Clark kent and a speech for new officers…

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!

Β 

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103 Responses to Clark kent and a speech for new officers…

  1. I believe we know the sense of pride you have for your chosen profession, Don. And immensely admirable, it is. But often when I read your ‘serious’ thoughts, I wonder if there isn’t another calling? You inspire people with your words. You motivate and you strike chords. Maybe another Lincoln in the making?

    • Thanks, Eric. You may be the nicest man in the blogosphere. Wait, are suggesting that I’m gay?? Lol. I don’t have the thick skin a politician needs, but I do like to believe in my little head that I was meant to do something meaningful in this lifetime. Maybe I am, one small gesture at a time. Let’s go with that.

  2. Aw man. Gay Lincoln then it gets all emotional.

  3. lrconsiderer says:

    Very motivational, CK, and utterly confirms that you need a particular aptitude to be a policeman (or woman) and I don’t have it πŸ™‚ Thanks for affirming that.

    I also definitely reckon you should angle to GIVE that speech at some point.

    • I suck at public speaking now for some reason, Lizzi. I’d like to work on that skill though. It does take a certain sort of makeup to do the job though, you’re right about that. It’s not for everyone. Thank you.

  4. Unfortunately, the times are changing. The newer generations do not view it the same as old school do, but I do remember way back when too. It would be (cool) and beneficial to present a graduating academy class a speech of this nature, most of these students are 24 years old? 15 years ago, cell phones didn’t text, have cameras much less video, and weren’t we still carrying pagers? I love the post very heart spot on!!

    Sidebar – where did gay Lincoln come from? I must of detoured out to the lake on that history day?

  5. Pleun says:

    I love that speech! I think you should give it to all graduating recruits from now on. You definitely can be a motivational speaker if you want to be πŸ˜‰

  6. 1jaded1 says:

    This is so meaningful, and a little respect does go a long way. You treat people with humanity. May I please add the following? May you always know your location. If you are wounded, it could mean the difference between the end of your life and not. That may be SOP, but is mission critical that every officer keeps it in mind as they cover their territory in a place they may not be familiar. Thanks, DOAT.

    • You’re exactly right that about knowing where you are. There were a couple of other things I wanted to mention, but this thing obviously got way too long as is. Lol. I have a story about a couple of officers who didn’t know where they were while having an epic fight in somebody’s living room. It’s funny now, but it could have gotten ugly and ended badly. Thank you!

  7. MommyVerbs says:

    Well done! I could totally see the spellbound young recruits and hear the hush of the crowd as they listened to your sage advice. They would be so lucky. It is such an unimaginable job and I for one, am so thankful to all of you who put on those dress blues and hit the streets to protect and uphold. Thank you.

    It actually makes me think of a very similar speech that I make to my new teachers who are about to hit the classrooms each fall….

    • Thank you! Teachers rock! I don’t know if I could do it. I sometimes stand in front of my tball team and suddenly forget what I was going to say and their little eyes are all watching and waiting….awkward! lol.

  8. Every police officer in the world should hear that speech Don. (Salute)

  9. mistyslaws says:

    Brilliant speech. Really. And as you said, everyone is reading a prompter or someone else’s words these days, so maybe you can get this into the right person’s hands so that it can be given at some point, if you don’t feel up to the public speaking task. And I’m there with you. I suck at public speaking. You would think being in a courtroom everyday would cure that, but nope.

  10. rynolexson says:

    You might have changed my mind regarding the uniform…slightly. What a great speech. Even me, a born cop hater felt some empathy toward men in the uniform. That will be the only time I write those words. Good stuff Officer Don.

    • Thank you, Ryan! I know it was hard for you to say anything nice about a police officer so….it’s appreciated. Also, nice job on the comment, I think all the words are spelled correctly! πŸ˜‰

  11. jasteck says:

    Love it, Don. Beautiful sentiments for officers entering a challenging and rewarding career. I’m in law enforcement, too. It’s such an incredible opportunity to make a difference. Stay safe!

    • Thank you! I think it’s easy to forget how much power we have to make or break somebody’s day. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that it’s us v. them, but that’s not how it should be at all.

  12. lisanewlin says:

    Finally! Someone who shares my belief about Lincoln and his homosexual tendencies!

