by policy and law.
In my first few months of solo patrol I ended up searching a house for a wanted felon with a couple other new guys. We were proud of ourselves for getting consent to enter the house from the lying girlfriend, since we knew the suspect was inside. We hadn’t done our homework on the suspect and weren’t aware of his history of weapons offenses. As we approached the last few rooms upstairs, we all sort of hesitated and looked at each other – something felt off. We kept going and heard some movement behind a door. We backed off and made more announcements, then he suspect and another male surrendered. There was a loaded rifle in the room where they were. The second guy in the room said the suspect was planning to shoot us as we entered the room, but the second guy decided he didn’t want to be involved in that, so he wrestled the rifle away from the suspect and convinced the suspect to give up. I learned: slow down, do a good threat assessment on your targets, when in doubt call for more resources, and put “paws before boots” (especially now that I’m partnered with a malinois, he’s good at hide and seek). I’m more deliberate now, particularly on entries, and think more about everyone going home safe rather than booting doors and running around chasing excitement.
Letting adrenaline get the best of me and suffering from tunnel vision in high stress situations. I combat it everyday by making myself focus and be aware during my hard workouts.
Never underestimate the little guy, and never think an arrest is going to be easy just because the dude seems like a pushover. The hardest fight if my life was with a tiny tweaker who was literally half my size. That guy fought like a UFC fighter and we were nearly ran over by a car. The fight began maybe thirty yards away from any road for reference. Now, I never underestimate anybody. I almost died because of that mistake.
I nearly pulled the trigger on a wanted criminal after he rushed me with a shiny key in his hand, holding it like it was a knife, after screaming at him multiple times to stop and drop it, luckily I was able to process what the item was before squeezing and making that horrible mistake which has helped me rethink and evaluate my uses of force before deploying weapons.
Dealing with aggressive females. Not using the correct level of force because of how I was brought up. They can be vicious. I adopted the mantra if you act like a man then you will get treated like a man.
When dressing and gearing up for a patrol shift one day I was almost ready to go and my daughter came in as I was retrieving my handgun. She distracted me for a moment and I holstered my weapon without charging the round into the chamber. I went to work and worked the entire shift, thankfully without having to draw my weapon. That night when I returned home and removed my weapon I went to clear it and only then learned that there had not been a round in the chamber all day. That was one of the most horrible feelings followed by gratitude for not been forced into a terrible/life changing situation that day. From that day on I always gear up and charge my weapon alone, free from distractions. And furthermore, anytime I know I am going into a house on a warrant I do a secondary press check. Yeah some of the guys laugh that I should already have one in the chamber, but I don’t ever want to hear the click of an empty weapon when my life or the life of someone else depends on it.
Not being aggressive enough fast enough. I learned to pay attention to my internal sense of danger. I now pay more attention to body language and study psychology more.
I can’t pinpoint one specifically but “immediate physical response” to certain situations needs to be ingrained right out of the gate. Making the transition from split second decision making to physical action is not easy and sometimes that “failure to act” even with slight delay can have bad consequences. Being goverend by so many laws and constantly having your actions scrutinized is the antithesis of what I describe above.
Tombstone courage. Thinking im bad enough to superman through anything. With age comes wisdom and I always have a backup and talk people into the cuffs.
Q7: How has your personal life changed since your first day on the job?
I’ve been married only three months longer than I’ve been a cop, so my wife knew what she was getting into. She is a strong supporter of mine and that support helps me a great deal. I have lost some friends, mainly due to differing opinions on how “the police” handled a situation, but I also make it a point to have some friends outside the job for perspective.
Accusations about you are made when people discover you are a Police Officer. People will often act “not themselves” or assume you have never done a bad thing. I have definitely become more aware of scams and more leary of trusting people in general.
I have less friends, less time with family, and less holiday and family get together memories. At times it is a lonely career.
My life is stable now, due in large part to my wonderful and understanding wife. I was pretty crazy for those first few years, and after the Border Patrol when I started working narcotics, forget it, I was never home. Now I am slower and more controlled. I work towards the end goal of maximum indictments instead of the day to day rush. I guess, long story short, I was out on the fringes for a few years, self destructive, but now I’m back and more effective than ever as far as convictions.
