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The police chief in my town is likely not going to run for the position next election. Which means there will be a vacant position and nobody knows who's going to run for it.

I'm not particularly eager to be a police officer because the work is dangerous and the pay really sucks but I have started doing the physical training for the police academy 'just in case'.

So, my question is to the current and former police officers on here:

1. What is the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?

2. The part that scares me most about the job is domestic disputes/violence. How does a police officer play the role of family counselor on the spot? What are the police officers responsibility when responding to a domestic dispute? Is he actually supposed to resolve the dispute? I mean, what if he arrives on the scene and the couple calms down immediately, so you leave, as soon as you leave they start going at it again. You're going to threaten to arrest one or both of them? If you arrest just one of them, aren't you asking for trouble that once they are let out they will want to get revenge on their spouse for getting them locked up? Am I over analyzing here? I can't imagine there being specific protocols for these kinds of situations since each situation is so different. If a couple is constantly fighting can the police officer actually recommend that maybe they should split up? If the couple has continuous calls to their residence and one of them keeps getting locked up, it seems unfair to the tax payers to have to foot the bill to house and feed them for the day or two before they are released again (unless it's something more sever of course). I live in a small town where we're not too far from having a box of staples as a line item on the budget. So I would feel very responsible and aware of how I am spending tax payer money in keeping the peace. Arresting someone costs the town money, so if I can reason with them and convince them to calm down I have saved the town some money.

3. How do you reset so that you don't take your work stress home to your family? How do you stay sane on the job? In the sense that if you're constantly dealing with people that are irrational and violent would you start to develop the idea that everyone is like that. There is obviously no light at the end of the tunnel with police work, so how do you measure your personal progress as a police officer? How do you feel good about your work (at least good enough so that you don't quit)? How do you maintain a positive attitude?

Thanks for any guidance and/or suggestions you guys can provide.
 

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How big of a department is it Lex? Sounds as if a real small one. However let me impart impart to you, and any other who are interested, my experiences as a LEO.

My PD experience lasted 4 1/2 years. I started as an SO deputy, 3rd largest in that state. Then went to what I thought was a small dept. PD with 58 total employees, about 48 officers but it was a crappy city riddled with gang problems. I did live in a small town that had 6 or so officers and quite often talked and interacted with them. Now I'm a dirty fed in an agency of 16,000 or so Agents, trying for 20,000, for the past 10+ years. As BP I've also worked in areas that had small PD force or as in Ajo, AZ example, 3 Pima County deputies "assigned" for a 3 year period to Ajo, which is very isolated part of the county.

1. The worst part of the job to deal with?

This varies greatly to what you may consider the worst. Prior to being a cop I was a resident firefighter/EMT and I had to respond to 2 SIDS deaths less than 2 months apart. My nightmare scenario would be to have to deal with a death of a child, such as in an accident. So far, knock on wood, I haven't had to deal with that. The closest I had to as a cop was a 14 y/o girl who got shot, sorta accidentally ::), by a 15 y/o kid. Kid was tried as an adult and it ended in trial but plead out to manslaughter.

If I had to generalize it, cops don't get welcomed when we have to respond. We are not firefighters so using all fingers to wave at us is an option. Add to that a certain amount of the population absolutely hate cops, and ridiculously enough most of them never had any interaction with cops maybe other than a ticket. Just troll around ARFCOM and other forums. Everything we do is looked under a microscope and quite often is Monday morning quarterbacked, the media, and we are held to a higher standard over the general population. I don't have a problem with those issues, except the media. They are not our friends, period!

A small town environment has their own issues. First off it will be a good 'ol boy network and there is no way around it. You will be expected to only enforce the law on 'da other people'. You will have to use extreme discretion. If that PD position is the only position, I'd advise against it. I'd leave it to someone who has vast PD experience AND knows the town or at least knows what to expect. Usually someone with that background will know how to be able to be effective and deal with the good 'ol boys. If you have a few cops in that town and that is what you want to be, then be ready to be bored broken up with a few days a year of 'excitement'. Unfortunately trying to 'trap' speeders may be the most of the action. Small towns with high crime rate will usually contract with SO or large adjoining agency. Usually small towns that want a PD force is because they want to control who gets it and who don't. Mayors and city council members do not get held to our standards. External politics have a direct influence on your job. As oppose to a large agency, but internal politics takes that place. Pretty much as any other job.

There is more but that sums the biggest issues.