    As for everything else, I’m kind of impressed. Your speech was good and would probably get a great response at the academy graduates. Seriously. It’s strange that I’m saying that. It’s like I’m reading someone else’s blog post. πŸ™‚

    Well done. This one choked me up a little and reminded me that I should be a little more respectful of cops and the things you guys do every day.

    And those glasses do make you look like Clark Mother-fucking Kent.

    • You should be more respectful! We spend a lot of time chasing stray animals into warm shelters, so you’d like that part, right? I have lots of good animal related stories, maybe I’ll share some of those in the future. Are you serious about Abe? I really think he may have been curious!

  13. ardenrr says:

    This is great, Clark Mother-Fucking Kent! I LOVE COPS!

  14. Christina says:

    “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.” That is true and can be a great thing or a really disgusting thing. Depends on the situation I suppose.
    I once only saw the uniform too. It went from representing safety and security to representing abuse and deceit I’ve experienced the good and the bad and now I try not to hold any assumptions about the uniform and remember there is a person behind it.

    • I get where you’re coming from, Christina. Judgment can come after the facts have been sorted out and everybody is safe. It’s hard to not hold bad experiences with a police officer against all police officers. I do get that. I hope you can remember that most of us mean well and try to do the right thing. This job in the wrong hands is very dangerous. Very dangerous. I appreciate that I think you’re trying to not hold your experiences against all of us.

      • Christina says:

        Yes. As with any profession, there’s the good and the bad. I do have memories of some good officers helping me out, although they were drunken memories. Ah…good times.

  15. findingninee says:

    Aw. I love this. I think Lincoln was gay too. And you totally wear a cape in my eyes. Even with your ugly tighty whities. Ok not really because now I’m picturing you wearing a cape and tighty whities and you look really stupid and gayer than Lincoln. Anyway.

    (clears throat. and mind.)

    I love that your advice includes doing two nice things for every ticket you write, and that not everybody deserves a ticket. You’re quality shit, my awesome friend. I bet you look hot in your uniform. Oh and thanks for protecting schmos like me and all that warm fuzzy thankful stuff too.

  16. Thank you, Clark – for such a wonderful speech!! Very timely for me and my son who is about to take a practice police entry-level exam and meet with our town’s chief of police to discuss careers. I am forwarding this to him as we speak! πŸ™‚

  17. Well, if there’s a way for a regular citizen to recommend you as a speaker at an academy graduation, you let me know. I think this speech out to be delivered to more than just your readers.

    Whether it’s done by the next gay Lincoln in the form of you or another gay Lincoln inspired cop, it should be done.

  18. bethteliho says:

    Holy shit, Don, that speech was amazing! I got freakin’ chills! Wow.

    as for the Lincoln book, the only one I ever read was Lincoln, the Vampire Slayer. I actually enjoyed it, the movie adaptation sucks though. I agree with you, he was a magical speaker. Did you see the Lincoln movie by Spielberg? It was good. Long, but good. It bored my husband to tears but I liked it.

  19. Aussa Lorens says:

    Um, I freakin’ loved that. I may be biased because of the cop brothers but I thought this was so down to earth and realistic, it really ought to be communicated to new recruits. Damn.
    If no one invites you to formally give this speech, you COULD just walkabout delivering it in bits and pieces… sans teleprompter, like the Lincoln days of old.

  20. djmatticus says:

    One word: brilliant.
    Okay, I guess that was three words… oh, and now that’s even more words. This word counting thing is getting out of hand.
    It was a great speech. I don’t envy the position cops hold these days… the intense scrutiny, the second guessing, the unfounded bias, etc… Tricky times we live in. The media will splash videos of you and your brothers in blue doing something wrong a million times, but they miss the million separate incidents where you went out of your way to be nice to people, to help them on their way, to pick someone up when they were down. You are spot on about the public always watching. We can’t help it. The lights. The uniform. The gun. We are drawn to these things, and so we watch, and we judge. But, know this, when I watch, I watch with open eyes… I want to see the good and the bad.
    So…
    “Go get ’em, Tiger.”
    Sorry, all the talk of superheroes. I couldn’t resist.

    • Thanks, Buddy! If you’re not doing anything wrong then the cameras don’t matter, but everything can be taken out of context and make something look much much worse than it really was. Good deeds aren’t fun news they say, but I actually like seeing those sorts of stories.

