Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trick question.

It all depends upon what you mean by "Better."

Arrest more people?

Make more contacts?
Write the most tickets?

Arrest more people that would be considered by most citizens to be "Bad Guys?"

Make higher rank?

Make better pay?

Get called into court the least?

Get called into court the most?

Stay out of trouble?

Get the fewest complaints?

Get the most commendations?

Be thought of better by the citizenry?

Be thought of better by your peers?

_ _ _

All of the above are commonly-considered factors when one asks himself or herself if he or she is a "good cop."

It's hard to get them all. For example, an experienced Internal Affairs lieutenant for a medium-large agency once told me: "You know who gets no complaints? Cops who never do anything."

Well, hell, don't be that guy.

On the other hand, just being a hard-charger who makes as many contacts a day as he can, and never met an arrestable subject that he wouldn't take in is... well, it's not really what your community wants in a cop.

I like to think that I'm still becoming a better cop. Gawd, I hope so, because I'm far from perfect now.

But I've got a few strong opinions on how to be a good cop, in Matt G's image:

--Remember that they're people. Not contacts. Not "subjects." Not "potential suspects." People.

--Remember that most people are good.

--Avoid Us/Them mentality, until you've got them in cuffs. Even then, you'll get more cooperation if you treat them friendly. You can't be a prisoner's friend, but you can be friendly.

--Don't forget that you work for the people you serve. Yes, them, too.

--Don't forget that your words will always be repeated to you. Always. Yes, those words, too.

--Don't take it so personally.

--Be proud of your work, but don't get personally invested in a case. It's not worth it.

--Remember that being professional means occasionally pissing people off. Sometimes those people are your co-workers. Occasionally, those people can be your employers. Be tactful, but be professional.

--You can be tactical and tactful at the same time.

--Remember that the easiest way to deal with a situation is not always the best way.

--NEVER rely on something you saw on TV or the movies. A: It's wrong. B: It's unprofessional.

--Your best chance of dying on duty is in a car wreck. Buckle up and drive carefully.

--Do the right thing always. Honor is everything.

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At Thursday, December 13, 2007 7:02:00 AM, Blogger Tam said...

Matt, you are a credit to your calling.

At Thursday, December 13, 2007 2:15:00 PM, Blogger Captain Tightpants said...

Mind if I copy the list and share it with my recruits? One of the best I've seen in years.

At Thursday, December 13, 2007 7:01:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Sure, no problem, Sean.

Tam, I fail at some of those ideals, more than I'd care to admit. If I always followed them, I'd be a better officer.

At Friday, December 14, 2007 8:59:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Fixit said...

Matt, have you heard about Dallas SO and their "incentive" program?

Saw just a blurb about it on Fox 4 this AM.

At Friday, December 14, 2007 9:42:00 AM, Blogger Tam said...

Yes, but you do hold them as ideals towards which to strive.

Too many today in all walks of life couldn't spell "Honor" if you spotted them the H, the N, and both O's.

At Friday, December 14, 2007 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not involved in law enforcement at all, but it strikes me that most of these guidelines apply to just about ANY job.

And while we all occasionally fail to live up to our own standards, understanding why we failed, and moving to correct it, is called "growing".

At Friday, December 14, 2007 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Blackwing, I hadn't heard about it, but I just now read the story here.

Sounds terrible, doesn't it? Makes the "Q-word" [quota] bubble up to one's lips.

But.... there's a LOT that's not mentioned in that story.

For one thing, I seem to recall that the traffic patrol of the interstate highways in the city of Dallas is exclusively done by the Dallas Sheriff's Office, which has a fairly small traffic unit, compared with the enormous amount of traffic passing through the Dallas interstates. That means that the only other traffic patrol you'd see up there would be DPS, and they don't usually patrol much in the city-- they get to outlying county and smaller towns, usually (not always; they can go where they want.).

Ever driven in Dallas traffic? My Gawd, there's no shortage of violators to catch. And even though I worked in Dallas for 2 years, I only saw about 2 or 3 cars ever pulled over. I did see, however, a BUNCH of wrecks on the highways of Dallas.

