I often get asked how I like being a cop. More specifically I also get asked if being a cop is hard. Since I love it, my answer is always simple and positive. However, to the person asking it’s not the educational reply they are seeking. Just because I love my profession doesn’t mean I disregard the inherent hardships. Here’s a more in-depth answer:
Being a cop ain’t easy, but it’s often times not for the reasons most think.
Dealing with rude, desperate, incorrigible, and violent people is tough, but dealing with them every day is tougher. Solving complex problems under pressure, on a timeline measured in hundredths of second in which every decision you make has permanent consequences is tough but what’s really tough is having your decisions afterward judged by men who are ignorant of your job and use a timeline measured in months. Going through adrenaline spikes, and continual exposure to anger, despair, and general suffering and then having to reset for the next radio call ain’t easy either, but what’s tough is very almost no one will understand what that’s like, including your own wife or husband.
Even tougher is knowing that despite all of the above, you may be trying to do the right thing, but you may still make a mistake. An administrative mistake or a tactical mistake in the seemingly infinite myriad of policies, procedures, regulations, and penal codes can be costly. It can cost you your job, and your finances, and for many officers, it has. It seems to me, police work is the lowest paid job with the highest risk of lawsuits. And no one cares to remedy this because it’s purpose is to “hold officers accountable.” Society’s response is “suck it up” because an unwritten job description seems to be that cops are the scapegoat of societal hatred.
Working for a society that assumes you are corrupt and racist just because you wear a uniform similar to the one individual the news decided to put on replay (after heavy malicious editing) is tough. Tougher yet, public perception creeps its way into new legislation which makes harder for officers to serve their communities and easier for criminals to victimize their communities.
But like Cheech and Chong once pointed out, “things are tough all over.”
I don’t recommend this job for those that simply want to “help” their community. There are easier ways to do that and to do it more effectively. Start a non-profit, become a missionary, join the Peace Corps, do volunteer work, etc. Police work lies at the fringe of civilization and the apocalypse. Police departments don’t need naive charity workers looking for a steady paycheck. Police departments need tough men and women that can take being continually mistreated, abused, placed in harm’s way and still get the job done and do it with a smile and no complaining.
We train to be adaptable problem solvers that serve our communities and stay alive. The things we can’t control or plan for are infinite. Senior officers didn’t survive decades by letting irrelevancies consume them.
However, irrelevancies are only irrelevant if you are tough enough to realize it.
If you aren’t tough, fear will paralyze you and render USELESS all the training, fitness, education, and all other skills you ever accumulated in your life.
If your focus is behaving, discipline, and political correctness, you are set for failure. Those are tools which keep you from getting kicked out of the game, but toughness is what helps you win.
Serious is overrated. Simplicity at the edge of complexity is achieved only by those who can rise above. A good sense of humor isn’t just a good stress reliever, it’s evidence of a tough mindset. Living in the now, rather than dwelling on the past, making comedy of lessons learned, so they may be internalized. A good sense of humor shows enthusiasm and affection, which in turn shows leadership.
Being a cop ain’t easy, but if you’re a tough guy who likes an adrenaline rush every so often and isn’t afraid to pack on some emotional intelligence, it’s not a bad gig.