  21. Carrie Rubin says:

    I loved your speech. I like what you said about: “For every ticket you write in that uniform, do two nice things for other people in that same uniform.” The media is too quick to focus on the bad apples. Wish they’d portray all the good things police do.

    And for the record, I only counted two swear words in that entire piece. For a minute, I didn’t recognize the blog. πŸ˜‰

  22. Maggie O'C says:

    If I ever go to St. Louis, I will commit a crime and hope that you are the cop that shows up.

  23. Cheryl says:

    Fan-bloody-tastic! Don, you ROCK! (I’m forwarding this on to my BIL (a.k.a. Sarge at our local police force) He deals with the newbies all the time. It can be really frustrating when they forget to use the good sense God gave them. We need more guys like you out there. And you should totally give this speech someday.

  24. The speech needs to be heard. But please grow a beard, wear a top hat and hand out capes to every single new officer in attendance. You, my friend could never be forgotten.

  25. Yvonne says:

    I hung on every word of this blog, Don! Very, very inspiring! You, my man, have talent! This writing must be shared….published…whatever…simply wonderful! God bless you!

  26. Laura Lynn says:

    Don that speech brought tears to my eyes. It is so full of insight and love and humor and good old down home common sense that I am wishing that somehow you could get MORE people to read that. Kids, teachers, officers, baristas, bakers, Truck drivers…I don’t care what your line of work is, that should be read. I’m lucky enough to have an officer in our family and I’m sending it to Scott so he can read it too. Thank you for writing that. You’re amazing!

  27. I was deathly scared of public speaking until I decided to hold some interior design workshops in my area. They were well received and I did great. the fear is still there, but I know just how to overcome it

  28. “Hey Abe!! I been watchin you, and I know you’ve been watchin me…”*
    I think I read a review of that book (about Lincoln), but the evidence cited was some entry in some diary about ‘messing with so-and-so’. Of course with the ever-changing meaning of slang and such specialized language… that might be problematic.
    In any event, soon after that time, I swore off all news, current events and/or anything that was deemed (by total strangers) as something I needed to know.
    Liked the speech. Moving and motivating people how cool is that…

    *courtesy sorta Eddie Murphy ‘Raw’

  29. Damn, man! What are you trying to do? Turn me into a faucet? Jimmy V’s speech gets me every time, then you had to follow up with one of your own? When you choose to use your words, they are very powerful…just sayin’.

    Not even touching the gay Lincoln thing.

  30. Paul says:

    Hi Don! This is my first comment on your website. I love your β€œspeech” and it is so true and applies to most human activity. Definitely makes me feel more positive towards police officers. I drove tractor-trailer long haul for years and my relationship with police was wildly varied. The interactions I remember most are the ones where I was treated fairly and with respect. Not necessarily based on consequences –i.e. I’ve left situations with a ticket and KNEW I deserved it and felt I was treated fairly or I’ve left encounters with no punishment and hated the way I was treated with disrespect. I always found in my own job that I accomplished more and had a better attitude when I approached it from the perspective that my main job was to protect others (often from themselves) with my driving and keep them from hurting themselves or others to the best of my ability. I respect officers that have that same attitude. I think that is true of most jobs – how do I do this to best to add value to those around me? And, for sure, respect is the key. (As you pointed out – situational awareness is also critical.) I suspect this is a mark of maturity but it definitely can be taught too. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the great comment, Paul. I totally get what you’re saying about the consequence not mattering as much as the interaction. Totally get it. I’m constantly trying to go above and beyond because I know other cops after me will be judged based on my behavior. My dad was in trucking for many years so I respect the truckers. That’s a tough, under-appreciated gig. Thanks again.

  31. Very nicely done Don. While you may not give this speech, I hope you’re able to help some new officers by supervising them so that you can shared your learned wisdom.

  32. Jen Lawlor says:

    Nice entry Don. As the President of SLPD Class 97-1 I gave a speech at graduation to my fellow officers. Mine wasn’t nearly as good as yours. I wish you would have written this 17 years ago…I would have plagearized it. πŸ™‚ Hopefully it will make it to the podium someday, someway.