17 year marriage ended.
I am much less affected by “bad” things that happen. For example, a friend of my wife ended her relationship and I essentially said as long as no one is hurt or in jail it’s not that bad. I had a harm time reconciling that a non violent relationship ending could still be tragic and I sometimes have to remind myself that my circumstances are different from most people.
I was always a fitness nut, I weighed and measured my meals, drank exactly a gallon of water a day, and only drank maybe one day in the weekends. Slowly but surely that started to change. I started getting older, I started having kids, got promotions to more demanding duties, then suddenly I’m not sleeping but 3-4 hours a night, I’m eating like crap, working out seldomly, drinking energy drinks instead of water to stay awake during the day, and drinking alcohol almost every night to forget about the day. Before I knew it id put on twenty pounds, all my joints hurt, and I’m feeling the first signs of depression. I’m only just now starting to try to turn this stuff around.
It’s extremely difficult to turn the job off when you’re not working. It’s difficult to try and enjoy a night out with your significant other when you’re constantly scanning for threats and potential troubles. I stay so hyper vigilant that it’s hard to deal with social gatherings unless it’s with other cops at a safe location like one of our residences.
I went through a divorce after about 3 years. My circle of friends is now smaller and I’m much more guarded when meeting people. Dating is hard.
I have gotten married and had two children. I have always put the up most importance on my family and friends making sure this job never comes between us. I have seen plenty of officers make that mistake. I think like most officers I do not like to be in large crowds off duty and find it hard to trust people.
Q8: What do you do to decompress from the job (recreational activities, hobbies, counseling)?
I read and do woodworking as solitary activities to decompress. I also hike and fish, which gets me out into nature and reminds me not everyone is a turd.
Running, lifting, BJJ, any type of physical activity. Believe it or not learning line dances on-line, x-box, Amazon video, serving in Church.
In the old days it was too much alcohol at night after too much caffeine during work. A strong sex drive was great for decompressing. Now I hike a lot, play at playing a guitar (very relaxing), not so much sex (too bad). At the end of my career, I’ve started writing my memoirs, and found that organizing my thoughts on paper tends to put them to rest in my brain, so my unresolved thoughts don’t wake me up as much as they used to (a good thing).
Exercise, and spending time with the family. I never turn “it” off, but I’m not allowed to bring work home either. Having a family that is understanding and supportive of the change from work to family helps.
Adult coloring, meditation, quality time with my kids, read, workout, first responder support group and walk with significant other.
MTI workouts! Spending time with family and friends, enjoying those moments.
I have three saving graces in my life that have helped me overcome and or deal with a lot of the negative issues I deal with the job, my faith, my family and fitness. My faith is a key factor in why I became a cop in the first place as it was in joining the military years ago. It is my one constant that I can always fall back on. My family is my life. Coming home to my family is what drives me everyday to be safe, think smart and fight like hell if it comes to that. I have a “cute pink and white colored bracelet” that my 6 year old daughter put on my wrist before work one day. As she did so she told me, “this is so you will remember me when you are at work and come home to us.” I am 6’1″ 220 and on the SWAT team, Needless to say I get plenty of questions about my “cute pink bracelet.” But it helps me decompress even when I am on the job knowing I have my family safe at home. I also have a fantastic wife who knows when I need to talk things out and when “daddy just needs a few minutes of quiet time.” My main form of true decompression has become fitness training. I am not talking about going to the gym and getting a little pump on like too many I see at the local gyms. I mean going in and working so hard you sweat the demons out. Giving everything you have has a great cleansing effect on my frustrations, fears, doubts and anger and soul. It also gives me a sense of purpose each day that I can measure in small increments. I would like to work harder at making time for my previous love of climbing and get outdoors more.
Martial arts, fishing, hunting, archery, hiking.
