Will You Be On The Top or Bottom?

Your entire career will be a test of your professionalism and values. Will you end it on the top or on the bottom?


Things seem to go wrong in the careers of many cops. Somewhere around the middle, they start counting. Not their fingers and toes, mind you. Nope. Instead, they know (almost to the hour) how long they have to wait until retirement.

What's up with that?

I know what it is like on the front end of the job. I recall how it feels when you want to get into the profession of coppery. I have seen guys who are willing to jump through any hoop, scale any building, bend steel with their bare hands, even change the course of raging rivers to become a cop. Then somehow, they do an about-face and begin to dread the job. They have as much anticipation for their exit as they did for their entrance.

Plain and simple: they are unhappy. What a shame. How did they arrive at this spot?

How did they go from being on top to finding themselves unhappily at the bottom of the ladder of life? How was their joy and happiness stolen from them?

The goal of this writing is singular: help the young ones among us recognize trouble before they fall into its firm grasp.

It saddens me to say that there are people in this Brotherhood of Law Enforcement who do not belong. They could use their talents better elsewhere. They are like chameleons. They wear clothes like you. They carry a badge and gun like you. But that is where your paths separate. These folks probably fall into one of these categories:

  • They are lazy
  • They are incompetent
  • They are bullies
  • They are clueless

If we only had to look out for these four traits, we could handle that, pretty simply. However, there are dynamics at work within law enforcement which really make the burden heavy. Following is a list of the elements that I believe add twists and turns which can have a dramatic impact.

We pledge to be duty-bound to one another. We have taken an oath to protect a fellow officer with our life, if necessary. The chameleons use your commitment for their personal gain in a variety of perverse ways.

Showing any unwillingness to cover for a minor indiscretion on the part of another officer is considered by many cops to be a sign of disloyalty to all cops.

Questioning the veracity of statements made by another officer (whether above or below you on the food chain) is also often seen as disloyalty.

The right of a new cop to challenge a senior officer seems to diminish on an inversely proportional ratio compared to the service stripes of the senior guy. Let me say that another way. The more years a cop has on, the less right anyone has to question whatever they say or do.

Some cops fear anyone around them looking better, brighter, more able than they. Hence, the only method these cops have to make themselves look good is to make those around them look bad. These cops are easily threatened and will lash-out defensively, seemingly without any legitimate reason. Watch out for these public safety employees: they can be silent killers of a career.

Being part of the fraternity demands that a cop be have supreme loyalty to another cop in deference to someone who is on the outside. That is particularly distasteful when the insider is lying and the outsider represents the truth.

Disloyalty is about the worst of transgressions in the cop world. It is on par to cowardice for many. It's a deal-killer.

The Penalty Box

The reality of life is that getting yourself into a disfavored position in the police community can make you feel like a punching bag.

  • It can make going to work a miserable nightmare. The stress of the job can drive you to pills or the bottle. It can bring an untimely end to a marriage and/or ruin your health.
  • It can get you assigned to every miserable job your agency has to offer.
  • It can get you assigned to every call that no one ever wants.
  • It can cost you any opportunity for training, beyond the minimum requirement.
  • It can cost you any chance at a promotion.
  • It can get you repeatedly subjected to BS charges that are unfounded. Though never sustained, you will find yourself the focus of unending internal investigations.
  • It can cost you your job and your paycheck.
  • It can cost you your career, if you are black-listed.
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