Police vernacular varies from region to region, but around our Donut County we refer to the plethora of part time employment for law enforcement as “off duty employment” which gets shortened to ODE for the purposes of advising dispatch that an officer will be beginning a shift at one of these locations. I’m terribly sorry to those of you who are looking for some sort of poetic post, any rhyming that follows is truly accidental as I play loose with literary terms such as an ode.
While a career in law enforcement offers a steady paycheck for the most part, none of us who strap on a ballistic vest and duty belt to head to work do so with the expectation they we will get wealthy. At the end of a pay period we await the direct deposit of our bi-weekly insult into our checking accounts and make do with what we have. Off duty employment jobs help us supplement our income, and there is typically no shortage of opportunities to make somewhere between $20 and $50 an hour while performing some sort of security detail at a local business, warehouse, sporting event, or school.
Some of these details only entail wearing something that has “POLICE” across the chest with a pistol and portable radio at hand. Most of these non-uniform jobs consist of sitting in a marked police car in a parking lot watching the exterior of a closed business while entertaining oneself with Netflix or some other distraction to pass the time. Maintaining any sort of level of comfort long term in the drivers seat of a police car that resembles an airplane cockpit becomes a challenge, especially if one continuously is oriented to view a screen in the middle of the car. These are the “easy money” jobs, and they rarely entail any sort of human interaction, sparing the random visits by on duty officers.
Other details that require a uniformed officer inside a facility vary greatly. I have worked these kinds of details in the protection of presidential candidates or other celebrity types, and I have completed the more regularly occurring security details at drinking establishments, movie theaters, recreation centers, sporting events, and schools. Some are far better than others.
Due to agency policy, our officers are not allowed to function as bouncers at drinking establishments, however for a short period of time we did provide outside security at a particularly rowdy establishment. Those hours went by fairly quickly as the drunks did not wish to engage in any sort of banter with us. Many a stumbling, zombie-like partier was discouraged from driving away as a result of our presence, so there was a minimalistic feeling of accomplishment that accompanied that work. The cash in hand payout at the end of the night wasn’t bad either.
Other locations offer different challenges, especially in the instances of providing security at a business where I have to stand inside for long hours. The regular occurrence of awkward attempts at humor by patrons could fill a book. Pointing to a friend and stating “here’s the guy you’re looking for, officer” or “hey, I didn’t do it” aren’t funny. They just aren’t. Please stop. Especially after the 10th guy does so in the shift. I eventually get to the point of barely offering a response in the form of an insincere smile, if anything at all.
My personal favorite are those that have young offspring in tow and point my way while stating “if you don’t behave, he’ll arrest you” to the child. I always take the time to approach the poor child and inform them that “I don’t arrest children for not listening to parents who would do something so stupid as to make their children afraid of police officers” without addressing the adults directly. I’m not sure if it helps, but it makes me feel better. To those of you that have the ability to reproduce, please think before you do so; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Folks that work in Kleenex factories need jobs, too. If you don’t have children and think that such a phrase would leak from your lips at some point in the future, invest in the future of the Kleenex employee.
Awkward banter doesn’t only come in forms of the attempted comedian. I really don’t care if your second cousin Jim’s stepson works for a law enforcement agency somewhere, and if it’s not my agency I probably don’t know him. It’s not my fault the news told you it was a good idea to issue a hollow “thank you for your service” to anyone you see in uniform. If I haven’t done anything personally for you, there is no need to thank me. I get paid to do my job. The business is paying me to be here. That’s thanks enough. No really, I get it. The popcorn butter is right over there, please go away. Oh, well I’m glad you didn’t do it. Oh, he did it? Hilarious. Never heard that one before. Do you write your own material?
Then “that guy” enters. This isn’t the loveable idiot or the purse string controlling “I pay your salary” version. It’s the sub-genus of the “that guy” who asks THE question. “Have you ever killed anyone?” If you ask that question and are under the age of 12, you open the door, now you have to take whatever comes next. I’ve asked them if they work for Internal Affairs and are now wearing a wire before quickly walking away. I’ve answered with the simple “not today” and a maniacal smile. I’ve tossed my hands up and put a thousand yard stare on my face as I move fingers up and down as though I was counting before asking “does size matter?” The reality is, I haven’t killed anyone that I am aware of, at least not in the United States. If I had, are you somehow self-important enough to believe that I should have to relive what was likely the worst event in my life for your own personal pleasure or curiosity? Buy Kleenex. Now. Seriously, like the economy sized box.
This is not to say that I am above mingling with the public and engaging in an actual conversation. I’ll answer your questions and play show and tell with adults and children alike who ask questions about my equipment. I’ll debate the weather, talk guns and sports, or just engage in general conversation. You really don’t need to craft a clever line to break the ice. I’m just a dude passing time and providing a service to whoever is paying for it. If you want to talk, just do it. Just choke back the stupid before you make me envision doing it for you.
Aside from the physical pain that typically accompanies a long shift in uniform with the weight of a small child wrapped around your hips and the mental anguish from restraining a Pandora’s box of deliciously crafted smart ass quips to dumb ass comments; off duty employment is a nasty mistress that pads my pockets while taking me from time with my family. The reality is that most of us have come to depend on this extra money. It supports all of the events the sugar donuts enjoy and it helps pay for vacations away from the Donut County.
It’s the mental picture of Mrs. Donut in a swimsuit at the beach with some rum-flavored concoction in hand while the sugar donuts get sand in places God never intended that help me suit up and work the extra hours. I’m a fan of that, so it can’t be that bad to work another shift, right?
Time to go patrol the Donut…