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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Call 'em cops  

We call them a lot of things; Police Officers, Cops, Sworn Officers, Policemen (and Policewomen). And, of course there’s the acronym for Pride, Integrity, Guts often used by the ignorant as a pejorative.

They are the “Blue Wall” that separates us as citizens of a law-based society from the barbarians. That is, they are what stand between us and thieves, rapists, gang-bangers, con artists, and a whole plethora of other criminals and miscreants. 

They are also those who may cite us for speeding or making a “California stop” at a stop sign – and cost us money and time.

And they are the ones who sort out family fights, deter thieves in the malls, and question suspicious persons who sneak through our neighborhoods looking for unlocked car doors. And the ones who stop the violence quickly at sports events and bars – and in some of our neighborhoods.

They show up at odd times in the alley behind our homes, and drive down our streets early in the morning. And they are the ones directing traffic around an accident site – and measuring the skid marks at the site.

We see them depicted sitting in a donut shop, but have you ever seen one there? We pay them professional wages, and watch the Chief of CMPD hand out awards. At civic demonstrations we view their impressive array of tools, especially their firearms.

What's a cop's day like

Do you wonder what cops actually do? Can civilians – non-cops – understand what they do, and why and how they do it?

Of course we can, but it takes time and effort. Since they work for us, it’s time well spent, though. How else will we know what we’re getting for our money? (Also see Blog 4 Sep.)

The street-cops work in tech-rich offices known as police cars, adjust their daily schedule and re-prioritize their task lists every few minutes, and respond to emergencies throughout their shift. They are held to a far higher standard of behavior, both on and off duty, than most other folks – comparable to or higher than the requirements for Registered Nurses and Physicians.

Their “competitors” try to out-maneuver them, try to fool them, and sometimes even try to kill them. Many of the citizens, who are their “customers,” try to mislead them or suborn them. 
Sometimes the guy who tries to buy the cop’s dinner is just appreciative; sometimes he wants a ticket fixed or a “get out of jail free” card for the future.

Other citizens support them. And some of the citizens idolize them; cops used to have  an unprintable term for their groupies, although it applied literally to only a few. Some may still use that term.

Another question is; why is it so hard to get to know a cop if you aren't one?

Think about the above as if you were a cop; non-cops want to prevent you from doing your job, or even kill you. Other non-cops want to suborn you, manipulate you, and tempt you to betray your honor and integrity. And who understands what pressures you face, and the dangers, and the difficulties? Another cop, of course. So who will you want to talk to, visit for dinner, or join for golfing?

You can find out

If you’d like to know what cops do, how they think – and who they are, one excellent way to learn is to attend the CMPD’s Police Academy. It is back in operation; there’s a course beginning in very early 2013. The training is coordinated by, Kelly Vucinic in the Crime Prevention Unit.  Applications are available here.  It’s open to adults who have no felony convictions or outstanding warrants or criminal charges, and no misdemeanor arrests within the last three years. (CMPD isn't particularly interested in educating and recruiting volunteers from the pool of wanted criminals.)

Kelly runs a great course

The Academy that finished in late November was an icon for Public Education in our opinion.  It was educational, of course, but it was also fun. (No, we didn't get to shoot the SWAT Team’s automatic weapons – darn!) It was an example of how adult education should be run: sessions started and ended on time, the presenters were prepared, the material was directed toward adults – and best of all, no subject was off limits for questions or discussion. Except politics.

Many of the students in the last class were surprised, even amazed, by riding with a cop for part of a shift. Most of us weren't aware of the resources, pitfalls, and handicaps that affect a cop’s job today.  And pretty much every student was impressed with the officers who presented and especially with those we rode with.

If you don't know, don't open your mouth

The Police Officer’s role is complex, difficult, fulfilling, and sometimes exciting.  It’s been suggested that an intelligent person should “never criticize a man (or woman, of course) until you've walked a mile in his shoes.” Perhaps we could paraphrase that to, “you can’t criticize a cop if you don’t know what he (or she again) does, and when, and where, and how.” That’s true as well for praising and idolizing cops; if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, it’s better to shut up.

So, if you want to idolize them, or think they deserve your criticism – complete the CMPD Citizens’ Academy before you open your mouth. Cops aren't like you or me; to understand how they’re different you’ll need a new perspective.

How they work -- later

We’ll go into a little detail about how your Police Department operates in future blog entries, as part of our focus on how the city works, and who makes it work.


  1. Thank you for this article.

    People should know you were also a former sworn police officer from another generation. You speak from a perspective few can ever appreciate.

    It was a pleasure getting to know you and attending this incredible course with you. I hope you have a happy holiday and prosperous new year.

    1. Thanks, Barry. The pleasure was mine, as well.