Archive for the ‘Police life’ Category

What do police officers feel about the growing adversarial relationship with the public at large?   no comments

Answer by Tim Dees:

I have said this before: there are over 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States, and I don’t pretend to be able to explain the behavior of every one of them.

I have no difficulty believing the account described by the OP, as I have witnessed similar displays myself. Like teenage punks, these guys feed off of one another’s energy. Alone, they may be well-behaved, but when there to reinforce each other, they can behave very badly.

I occasionally saw officers in my own agency act in the boorish and threatening way the (NYPD?) officers in this scenario did. If I tried to get them to straighten up, they would turn on me, call me a pussy, and suggest I file an Internal Affairs complaint on them. They weren’t being serious, of course. If I had done something like that, the retaliation would have been savage. More often than not, these were politically favored cops who could get away with almost anything and emerge unscathed.

Now that I’m out of the industry, I’m less tolerant of this sort of thing. I’ll ask an officer if he’s aware of how he’s coming off to other people, and whether he would act this way if his supervisor or chief was standing there. I haven’t done this a lot–I don’t see all that many episodes of police misconduct. In the couple of instances where I have spoken up, the response is usually something like, “Who the fuck are you?” I show them my retired police credentials, and at the time, my business card identifying me as the editor-in-chief of a police website that most cops know. From there, we had a meaningful conversation.

Cops who are shouting “He cried like a bitch!” are probably not going to be receptive to a citizen tuning them up on their behavior. If you see cops acting badly, call their employer and ask to speak to a supervisor. No well-run law enforcement agency wants their cops representing them this way. It is unlikely you will be destroying anyone’s career. If that is the case, the officer has already done the necessary groundwork himself.

Law enforcement is a service industry. Like any other service industry–say, a restaurant–management can’t fix problems they don’t know about. If you order food in a restaurant and it arrives cold, or burned, or otherwise prepared incorrectly, you’re perfectly justified in asking your server to take it back and make it right. The proprietor might even thank you for making them aware of the problem.

Most law enforcement agencies work the same way. Police officers are directly supervised maybe 5% of the time. The rest of the time, they operate autonomously, and most of them perform honorably and admirably. Supervisors don’t know about most of what their cops are doing unless someone tells them. If a cop does something that was exemplary, it’s appreciated if you let his supervisor know. If the conduct is not so exemplary, it’s your duty as a citizen to let the police know about that, too.

I resent bad police conduct more than most citizens. I am passionate about law enforcement as a profession, and know that every act of misconduct colors the opinion of every citizen who knows about it. I think most cops feel the same way. No one wants to see disgrace brought onto a line of work that is noble and honorable when done right.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014

Why don’t police officers in the UK have guns?   no comments

Answer by Tim Dees:

For the first 150 years or so of the U.K.’s current model of policing created by Sir Robert Peel, guns weren’t needed. Private firearms ownership in the U.K. is relatively rare as compared to the U.S. Handgun ownership is very rare. Some people own shotguns or rifles for hunting, but they’re generally kept at a hunt or gun club, not in private residences. Gun crimes were fairly rare.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.K. experienced an increase in gun-related crimes and a general escalation of violence. They also had to deal with “The Troubles,” e.g. guerrilla warfare fought by the Irish Republican Army and other terrorist organizations. This caused the U.K. police to rethink their position on deploying armed police officers.

Experienced officers with good performance records are screened and selected for firearms training. The vetting and training process is considerably more rigorous than police in the U.S. receive, as is the ongoing training that firearms-qualified officers receive during the rest of their careers while in that assignment.

Firearms-qualified officers do not normally carry their weapons at work, although those officers assigned to airports may be armed at all times with a fully-auto-capable rifle and handgun. Constables on regular patrol duties are assigned in pairs to armed response vehicles that carry the firearms and ammunition in a locked compartment. The firearms are deployed only on the order of a qualified commander, or on the constables’ own initiative in very restricted circumstances.

