Cops don’t get to pick and choose the calls we respond to on a daily basis. Sure, we have a lot of freedom to self-initiate activity when we see things that are illegal or potentially dangerous, but by and large our shifts get dictated by the public. In most places this results in a love/hate relationship.
Most of us enter this line of work to serve something greater than ourselves and our own personal interests. We do have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others, or we wouldn’t put up with the bullshit that accompanies being a cop. Long hours, generally low pay, spineless administrators, high expectations, and media scrutiny are only a few of the things that would make a person who really didn’t have the proper motivations quickly seek other gainful employment.
In spite of wanting to be able to help them, police officers experience frustration with the public we serve just like parents who get frustrated with their children.
It doesn’t matter what size the agency is or how populated the jurisdiction may be, the folks that call the police consistently fall into some basic general categories. What follows is my list of the 10 most prevalent and annoying “customers” we encounter in the Donut. If you’re a cop you’ll likely recognize them. If you’re a citizen you might be one of them.
- The Chicken Little: This particular reporting party views the world through a particularly paranoid lens. These are the folks that will call about a seemingly innocuous activity and report it as though it was the crime of the century. As the dispatcher relays the information from the caller over the airways to responding officers, the call sounds legitimately dangerous or serious. The first officer cautiously approaching the scene only to find that the “burglary in progress” at a vacant house is a realtor showing a home to a potential buyer with a magnetic real estate company logo plastered on the side of the realtor’s car. Chicken Little complainants often have more official sounding titles like “crime watch captain” or “HOA president”.
- The Speed-dialer: Similar to our Chicken Little friend but without the general seriousness of the reported calls, the speed-dialer calls the police department for absolutely everything. Over charged by the cable company? The speed-dialer calls to let us know. Get a mean message on Facebook? Better let the police know. Every time the speed-dialer gets an e-mail saying he or she may have just won a Nigerian lottery we’ll get a call.
- The Professional Victim: This reporting party will always be surprised that he or she could not leave every high dollar electronic item owned in plain sight inside an unlocked vehicle, even if it’s in a busy retail area or overnight at home. The professional victim has no problem sharing any manner of personal information with anyone who calls to ask for it and is always shocked that their bank account is suddenly overdrawn.
- The Tit-for-Tat: This isn’t referencing faded prison-style tattoos on mammaries, instead the tit-for-tat occurs when two parties have a disagreement and then race to call the police to provide their own account of the incident. Generally neither one provides a story that is anywhere close to being similar to the other, and oftentimes without an independent third-party witness to help clarify matters.
- The Passerby: We receive a lot of good information from our citizens that lead to increased roadway safety or arrests of criminal suspects. The passerby is unique in that he or she will call and provide information about a potential drunk driver and immediately turn down a different street rather than following the car until an officer can get to it. The passerby has the right intentions but lacks any sort of follow through which often leads us on a wild goose chase.
- The I Hate Cops: Unless you immediately recognize the name from a previous incident, the responding officer may have no idea what he or she is getting into while responding to a call from the “I hate cops” caller. This person has reached a limit and must now call the very people he or she despises, and generally lets the officer know upon arrival “look, I hate cops, but…” making further interaction that much more fun.
- The Requesting Callback: This complainant will contact dispatch to request an officer for any number of call types, and often they will not actually be an involved party. Then, regardless of their involvement they will either request that the handling officer call or meet with them in person to share the final disposition of the call. Being nosy is one thing, but when the pending call log is backing up we don’t want to fill you in so you can gossip at your bridge game.
- The Conversationalist/Hostage Taker: This individual may be one of the previously mentioned folks or they may have had a legitimate complaint, but once the call is somehow resolved the conversationalist/hostage taker will do everything possible to keep the officer there. Maybe they had a third cousin who was a cop in another area. Maybe they want to debate politics. One way or another, you may have to put an officer in distress call out in order to escape.
- The Bebe’s Kids: This complainant has had the kids since birth and has had every opportunity to not screw them up over the years. Alas, due to their consistent parenting failures the child (children) are messed up and they call us and expect an immediate solution. Now.
- The CSI/NCIS Fanatic: Sometimes also a speed-dialer, this caller insists upon a full evidentiary search to discover who pushed a shopping cart into his or her car while they were at Walmart and gets upset when the officer doesn’t use a DNA swab on the cart handle.
There are plenty of legitimate, non-aggravating complaintants in this world who aren’t one of these characters, we just don’t see them nearly as much. Sometimes even these folks report something worthwhile, but generally that’s not the case.
It’s time to go patrol the Donut…