There are a lot of things that the general public doesn’t know or understand when it comes to law enforcement. What follows here isn’t so much an effort to explain everything-we’d need far more time to cover everything law enforcement related. The truth is that most of that stuff is boring and not really anything most folks want to hear about.
For example, pick up a copy of your state’s laws or read case law from appellate courts; any potential insomnia will be cured in minutes. We have to know all of that stuff. I’m not discussing those things, I’m going to give you information that you wouldn’t know unless you wore a ballistic vest and a gun belt everyday.
I get asked a lot about why more than one police car shows up on a traffic stop. The easiest answer is that traffic stops are dangerous. The officer who initiated the stop may have asked for another officer because of something he or she saw on or in the car, or because the location of the stop is inherently unsafe due to traffic, lighting, or something else unrelated to the actual stop. A second officer is requested for a potential arrest, or for vehicle searches at times too.
A good majority of the time, a second officer arrives just to check on the initiating officer in order to make sure everything is fine there. No one requests it, but it’s nice to have another officer randomly appear.
“Cop posture” does exist. It’s one of the reasons I can spot off duty cops while I’m on vacation far away from the Donut. If you aren’t familiar, it looks like this: shoulders rolled forward, neck no longer curved, but straight and leaning forward, hands kept near the abdomen or higher, and feet spread just beyond shoulder width.
The reason for “cop posture” is that my ballistic vest with a rifle plate adds about 12 pounds of weight to my body. The ballistic vests we wear are regulated by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Those standards change periodically. I want my vest to do its job, but it has gotten much thicker over the years. The current one feels like someone folded up a corrugated cardboard box and stuffed it in a vest carrier. Super comfy. Or not. Actually not at all. They are replaced every 5 years, so I’m waiting to see if the next one is any better.
Not to mention the weight of my duty belt. It’s my mobile office, and if it’s not there, I won’t have it when it matters. But the damn thing weighs about 20 pounds. On my hips and lower back all shift long, it begins to get pretty uncomfortable to say the least. Especially given that I have a 32″ waist, a lot has to get crammed into a little space.
Extra pistol magazines, my pistol, two sets of handcuffs, a latex glove pouch (because shit gets gross sometimes), my portable radio, Taser, and the microphone pack for my in-car camera are all squeezed into place on my belt. I no longer carry a baton or OC spray. I didn’t have room for them. Using a baton doesn’t look good on camera anyway. And I’ll take a full 5 second Taser ride any day over even the slightest of OC overspray. Belt keepers that snap around my duty belt and pants belt help keep it in place, but they don’t offset the weight at all.
I’m actually about 2″ shorter today than I was when I first started in law enforcement 13 years ago. Since I’ve paid for it, I hope my chiropractor’s kids do well in college.
Belt keepers are great, but they can present a huge obstacle when the cold sweat of bubble guts begin. If you ever see an officer come into a building while unsnapping belt keepers just get out of the way. Fast.
Speaking of the toilet Olympics, it’s sometimes a struggle to find a suitable landing place for a fecal deposit while on duty. I hesitate to go to a gas station for relief even when I’m off duty, but the thought of laying my gun belt on the floor of one makes me cringe. Not only is it dirty, it also puts my weapon in a semi-public accessible location. That’s not good either.
So instead, I do everything possible to get back to one of our police department buildings in order to make toilet chili. Given that I had to haul it across the jurisdiction to get there, there’s typically no concern in the moment for toilet paper. Many a text message has been sent, or radio broadcast for assistance has been heard over the airwaves for that reason.
I can’t imagine having to go through that process to pee, too. Female coppers have a righteous struggle in that regard. I’d surely invest in a She-Wee if I wasn’t equipped with male genitalia.
We’re pretty concerned about controlling our weapons for obvious reasons. That plays a part into my absolute disdain for having someone stand behind me. I go through great lengths in restaurants even while off duty just to make sure my back is against a wall rather than toward the crowd. My family is aware and begrudgingly makes adjustments without me asking to accommodate my need to see my surroundings.
I’m not sure if our local drivers education programs are teaching new drivers to lock up their brakes and stop in place when an emergency vehicle with its lights activated appears, but I have a good deal of in-car recordings that aren’t appropriate for a child’s ears with my verbalized displeasure of that kind of driving behavior. Ralphie’s father from “A Christmas Story” seems like an amateur by comparison to my dumb-driver induced vulgarities. I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, that’s why those lights are on. Pull to the right, please. If that lane is blocked, don’t lock up the brakes. I see it too. Just move over as much as you can with a turn signal on first so I know that you plan to move. Don’t slam on the brakes and stop.
I’m not sure how it happens, but if we’re working a crash at an obscure intersection and the involved vehicles are left inoperable, that intersection will quickly become insanely busy. It’s almost like a traffic attracting beacon has been set off that draws everyone there. Even at 3:00 am.
Directing traffic is quite possibly my least favorite part of this job. Just putting on my traffic vest makes me grumpy. I make clear gestures to direct folks where I need them to go. Apparently it’s very difficult for some to figure out. And if the intersection is closed, that means it’s closed for everyone. Even you. Yup, you too. Oh, but this one is special and thinks he can drive over the fire hose, around ambulances and crashed vehicles, and navigate between people. Nope. Not at all. I’m not here in traffic because I like it. Find another route. I’m not a ticket writing type of guy, but I really don’t mind printing one off for those that fail to understand and insist on trying to drive through a crash scene against clear directions otherwise.
Not quite rising to the level of traffic direction on my listed of dreaded activities, but pretty damn close are the “my relief shift isn’t in yet, but will be right after I’m done taking an initial case report” calls. These are the equivalent of working in a restaurant that closes at 10:00 pm, having everything cleaned up by 9:50 pm, only to have a large group come in and place an order-then commence to making a mess and staying for an hour. They are a part of the deal, and I’ll do just as much for them as I would a call earlier in the shift because my scheduling isn’t the public’s concern. I can promise that I won’t be excited about it though.
I’m sure there’s more, but my brain housing group is tapped out for now. I’d love to hear what I missed from you in the comments section.
It’s time to go patrol the Donut…