Although U.S. police can’t imagine working unarmed, many (if not most) U.K. constables have no desire to carry firearms. I saw several interviews of U.K. constables in the 1980s, when the firearms-qualified constables were first deployed. Many regular constables said they would leave the police service if required to carry firearms. It’s just contrary to the U.K. police custom and culture.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014

Things a Veteran Knows   no comments

Posted at 4:04 pm in Law Enforcement,Police life

This editorial originally appeared on in July 2006.

Our discussion forum continues to be a source of inspiration for me (hey, you try to think of something that appears to be clever and informative every week!) for ideas for columns. Over the past couple of weeks, contributors there have posted their own pearls of wisdom, gained from long and sometimes painful experience. Here are some of them (a few of which I actually wrote myself):

  • Keep at least one clean uniform readily available at all times.
  • Nothing works as well as Lincoln Shoe Polish.
  • Wash your hands both before and after you go to the bathroom.
  • A pack of cigarettes, no matter how old, can be of great value in getting a reluctant witness or suspect to talk to you. Smokers, especially those under stress, will often do anything for a cigarette.
  • If you investigate a wreck when it’s -20 degrees, use a pencil. The ink in your pen will freeze.
  • Carry at least two things you can write on — in separate pockets.
  • When you get to the jail, put your car keys in the locker with your gun.
  • A ninety-eight cent flashlight from Wal-Mart is better than nothing if your fancy expensive rechargeable one goes dead.
  • If your supervisor ever says, “Trust me,” you can’t.
  • If the dog in the front yard doesn’t appear to like cops, it’s a good bet the people inside won’t, either.
  • You should be able to drive an entire pursuit or prolonged emergency response, and never spill your coffee.
  • Always run cab drivers for warrants.
  • Your “war bag” should contain, among other things:
  1. Wet wipes
  2. A box of pens
  3. Shoe laces
  4. Aspirin, Tylenol, or something like it
  5. A bottle of hand sanitizer
  6. A roll of duct tape
  7. A paperback novel that you haven’t read yet
  8. Regular and Phillips screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, and an adjustable wrench
  9. A package of zip ties in various sizes
  10. An energy bar or two
  11. Spare batteries for everything you have that uses them
  12. A supply of small sealable plastic bags
  13. A jar of Vicks Vap-O-Rub® or its generic equivalent
  14. Emergency cash, some of it in coins
  • Keep your backup gun where you can reach it with either hand.
  • Always carry a knife, preferably a non-folding one.
  • Admit nothing, deny everything, and demand proof. Consider making counter-accusations.
  • Keep a spare set of car keys in your pocket.
  • An occasional pizza delivered to the radio room for no particular reason will return its cost a hundredfold.
  • A spare set of empty magazines for use at the range is an excellent investment.
  • Anyone that begins a sentence with “To tell the truth,” won’t.
  • Check to see if you are upwind before using the pepper spray.
  • Never make a threat that you are not prepared to carry out immediately.
  • The only thing that works better than making threats is carrying them out.
  • Underage drinkers will have memorized all of the information on their phony ID card, but they won’t be able to reproduce the signature without looking at it.
  • Polyester uniforms and road flares do not play nice together.
  • You will never go wrong in topping off your fuel tank before you start patrol.
  • Know what every convenience store clerk and gas station attendant on your beat looks like, and what they wear.
  • Education is nice. Experience is better.
  • Keeping a journal is a great idea. Telling someone that you’re keeping a journal is a terrible idea.
  • At the outset of every stop, every confrontation, every call where you anticipate violence, pause for a microsecond to ask for strength, ferocity, accuracy, kindness, empathy, and wisdom.
  • When an announcement for an opening in a special assignment is issued, the desirability of the special assignment varies directly with the likelihood that someone already had it locked up long before the announcement was made.
  • Hug your significant other and kids every day, as if you will never get to do it again.
  • When you can’t remember a time when you thought your job was fun, it’s time to leave.

Thanks to the forum members that helped with this list, even though you didn’t know that’s what you were doing. Thanks to the old hands that passed down this wisdom to me and the people that chose this path with me. Thanks to the people that have and will come after us, and who will learn that some truths are universal.

Written by Tim Dees on June 28th, 2013