I was having a pretty pedestrian morning until a lively homeless gent, who smelled of peepee, ogled me for a few seconds before informing me that I looked like “Clark Muthafuckin’ Kent.” I guess these new eyeglasses aren’t so bad after all, if I can look like Superman’s alter ego to at least one probably fairly inebriated fellow like that.
Inebriated at 7:45 AM or not, it made me feel super, well, that and maybe the three cups of coffee I’d just had were combining to make me feel super. No matter the reason why, when I feel super, I like to write, so here we are.
I recently read Killing Lincoln. It’s the second Lincoln book I’ve read within the past few months, which is strange, as I normally abhor reading books of any sort for long periods of time. I always feel like there’s so much more I could be doing instead of reading, like playing video games or watching funny Youtube videos.
I mustered two opinions about Lincoln by reading hundreds of pages about his life. One is that he was a splendid public speaker and the less forceful, but still tingly opinion, is that he probably had more than one homosexual encounter during his travels in the wild west. I’ve nothing to base the latter opinion on aside from my interpretation of some of his letters, but my hunches are almost always right nearly half the time.
I’d have loved to hear Lincoln speak when he was on his game. By all accounts, he was a master storyteller and could move a crowd with his words. Today’s politicians shouldn’t have the luxury of monitors to help them read speeches written by somebody else. Stand in front of a crowd and speak using your own words and show us what you got, I say!
I love listening to men and women who can cause a crowd to fall silent and draw every single person in with their presence in the room. Most of the best professional and college coaches are people who can move their teams or wow perspective recruits simply by talking to them.
Speaking of recruits, though of a different sort, a few weeks ago, I dreamt that I was speaking to one of the recruit classes that had just graduated from the police academy and was getting ready to hit the streets as police officers.
Who knows why I’d have such a stupid dream? I did watch videos of some pretty cool speeches, such as Jimmy V’s inpirational ESPY speech from (astonishingly) twenty years ago and I do have police crap on my mind all the time, so whatever brain, mix up any old thoughts of mine you want when I’m asleep, I guess.
As with most of my dreams nowadays, I have no idea what I said, if anything, but with a recruit class getting ready to graduate tonight, I wondered what I might say to the group, given the chance.
*DOAT steps to the podium looking dapper in his police dress blues.
Good evening, recruits. It’s my pleasure to be here tonight to share with you some of my thoughts about your pending adventure into the world as an official police officer. I know you’re eager to get out of here and celebrate your accomplishment, so let’s get going.
You’ve no doubt been told by veteran officers you know, or heard through the grapevine that most of what you learned in the academy is bullshit, and that your real training begins when you’re out there experiencing it all firsthand.
Many years ago, that may have been true.
While there’s something to be said for learning on the fly, don’t forget your formal training, especially your defensive tactics lessons. By now, most of those lessons should come second nature to you. I recommend you keep them that way for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.
You should take stock of yourself as a person. What do you like? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you good at doing and what do you need to work on?
My kids all have capes. One has a Flash logo, the other Batman and the third is a Spiderman themed cape. When they put those capes on, they can fly and shoot webs from their wrists and they’re all stronger and faster than any regular man on the planet, maybe even in the whole universe, even daddy!
When mommy and daddy or an uncle or the dog is the bad guy, they win almost every time.
They rarely lose and they……they never die.
You could die.
Your bad guys won’t be your mommy or daddy or your dog or uncles.
Your bad guys will be some really bad guys, and girls. Some will have been in prison already. Some will be drug addicted and others will have mental issues. Some will just be bad because that’s all they know and they’ve grown up to be bad people.
Many of these people will hate you, but you must learn not to take it personally.
They don’t hate you because you’re Bill or Chad or Wendy, they hate your uniform. It took me a while to get that through my thick skull.
That uniform, by the way, those freshly pressed uniforms you’re wearing? They don’t come with a cape. How cool would that be though, right?