Frankly, they could write tickets all day long, use several ticket books a shift,go through several pens a week, and never write a feather-legged ticket. There's just too much out there that gets a pass. Run stop signs? Sure. Run traffic lights? Why not? 80 in a 55 mph zone? Just keeping up with traffic. Weaving in and out of lanes without ever touching a turn signal? Of course; wouldn't want people to see where I'm goin' and try to cut me off! Headlights off and only parklights on while drivin' at night, with illegally-dark 7% light-transmittal window tint? You bet, boyee-- dat's how me'n' my homies hang cool on the asphalt, ya dig? Driving 70 with a bottle of Crown /40 ounce / doobie passed around the car? Gotta get mellow, fellow.

I have seen ALL of this while driving in Dallas, and nobody stopped it. You could keep your tolerance pretty high, and still write a lot.

_ _ _

When I was a rookie, I would make very few contacts in a day. I couln't figure out how the other cops did it. Must be that I had a lot more tolerance. Must be that I had more respect for personal rights, I told myself.

Finally, an older cop got tired of hearing me whine, and came back in with a stack of tickets one day, and plopped 'em down in front of me to review at shift change. "Count 'em-- I haven't had time to," he grumbled.

I counted 26 citations, with unknown charges, in an 8 hour shift. My highest number at that time was, I think, 8. I thought "Well, anyone could write a bunch of feather-legged, lame-ass, namby-pamby little nothing tickets for equipment violations and the like..." But as I looked through them, I saw that they weren't that, at all. 15mph over. Expired MVI and MVR, 3 months out. No Insurance with MVI/MVR out (that's a good ticket-- can't get motor vehicle registration or motor vehicle inspection without presenting proof of financial responsibility. Stopping those guys is good way of preventing hit-and-runs.), Run Stop Sign, Speeding In A School Zone... not a lame equipment violation or 6-Over speeding ticket among them.

These were good tickets. All of them. And I had not the slightest doubt that they were written with integrity.

Now, that was an unusual day. He hadn't been dispatched to any calls for service, and he had skipped a full lunch break. And, the violations happened in front of him. But looking at the locations on the citations, I could see that he had been all over town, running traffic. In short, he was showing high-visibility patrol, and was available to take calls for service. He was doing exactly what the City wanted him to do, and well.

I learned something from him that day. If the violations are out there, then it's not abusive to enforce the law (which we already do) dilligently (which some need help with, and some don't.).

I was proud when I was recognized by MADD (a group that I don't care for, by the way) as having made the most arrests at my P.D. for DWI. Here's the thing, though: That's not why I did it. And it didn't influence my decision to arrest. But the next year, I can tell you that the pride of being the number 1 DWI enforcement officer motivated me to look for them when other cops were on their coffee breaks. And I won the recognition again.

There's nothing wrong with incentive to do your job with more gusto, so long as you're using the same standards that you used without the incentive.

At Friday, December 14, 2007 1:49:00 PM, Blogger staghounds said...

I'm on holiday right now, reminding myself that the world is full of people who never stole a car or broke into someone's house or punched their wives.

Mind if I add two suggestions?

Never do anything that you think is wrong. I don't mean not pc, or against policy, or even illegal. I mean, don't offend your own sense of right and wrong.


Sit down with the phone off the hook and nothing on your mind, and write down why you became a police officer. This is just for yourself, don't ever show it to anybody.

Every six months or so- certainly on the anniversary of your swearing in- give yourself an evening with those notes. Remember why you do this, and ask yourself the questions that apply. You know what they are. Think about the answers. Hard.

At Friday, December 14, 2007 2:36:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Great additions, Staghounds.

There's another, unspoken one that you're implying: take your career seriously.

At Friday, December 14, 2007 6:37:00 PM, Blogger LauraB said...

The 2nd to last item on the list was most was a matter of 4 inches. Just 4 inches let him come home that night.

Remember that, folks...

At Friday, December 14, 2007 7:53:00 PM, Blogger Captain Tightpants said...

if I can just add one other you all brought to mind as well -

Remember it's just a job. Know when to take the badge off and be a normal person for your family, friends and most importantly yourself.


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