I am very fortunate in this area. I love to bow hunt and train BJJ. I love to be outside. Taking trips to the mountains to hunt/fish/mnt bike/camp have been staple of my live sense my teens and I make sure do to all these things on regular basis. I see guys that don’t have something outside the department get bogged down and become very cynical .
Q9: Does the public perception of police positively or negatively affect you? How?
Negatively. On a traffic stop you get sometimes 5 – 10 different people showing up or neighbors coming out of the house and everyone is video taping or yelling f the police or what not. I think it has gone down a little bit. The jury trials are getting crazy. An officer sees a guy throw drugs on the ground and the jury doesn’t buy he had possession because the officer didn’t say he actually could see the drugs in his closed fist at the time, but somehow reappear on the ground after a half mile foot pursuit from bailing on a traffic stop.
The negative perception is very discouraging, I got into this field to help people, yet the people I confront do not want to change. The media sees us as an obstacle or hinderance in life, and has no problem killing us off. It really can make one question why to keep moving forward.
Negatively. Despite knowing that the vast majority of the public still support us, its the vocal negative perception that gets the most publicity. It causes me to feel I have to walk on eggshells, even around people who know me well and are family or friends.
No not really, i try to leave the job part of my life on the Station steps on the way home.
It upsets me, because the people arm chair quarterbacking us have no clue about what we do or how dangerous our job is.
No. Society is always in a state of flux, evolving. But at the end of the day if there were not a majority behind me, there is no way I could do my job. It is more the media, opportunistic politicians and so-called “activists” that are making the loudest noise. But some critiques of law enforcement are warranted and it is my responsibility to address these concerns and give realistic explanations for why we operate the way we do.
Negatively. People dislike police in general. Not having a larger percent of the publics support is tough.
A little bit. It’s exhausting seeing negative press everywhere, particularly since so much of it doesn’t seem to tell the whole story, but I’m fortunate to live and work in a pretty nice and supportive community where I get plenty of “thank you”s along side the “fuck you”s.
Half and half. I understand some of it due to media hype and a lack of education concerning police and police tactics, but we are our own worse enemy because we are secretive by nature and do not help to educate the public.
It was negative for awhile, but the public support after losing an officer who is a friend of mine has solidified my faith in the “good” ones who support our work and have our backs.
When I first started I felt very conscious of public perception. Now after seeing one negative report after another no matter what I no longer care about what public perception is and I just go and do the best and most professional job I can.
I think it’s more negative at this point and time. It gets so old seeing “white police officer shoots unarmed black man” but in the same breath they will talk about how a black man shot a white officer but don’t put in context that race was an issue. It’s a low time for law enforcement and I’m not entirely sure when we will start building back up. I never thought after almost 10 years on the job I would want to do something else. I thought I would love this job forever.
I think it can have an effect for both sides of the line. I feel the frustration and added strain with the shootings and the protests amped up by social media and media coverage. But I also feel a great sense of pride and support when you attend a funeral and see the thousands of people lining the streets to support and honor the fallen. I think overall our country still has respect and appreciation for the Law Enforcement community. I think unfortunately it is the much louder but also much smaller group of people who are the protesting and rioting group who mean to do us harm.
When Ferguson/Baltimore happened, I felt like crap. Not because I felt the police were wrong. They were both justified. The growing hatred of police is what bothered me. However, after a few months, I realized how much bullshit was out there and noticed the public began to realize it too. After that, I don’t give a damn what those idiots think.
It negatively affects me. My wife had had casual friendships strain and cease because of what I do, coupled with media bias and public perception bias. I don’t allow my kids to talk about what I do for a living. We don’t advertise it in any capacity. I don’t want someone taking their issues out on my loved ones.
I’m old enough to remember the 70’s when violence against the police was so much higher than it is now. I believe most people still respect the police however the respect of people in authority in general has certainly gone down.
Q10: Have you experienced financial difficulties, drinking problems, drugs problems, or problems with your significant other due to the job?
