Just because I’m a police officer…

First published in the Sunshine Coast Daily on June 13, 2015

I’m a mother of two. I’m a successful writer. But being a police officer is the thing that seems to define me in the eyes of everybody else.

I’ve been doing this for many years now and I’ve built certain defences against the stereotypes and presumptions people immediately make when you say ‘I’m a cop’. It’s a shame because it’s only a part of who I am but often people just can’t see past it. They treat me differently when they find out I’m a police officer.

It can be very polarising, and you never know what sort of reaction you’re going to get. It seems to depend on people’s most recent experience with police. And if someone’s just received a traffic ticket for driving with their arm out of the car window, then you can expect some crankiness.

Sometimes though, it comes from unexpected quarters. I ran into my Grade Three teacher shortly after I’d graduated from the Police Academy. When she asked me what I’d been up to in the ensuing decades, I proudly told her about my shiny new career. She launched into a diatribe about corrupt and evil police because she was in a family war with her police-officer brother-in-law. Well, that was unexpected. Lesson learnt.

When I chose this career, I accepted the fact that people may hate me for what I represent rather than who I am. To a certain extent, it is a 24 hour job. You are never not a police officer and this can attract a lot of negativity. I get paid to deal with that at work, but when my shift ends, I want the cynicism to end too.

Clearly, I don’t spend all of my time at work. I do the same things other people do when they are not at work – shopping, picking the kids up from school, paying bills, enjoying hobbies. When I’m not in my uniform, I don’t usually ‘feel’ like a police officer. I have a life aside from my job. If I’m just going about my own business, I don’t want any attention drawn to me. It can make things uncomfortable, confronting or even dangerous, depending on who happens to be around. There is a huge difference to being at work kitted up, with a partner by your side to being blindsided in Coles alone with your hands full of groceries.

With this in mind, here are a few things I’d like to say as a cop to the general public.

Just because I’m a police officer doesn’t mean my job is like a TV cop show. “Have you ever shot anybody?” is only an acceptable question to ask me if you are under the age of 10.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean I want to hear about each and every time you’ve had anything to do with police. Especially not some traffic ticket you think you didn’t deserve. Really. If I didn’t write it, I’m not interested. Even if I did write it – if you want to argue it, I’ll see you in court, when I’m actually at work and getting paid to sort that stuff out.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean I’m going to admit it to you. I don’t know you, I don’t know what reaction I might get, so I’m steering clear of a potential minefield. Ask me what my job is, I’ll say something generic like ‘public servant’, and dodge any follow-up questions until I know who you are. Just leave it be.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean I have every answer. I make mistakes, I have bad days, I make errors of judgement. I can’t always solve all your problems, and honestly, sometimes your problems can’t be solved. Blaming me is just going to make me cranky and that’s not going to help either one of us.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean it defines me. I might also be a mother, a father, a husband, a carer, a writer, a runner, a knitter, a builder. Some people love being a police officer and they want it to impact on every part of their life. But for a lot of us, it pays the bills and we may consider it to be one of the least interesting parts of our lives. If you talk to me normally, as a person, you might find that out.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean I’m want to lock everyone up. I could not begin to count the number of times I have had strangers push their friends towards me and say something like “look Bob, the police have finally caught up with you”. It’s not funny. Please. Just stop it.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean you have to announce it to everyone around you, at every possible opportunity. If I’m at work, in my uniform, I accept the attention it draws. That’s part of the job. But if I’m in the playground with my kids, and someone feels the need to announce it loudly, then that makes me cringe and look over my shoulder. You don’t have to constantly bring it up in conversation. Move past it. It’s not that exciting.

Just because I’m a police officer… doesn’t mean I’m not a person. Please treat me as such.

Advertisements

The prank with the lizard

lizard pic

It was lying in wait under a chair – big and green and spiky. Photo credit to http://www.animalpictures123.org

Who doesn’t love a good office prank? It’s almost like a competition, to see who can come up with the most elaborate or cunning idea to trick or amuse their workmates.