When you put on that blue shirt and those pants, you know it’s just polyester and cotton, but once that badge and gun belt are accessorized as well, PRESTO!!! Am I right? You guys all look great!
Most of you feel stronger, braver, more confident with yourselves when you’re in uniform, right? I know it. I do too, plus with me, it really brings out the blue in my eyes nicely!
That extra confidence is great, but remember this after you put your uniform on. No matter how shiny you get your brass, or how polished your boots and leather belt are, when you’re in that uniform, you’re still the you that woke up in your pajamas or your tighty whities this morning.
If you are dumb, the uniform will not make you smarter.
If you are weak, it won’t make you stronger.
If you are slow, that uniform can’t make you faster.
Don’t mistake that confidence you’re feeling for ability, because you’ll find yourself in over your head very quickly if you do. Don’t make threats if you won’t follow through. If you say you’re going to do something conditional to something else happening and that something else happens without you doing what you said you’d do, you’ve lost some control of the situation. You’ve lost some respect.
There are no time outs if you suddenly find yourself in a fight.
There are no rounds.
There is no time limit. For the bad guy, there is only getting away from your uniform, and if that means that your body must perish so the uniform can’t continue, then that’s what could happen.
There is no hollering for your mommy or daddy to “make him stop” when the bad guy plays too roughly. You’re on your own until help arrives.
Rest assured though, while you are struggling, they will come. Your fellow officers will come to your aid.
That’s when cops are at their best, when one of our own is in trouble. We don’t care if you’re white or black or a man or woman either. Like the bad guys, we will only see that a uniform is in trouble, so we come to help, in spite of the sort of person inside that uniform.
Hopefully, your training officer will teach you some of the rules that aren’t learned so easily in the academy so the person inside that uniform is one who is respected by his or her peers.
There are some unwritten rules that you need to learn. They are procedural things that you can to do avoid aggravating other officers, that I’ll not get into here.
I don’t envy you brand new officers at all.
Everything you do will be scrutinized by somebody. I would suggest to you that it’s in your best interest, no matter where you are, day or night, to assume, just assume, that somebody is watching you and that they have a video camera.
That uniform draws attention.
While it becomes hohum to those who are around it every day, never forget that the lights of a police car and the sight of an officer engaged with a citizen gets the attention of other citizens, even if it’s just a casual traffic stop.
You will be watched and judged and second guessed.
Know your policies and the laws that you have sworn to uphold here tonight.
Follow those policies. Be able to defend any actions you’ve taken, and above all else, use your common sense.
Listen to what people have to say when they try to explain themselves. Don’t be combative and make a tense situation worse because you’re not willing to show a little patience.
Not everybody deserves that ticket.
For every ticket you write in that uniform, do two nice things for other people in that same uniform.
Hold the door open for a woman. Look that clerk in the eye and say, “Thank you very much,” when he doesn’t charge you for that coffee.
Say hello and smile at every small child you can because one day, that clerk or that woman or those kids may be on a jury because some dirtbag has sued you for treating him too roughly while you arrested him for beating his own kids and wife into bloody messes.
The juror who got that ticket might believe the dirtbag, but the other three might trust that the officer on trial is telling the truth because some other officer treated him or her kindly, and they’ve never forgotten that.
You can do more to move people with that uniform than you can know right now, but move people you can.
It’s up to you whether you use your uniform to move them closer to our side, or push them farther and farther away.
We need the average citizen on our side, so make sure that they know we want them with us. Do this by treating them with respect.
You’re a human being, so don’t be so rigid. Have fun with people when it’s appropriate, be fair when you can, lay down the hammer when you have to, but do it all respectfully.
A little respect goes a long way.
You will encounter many people, suspects and victims of crimes, at one of the lowest points in their lives. Treat them with dignity then, when they feel abandoned or hurt or angry or ashamed or victimized or whatever, and most of them will remember you forever.
Good luck. Stay safe. Have fun!