I once had a woman I had a history with tell me she could not be with me because I was a Police Officer and she would not want to be at home worrying about whether or not I would come back to the house. I thought she was being dramatic but have found other Officers deal with problems about just not being at home in general. Being forced to work doubles or getting held over for investigations makes a 40 hour workweek unlikely.
Fortunately I found faith in a religion which keeps me balanced. Without it I’d be doomed in this profession.
No, I’ve been really lucky. I make sure to talk about what’s going on and don’t hide anything from my husband. I also don’t drink or use medications, and make sure to budget and live below my means.
Problems with my significant other. Working nights has definitely put a strain on our relationship and has caused her to feel under appreciated and coming in 2nd place to the job. Currently going to couples counseling and it seems to be working.
I don’t drink, my finances are decent, a big no to the drugs, but a yes to the significant other.
I’ve been a borderline alcoholic off and on throughout my career. Nowadays its generally not an issue, but I have to work hard for it to not be an issue. No problems at all with finances or drugs. I thank God everyday that my wife has put up with my shit all of these years. Most women would have left me years ago. I couldn’t live with someone like me; I’m amazed that she does.
I think my job has a fair bit to do with my inability to hold down a relationship- I started this job when I was 21 and immediately dealt with too many other people’s relationships as they were falling apart. When the cops get called to that stuff it’s obviously bad, so I saw a lot of people just destroying each other’s lives. If I were to venture a psychobable guess, I’d say I’m probably very afraid to give anyone that sort of power/influence over me/my life/my happiness.
One divorce. One foreclosure. Both serious learning points in my life. Alcohol was also a problem at the beginning of my career when I was bulletproof so to speak. Learned this was a bad road and got off.
Yes. My wife has been a saint in all this. I went through some anger management issues when I was assigned to one of our more demanding units. She begged MRI bare a counselor, which I begrudgingly did. It helped me not to take my anger out on her for sure. I did go through a span where I was drinking to help cope with it all. I’m trying to nip that in the bud now. So many other issues come about when you’re self medicating.
I have not. I am able to combat stress through fitness. I rarely drink and I rarely even take aspirin for headaches. I think it’s all in how you manage your stress and find other ways to deal with it. I have a very supportive wife who understands the job and that helps tremendously to be able to vent to her and know she is listening.
I don’t know of a single police officer in my state who doesn’t have financial difficulties. We just don’t make much money for the amount of time we work and the tasks that are required of us. We then work more hours which can and do cause problems in the home with spouses.
Financial difficulties in the beginning of my career. I’m currently very lucky to work for an agency that pays very well. I work off-duty because I have financial goals I want to achieve not because I need the money to survive.
When I first started working Homicide I deliberately removed alcohol from the house as I’d seen many people go down that road. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced any of these issues.
Q11: What is the greatest challenge you have experienced in your professional and/or personal life? How are you overcoming it?
An overwhelming sense of settling and accepting the monotony of day to day life. I always keep my guard up and have my situational awareness on the job but desire more variety more often. I am dealing with it by trying to appreciate the things I have more than the perceived one that I do not.
Being a female officer. Sounds silly and trite, but it is harder being female because you have to go above and beyond to prove you can handle the job, then keep doing that every, single, time. I just do the best I can and what I would expect my partners to do. And I try not to take it personally.
I work in a smaller police department, under 50 sworn officers. Because of this, we have many hats to wear. I am assigned as a Detective Sgt, recently was moved up to SWAT Team Leader of our Regionalized SWAT team which is made up from three area agencies. I’m also the head Range Master. I have felt increased pressure from these responsibilities. I feel I can’t say no to the assignments, they are important. I try and delegate tasks as much as I can, but ultimately I’m responsible for them, so it’s still tough.
My wife experienced multiple deployments while I was in the Army. Now I come home late, work weekends, and holidays. I have to work very hard to balance my personal and professional life. I make sure to take the extra days when I need them, and go out of my way to show my wife she is loved and appreciated.
It sounds repetitive, but lousy selfish supervisors and co-workers is my biggest challenge. I prepared myself for the mental, emotional and physical side of being a Cop but didn’t prepare for the strife from within the organization. I vent to other like minded Cops and family, and blow off steam in other ways.
