I have always found it amusing when people, whose total law enforcement experience comes from watching television, speak authoritatively about the difference between a Good Cop and a Bad Cop.
Those of us that have actually been on the job are always amused by their complete lack of understanding and ignorance about the job.
When I think good cops, I think of the cops that remember the following;
Everybody screws up, some more spectacularly than others, but no one is perfect.
Generally, the only difference between a person with a criminal record and a cop, is the cop was lucky enough not to get caught before he got on the job and then gets the benefit of partial, but not absolute, immunity by virtue of “Badge Americard”. The brothers and sisters in blue may cut a fellow officer slack on some things, but there are limits and good cops never exceed them.
Most people are good, flawed, capable of idiocy, sometimes indulge in inexplicable behavior, but fundamentally good.
I have encountered cops on the job who may have never done anything wrong but the most minor infractions. It would seem some of them have never even been in a fight.
It has been my experience that those who have never done anything wrong in their lives make terrible cops. It goes to reason that eventually you will be in a physical battle with someone, that is not the time for “on the job” training, someone might get hurt. If your world is defined by the absolute of black and white, your are missing the colorful variety and nuances of life.
A wise old Officer once told me “Kid, every call you go on is a gun call because you bring it there. If you let one of them bastards get the best of you, they get YOUR gun. Now if you’re okay with getting your ass killed that’s fine, but I want my ass around long enough to enjoy the pension. So do whatever you have to do to hang on to that weapon, hell, kid that’s why we give you a baton, use it. You don’t have to throw the first punch, just make sure you get the last one in on the prick”
Good Cops genuinely care, they will never admit it, they make jokes about dead bodies, laugh at suicide scenes, try to outdo each other on the most gruesome call they have ever been on. But deep down, it eats them up when they can’t help. The faces of damaged kids give them nightmares.
One of my best friends was on the job with me. We’ve known each other for years. He told me a story once of responding to a sudden death call. An old man had come home from the store to find his wife of 60 years dead on the floor. Clearly there was nothing to do for her so they were waiting for the Medical examiner to release the body.
My friend went over to the old man and said “Sir, is there anything I can do for you?”
They guy looks up, tears in his eyes, and says “Can you bring her back?”
Good cops remember those moments for a lifetime.
Bad cops treat people like numbers, write speeding tickets to people going 5 miles over the limit on their way to work. The worst ones believe they have been predestined to be the conscience of society. Nothing more dangerous than a zealot with the authority to arrest.
I used to tell officers that worked for me, if you stop a car driven by a guy with his first name on a patch over his pocket, think long and hard before you write him. If he gives you a hard time about it, well that’s on him, but it is likely he is on his way to work, and he’s not the CEO and he probably really can’t afford that ticket or insurance surcharge. Which leads me to another issue, when did law enforcement become revenue enhancers for insurance companies.
Just like the rest of society, most cops are good, trying to make a difference, willing to be the ones running towards the problem to save those running away, don’t let the stories of the few bad ones mislead you.
Good Cop Bad Cop, if you only know it from TV or have only met a bad one, remember what I just told you. There are a lot more good ones.