  33. Jen Lawlor says:

    Yeah…that’s plagiarized…sorry. 😦

  34. tric says:

    Don Mr Policeman that was a post which I think was written by your wife!
    I have read the other comments and the only one I agree with is “play games for girls” but you forgot to answer that comment!
    Seriously this was a really good post. I thought when you began to dream you might end up giving Jesus a speech ( reference to a previous post all you who are new to this chancers blog) but I have to bury my pride, Mr freshly pressed and i’m not bitter, and say in all honesty this is a seriously good post. Well done you.
    However are you the type who’d give a friend a speeding ticket? I’ll save my “like” until I get the answer.

    • I would most certainly not give a friend a speeding ticket, no. I barely give strangers tickets for speeding for goodness sakes! Lol. Thank you, Tric. I appreciate your kind words, no matter how hard they were for you to say.

  35. Nadia says:

    You could teach Lincoln a thing or two. I hope every new recruit reads this.

  36. I think it’s a great speech too!!! You know, if you were Mormon, you’d have plenty of opportunities to brush up on your public speaking. πŸ˜‰ I agree, you should find a way to give this speech somewhere!

  37. PinotNinja says:

    First, and obviously, you should really change your name to Clark Muthafuckin’ Kent. You might as well call a spade a spade.

    Second, that speech was fantastic. Honest yet heartfelt, realistic yet inspirational. Most of the law enforcement officers that I deal with are fantastic (i’m the annoying prosecutor who drags you all into court to be witnesses). But others have sadly lost their way, to the detriment of both themselves and my ability to bring cases in which they’ve been involved. I might just start slipping a copy of your speech to them to remind them of how it’s supposed to be done.

    Simply put, bravo (like at the opera, not like with the real housewives).

    • Hahaha, you’re great!

      I was going to mention how our prosecutors really can’t bring cases, especially drug cases where the only witness is the police officer. The public just doesn’t want to hear it and a lot of the urban community doesn’t trust the police enough to incarcerate somebody based solely on most officers’ word. Sad, but understandable. Thanks for your great comment as well as for your service!

  38. Julie says:

    I love this speech! I’m standing and clapping for you πŸ™‚

  39. Piper George says:

    So – why don’t you go volunteer to deliver this speech when the next class get out? T’is a good un. I like the part about using common sense – this morning I was discussing some new asinine decisions made by our local council and suggested they appoint a Common Sense Officer, who should be there purely to adjudicate on issues where following the book makes no sense at all!

  40. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    You are pretty badass. Way better than Clark Muthafuckin Kent.

  41. Awww. Great speech. I think you should speak to the new recruits. Just the right touch of humour and advice.

  42. That speech is amazing, Don. Seriously the advice you gave about doing two nice things in uniform for every ticket, saying hello and acting respectfully are tips that we could all benefit from (ugh, now the teacher in me is coming out!). BUT, I think city police are a different breed than most and I have met more than a few assholes in my hood who clearly had a weak graduation speaker. If you decide to go on a speaking tour, get yosef a slot ovah heeya.

    • Hahaha, thank you! It’s easy to get in a rut and become jaded fast. Blogging has actually helped me to remind myself that not everyone is a psychotic numb nut. Lol. Carry on with letting the teacher come out of you whenever she wants. There are lots of people who need the lessons.

  43. I’ve said it before and will say it again HOLY CRAP. Batman my ass, I want you to have a cape. A real cape. Although I understand while you will never be allowed to give that speech you should. Every freaking recruit. Every freaking person who ever comes into contact with a police officer should hear your words.

    You really, really need a cape.

  44. Jean says:

    I didn’t know that was your profession and I hope these words find their way to the right ears. I’m a teacher and with a few minor details changes (a few considering where I taught) this could be about teaching. Also, all I know about Lincoln I learned from Daniel Day Lewis.

  45. Standing and Clapping – great speech. I love the part about having each others’ backs. Something we civilians don’t even realize.

  46. Katia says:

    WOW. I was totally caught off guard by that speech. I was expecting more funny, but that speech, wow (I know repetitive and redundant, repetitive and redundant, Katia). That speech has to happen.

  47. Well put. Things were a bit different in the early ’80’s when I was a deputy but I’ve been in many a situation that would have gone smoother with this attitude that they did with the prevailing attitude…and we were a pretty mellow dept.

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