The greatest challenge professionally is changing the culture and attitude towards physical fitness and defensive tactics both with law enforcement and the community. We do not deal with reality very well. Fights are nasty, compliance is necessary. I am overcoming it by training and instituting training programs for officers with the help of my command staff. I also talk to my community as much as I can and try and explain our actions and destroy the “tv” mentality.
I’ve described it a bit earlier, but I guess overall it is staying focused on the mission and what I can control. There’s a lot of bullshit in the world and in the work place, and some of it tempts you to take it personally. I’m trying to focus on the process – doing my best work, making my best efforts at work and at home, but not being too invested in outcomes that I can’t control.
Having served in Afghanistan while in the US Army and now a police officer I can safely say being a police officer is significantly worse in terms of stress. In the Army I NEVER worried about one of my brothers turning on me. However here in America instead of fighting a foreign terrorist group I am literally fighting against my own countrymen. I try to overcome it by reminding myself that there are people in this country (and this world) who simply cannot or will not defend themselves and it is my responsibility to do so, even if it is against my own countrymen.
This current crises seems to be the most difficult. I was around for Rodney King times and this is, by far, worse than that. At that time people were more confrontational but it didn’t seem like they attacked us as much as now. Plus, the negative media perspective has created the misperception that cops are some horrible entity requiring a complete overhaul. I have overcome it by reading, researching, and educating myself on the facts of police/community encounters. When the opportunities arise to share that info, I do. I find that writing these things down helps me organize my thoughts and understand the issues better.
My greatest challenge has been to learn how to cope with anger outbursts at home. I never had any anger outbursts and was always very even keel. They have started since I became a cop and particularly more so since dealing with child sex offense cases. Unfortunately there is no reset button to un-see the images and videos we deal with. For me, I had to recognize that it was happening and now I can usually feel it coming on and try to deal with a situation differently. I notice a substantial difference if I haven’t worked out for a few days. Working out seems to be a major form of therapy for me.
The requirement to be right, every time, every day. The 24 hour news cycle is one mistake away. I put relentless focus into doing my work to the best of my ability.
I don’t think there is one thing I would single out. I’ve been a Marine, I’ve been to college, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’ve been a cop and a detective. Each has come with its own unique challenges. For me, I get in the gym. It keeps me sane and helps me keep things in perspective.
Knowing that the end of the career is around the corner.. and then what? As your article stated, we’re not appreciated as much as we once were.. Taking it day by day…
Q12: Have you ever been injured on the job? How?
I’ve injured almost every part of my body, and had some Psych issues. Injury pain can be managed. Brain Pain is a lot tougher to fix.
Torn hamstring. Pulling a 600lb dead woman on a tarp to the Medical Examiner’s van.
Yes. Kicked in the face by a drunk girl. She was fighting with other officers in an ambulance and they had control of everything except the legs. I stepped in to help, her legs got away from me, and boom.
I tore my shoulder and lat catching a wanted subject who tried to commit suicide by jumping out a window. It then turned into a fight with family members. Good times. It required surgery and I was down for 4 months.
Yes… plenty of scrapes and bruises from fighting resistive arrestees, a few accidental live bites during K9 training, but no glamorous stories. The only time I’ve been on light duty was a bad ankle sprain sustained during a foot chase, but only because I tripped.
Fortunately, no. Fights, chases, and pursuits and no injuries. Maybe fitness has something to do with that, or just luck.
Tore my right pec grappling with a dude during an arrest. Torn patellar tendon, strained ACL, torn rotator cuff. Cuts bruises etc
I’ve been injured a number of times. It been everywhere from hypothermia from jumping into a river in the winter to save people, to running into burning buildings to car crashes but the most have come from fighting with resistant suspects.
I have had my share of bumps and bruises. It comes with the territory but my focus on physical fitness has kept me from any injuries/surgeries etc.
Q13: What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time to your first day on the job?