Most of them are harmless. We have an internal email system. I doubt there is an officer in the state who has not accidentally left their email open and had a prank email sent out on their behalf. Most popular targets are new officers to the station, who tend to invite every one at the station to their house for a togs-optional pool party or a lingerie party where they will do all the modelling.

One of the most memorable pranks which I have had the dubious pleasure of witnessing involved a very large lizard. The mastermind behind it had put some thought into the prank, elevating it beyond the usual slapstick. At the back of the station were a couple of low wide chairs. Coppers would hang out here for smoko or a chat. There were about five or six of us chatting at shift change one afternoon. I was the first one to spot it – there was an enormous lizard laying under one of the chairs. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was like a komodo dragon. I know, you don’t find these in the Australian countryside, but you get the idea. It was quite clearly dead, evidenced by the fact that it had some of its insides hanging out of its mouth. Someone had placed road-kill under the chair. Ha-dee-ha-ha. I moved backwards as I drew everyone’s attention to it. The woman sitting in the chair jumped, shrieked and ran. Everyone put a safe distance between themselves and the lizard, just because of the sheer size of it. So that in itself was a crude but effective prank. People got a fright, there was a little bit of yelling. But that was just the set-up. The best was yet to come. After we all decided it definitely was dead, we moved back into the area again. One of the blokes decided to do the right thing and get rid of the creature. So he grabbed a broom, which happened to be leaning up against the chair. All of a sudden, the dead lizard sprang to life. Everyone jumped and ran. And the lizard jumped and ran. It chased the guy with the broom. He ran backwards, trying to push back at the lizard with the broom. Lots more shrieking from lots more people this time. The lizard was moving like lightning. Until the broom was dropped. Yes, the wag who had placed the lizard under the chair, had tied a piece of fishing line from the creature to the broom. It was inevitable that someone would grab the handy broom to poke at the lizard. And that’s when the real prank kicked in.

Are pranks workplace harassment or good-natured bonding? Depends on your mood really. And whether you are the target. But I am glad that the scheming genius who came up with the lizard prank was on the right side of the law…

Anyone care to share a prank they have been the target for? Or the mastermind behind?

Confessing to Police

itsnotyours

Of course I believe you… (used with permission from Whole Truth Project)

Cop: “Is this your jacket?” (Removing drugs from the pocket)

Baddie: “Nah. That’s not mine.”

Cop: “Whose is it then?”

Baddie: “I dunno. Never seen it before.”

Cop: (Looking inside the jacket) “It’s got your name on the tag.”

Baddie: “Oh… ok, you got me.” (Scratches head) “Dunno why Mum does that.”

I love a good confession. There’s nothing quite like tying off every loose end in an investigation when the offender conveniently fills in all the blanks.

I love a confession in every form. There’s the oxygen thieves who confess because they’re not bright enough to come up with a plausible story. Then there’s the remorseful crook who hands himself in at the front counter after an attack of the guilts, or when they know they’re snared anyway. Or the self-righteous crook who tells you every detail of their stealing/fraud/assault because they fully believe they are somehow justified in doing it. Their disbelief and outrage when they get charged is not quite so much fun, but by then unabashed truth has already been laid bare.

Getting some confessions are like pulling teeth – some are wobbly milk teeth that fall out with the slightest pressure; others are wisdom teeth right at the back that you have to prise and tug and wrench before they are ripped out, leaving a painful hole.

But my favourite confessions are the ones that start out as blatant bare-faced lies. The criminal, all wide-eyed and earnest, builds his lies. And over the course of the interview, as the baddie tries to mould his story around each proven fact as it is presented for comment, eventually the rough ends are polished off to reveal the beautiful shining confession. Almost makes you feel like contentedly laying back and smoking a cigarette afterwards.

So, what’s going through the baddie’s mind on the cusp of a confession? “The truth shall set you free,” we like to say. But it will more likely get you locked up. (No, that’s not right – it will be 3 ½ hours community service and a good behaviour bond…) How do they feel though, when they have told the truth and there’s nothing left to hide? They can face the consequences and move on. The slate is clean. Is the punishment of the crime worse than the guilt of trying to hide it? Often – yes. So, I recommend: Cleanse your soul. Confess.

Trust me. I’m a copper.