Work hard, support your colleagues, don’t try and cut corners.
spend more time on mobility and joint health. Limit the powerlifting. Take time to enjoy where you are at not always charging forward.
Think about other options, this career is amazing but realize the sacrifice you will have to make in your personal life. If your a family man or woman pursue something else. At the end of the day the most important thing is your family and the ones you love.
Stay in the Army!
Don’t settle for the easy route, try and expand by going to work for more progressive dept.
Stay in shape, eat healthy and work on finishing a degree. Good police work is a young in shape, aggressive and motivated officer.
Slow down. Think things through. Try not to arrest people in their own kitchens. Try to indict and get a warrant, instead of arresting on probable cause and having to fight it out in court. Stay away from badge-bunnies. Don’t drink so damn much. “Its a marathon, not a sprint.”
NEVER pass on a chance to learn something.
Slow down. When you need to go fast, you’ll know and you’ll feel it. If you’ve trained hard it will be automatic. The rest of the time, slow down. Gather more information and make good tactical decisions.
Get some experience and move on, never settle.
Finish your degree now you idiot! Don’t wait until you have kids to realize that the degree you never finished is holding you back from getting promoted and providing for your family better life!
Ironically, I told myself when I started that I wouldn’t get cynical. I had worked in a law enforcement related position for years before becoming an officer and I saw firsthand how the job affected the people I worked with. 19 years later, I know why they thought that that way, so I try to pass that idea onto the young officers and help them out.
That this job looks really fun an exciting but you were not ready for shift work and losing friends who were not cops. You had to grow up quick and see things you never imagined you would see.
Happy wife happy life.
Stay with your hobbies, and learn to trust people because they aren’t all bad. There are a lot of good people who make mistakes and we just deal with them on their worst day.
Don’t let the media mess with your head about the job you do. What you’re doing is honorable and don’t let anyone else make you feel differently about that.
Watch out for that ice and don’t fall. Watch out for that dog and don’t get bit. Watch out for the old fence and don’t fall. But keep doing what you do, cause you love it. Keep your head held high and be professional.
This job will be one hell of a ride. You will see things you never imagined and make bonds that will never be stronger. You will love it at first and slowly start to hate it. Remember its just a job and you have a life outside of work
Q14: Overall, how has being a Police Officer changed you?
I am in the best shape of my life physically. I am more disciplined than ever. I am a better dad and husband as a result, because I cherish my time with my family more. I have seen how bad it can be, I am not sure if I am coming home everyday, so I take advantage of every second I have.
It taught me the value of being a meticulous observer. I love watching people and studying body language. It has also taught me the value of using functional fitness as a stress reliever but also as a skill set to save my own life and the lives of others when the time comes.
Found my passion. Took me a while to find it but when I did it clicked.
I am more reserved and wait to hear people’s stories completely before giving my opinion and/or judgement. I have been able to control myself more and keep my cool under stress and be more sympathetic with other peoples problems, such as the elderly or non violentnon criminal drug addicts.
Overall, being a Cop has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. It permeates everything I do and I take pride in being a Professional. It keeps me balanced as I always consider how my actions and behavior reflect on me as a Professional.
I feel I have a hard time opening up to or meeting new people. I am stand offish when meeting people. Paranoid when leaving the house. Hate the media.
Hasn’t. Guess you would have to ask others. It has never defined me. It is a job I have grown to love. But it will end and others will take up the mantle. I will be forgotten and others will do amazing things and evolve the profession even further. I love the thought of that.
For the best. I’m growing everyday as a person, realizing how lucky I am compared to others that I deal with on the job. Being a LE officer has opened my eyes in so many ways, I can’t begin to express how my mind works in comparison to before. I would never do anything else.
Gosh. Everything has changed. My values, the way I look at strangers and my wife, my kids and grandkids, is all different now. Being a cop is being allowed into a world secret from civilians, real life good versus evil. Some people don’t believe in evil, and I’m astounded by that.
It’s made me more aware of current trends. Watching peoples hands has become an addiction. Reading body language is something I try not to do with family, but it’s hard. I love being a cop, yet I hate it. It’s a double edged sword and it’s different every where.
Made me a way better person, and a worse person at the same time. Nietzsche stated “He who fights with monsters take care he thereby become a monster. And if you stare into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” So very true. Takes a lot of work and awareness by me to keep myself in check.
I think it’s made me a better person, and it’s forced me to become a better listener. It’s also opened up a lot of literature that I wish I had known about when I was still in the military related to stress management, safety, observactions, etc.
It has given me a lot more confidence in myself and with others. We constantly are inserted into complete strangers’ lives during crises events (crashes, domestics, violent incidents) and take charge to help. This takes some serious confidence to quickly asses and then get people to do what you’ve decided is the right course of action.
I am a stronger (mentally and physically) husband and father. I have a more challenged view of society…or maybe a more realistic view, and I always stay prepared for the worst case situations, on or off duty.
Helped me see all aspects of life. I’ve seen death, hatred, mistreatment, scam artists, child abusers, drug addicts, poor living conditions and the list can go on and on and I work in a small (but highly populated) town. That being said, it has shown me how to appreciate the good things in life, no matter how minor they are.
Loaded question. Everything in life we do changes us. I feel being a police officer has made me tougher person on the outside and inside. I sometimes wish I could see the world through someone eyes that does not see all the ugly in the in the world. However on the other hand I never want to be blinded to what evil really exist out there. It has made me be thankful for all I have and realize I am a very blessed.
Q15: Any additional comments?
Law Enforcement as a whole is a brotherhood. The ThinBlueLine has but one primary goal nationwide : protect our communities citizens and visitors, by enforcing and upholding the law of the land, including, but not limited to the Constitution of the United States of America. We are a special breed that will do anything to maintain that goal. And when one of us fall, we all suffer. Thank you for putting this together…
Being a LEO is good, but not the end all and be all.
Thanks for what you do. It has helped me prioritize health and wellness (physically and mentally) to the top because when it comes down to it, health and wellness have an influence on all aspects of life (professionally and personally).
Thank you for addressing the LE community and digging deep into the personal side. Most officers never get asked questions like this. It makes the individual officer question himself, and open doors for improvement.
Policing has been pretty good to me overall. It’s not the bad guys that get to you, but the stress put on you by upper management. It grinds you down and makes you lose faith.
Keep up the good work. And thanks for supporting Law Enforcement.
Never give in, never give up. Keep pushing or move on, to someplace that will listen Separate work from home, and that’s not work and a bar. Find your niche, and stay focused, sharpen your steel, hone your skills, be safe, and most of all, have fun.
Rob I appreciate what you and your staff do for everyone in the Public Safety/Veteran community! Keep up the great work, articles like this help keep us on our toes and remind us to stay humble!
Reading my above statements one may assume I am bitter and jaded. However I am a very happy person and have a great life. My frustration at being a police officer comes from a placd of perhaps being to naive when I started . Thinking that ability and work ethic would be rewarded as opposed to being one of the bosses favorites and sucking up to the right people to get into a specialty unit rather then being qualified for that unit. This is probably true in most jobs police or otherwise. For public preception I highly doubt there was ever a time where the media portrayed police in a positive light. Negativity sells and nothing sells like divisive issues. Also thank you to everyone at MTI for all your efforts, your news letters and your programs are fantastic
Thank you guys for what you do. I have followed you all for about two years now and I appreciate the support and the information you provide. You are doing an excellent service and speaking on behalf of law enforcement it is greatly appreciated.
This job takes a special person I guess. Its not for everyone. It seems to be regressing with the lowering of hiring standards. I hate seeing fat rookies. The participation trophy generation beliefs and standards overall seems to becoming the norm. I am amazed that some people who should not be on the job are, especially with the process we have to go through to get hired.
I am very proud to be LE. I love my work and my partners. My goal is to exemplify a great officer to everyone I meet, without jeopardizing my morals and values. I want to be part of the police culture that brings trust in police officers back.
Questions, comments, concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
You Might Also Like MTI’s LE “Cop Movie” Training Packet