2. Domestic Violence (DV's):

As a PD Officer, you are not a counselor so don't try to be one. Professionalism and tact is the only way to deal with DV's. First off, at least 90% of DV's alcohol and/or drugs are involved. And probably in the high 90's. Most states (WA, CA, and AZ are almost identical) have a very simple laws covering DV's. And that is an arrest is mandatory if the officer determined that an assault had occurred and the primary aggressor WILL be arrested. CIte and release is not an option. You can cite both but one will go to jail. Under DV laws the officer will not be held criminally or civilly responsible for conducting a LAWFUL arrest.

Let me translate, don't try to work their issues out. If you can determine that a crime had been committed involving a DV situation, just bag them. Using 'discretion' will hang your ass. This include (unfortunately) some guy who gets mad and punches the wall. I know it's BS, but I didn't write the laws. If you don't and you come back and someone had been stabbed or shot, you are gonna have some explaining to do. If it is just a verbal issue, which in my experience is about 1/3 of my DV calls experience, convince one of them to leave for the night. Do it convincingly that they will go to jail if you come back. Better yet, offer them a ride. Preferrably to a location as far away as possible like a hotel. I never allowed anyone to stay somewhere else for the night just down the block or that they have easy transportation. My tactic was to explain to them the DV laws, especially the part where I won't be held responsible if I found a reason to arrest and I can always find that reason. Remember, most are drunk or drugged so deal with them as unruly children with extreme ADD.

As far as the burden of tax payers go, consider the expense to investigate a crime scene, the cost of the hospital bill that will surely be covered by welfare, or your department. Also the cost of a lengthy trial a year later, or the cost of welfare for the kids when a parent is dead and the other in jail. Making 100 Dv arrest with a cost of $200 booking and jail per arrest will be a bargain in comparison to one Dv situation that goes bad. And I haven't even mentioned civil litigation if an officer fails to do his duty.

Like I said before, I think DV laws go a bit extreme, specifically how even when an actual assault didn't occur someone can be arrested. Such as in damaging property or disorderly conduct (verbal threats). Getting arrested for that then being convicted will result of that person being a prohibited possessor. But it is what it is. By the time you've been to your fist DV you will clearly agree with 80% of what I just posted. By the time you've been to your 2nd DV you will agree 100%. Bottom line, you will not/cannot reason with a drunk/drugged asshole. You should be able to fool them easily though. If not a drunk or drugged asshole will seemingly and miraculously always end up getting themselves arrested.

Although women will usually be the victim, don't be fooled to think they don't know DV laws and you will come accross those who will exploit it.

3. How do I reset?

Reset what? There is no reset.

It takes time. There really is no way not to bring work stress home, in LE or any other jobs. The difference is that being a LEO is a lifestyle, typical to that like the military, firefighter, or any other job where you will deal with human pain and suffering. Time is all it takes. Whether it means down the road you will consider to stay in the field or you will adapt to it. Each person has their methods. Being a LEO, as I mentioned before, you will be held to a higher standard, you will be under the microscope, and you will be Monday morning QB'd. What I mean by higher standard is when a LEO falls from grace (f's up as in does something criminally stupid) there is no leniency. You will get the hardest prosecution and the harshest punishment. I tend to agree with this to an extent. We are given powers that citizens typically don't have. Those powers are that we can seize a person, take his property, and to take their life if necessary. Of course, contrary to the tin foil hat beliefs, those powers are heavily scrutinized to the nth degree. By law we can cuss out anyone. By expectation and professional conduct, I wouldn't want to be the one explaining to my chief how I ended up on youtube cussing out someone. Might end up getting a few days on the beach (our jargon for suspension) if we are lucky. We are allowed to do our job as per the U.S. Constitution, Federal/State/local laws, court rulings, and agency or dept. policies. At the same time we have to have the balls to do things that push those limits. It's a very uneasy balance at best, specifically dept. policies. Dept. policies are often violated while trying to do our jobs.

The biggest thing to get LEO's in trouble is 1. Alcohol and 2. Screwing around. Most citizens won't lose their jobs if they get a DUI. You almost always will as a cop. The screwing around part usually won't get you fired but it never seems to amaze me seeing some dumbshit lose his jobs because some lil' 17 y/o though he was sexy in uniform, some chick (or not) popped for DUI got out of it by 'oral reparations', and there are those stories, which are true, a cop and coppette who are both married.....to other people, getting locked in the back of a squad car. Shit, is Motel 6 that cost prohibited? You will most likely end up with friends that are also cops, were cops, or pro cop. Your old pals that like to smoke a joint every now and then, or party alot, pick up a hooker in Las Vegas. Well for us what happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas, capish. I rarely drink, and what I mean rarely I'm talking about maybe 3 to 6 beers a year. I've already been divorced because apparently my ex somehow thought this will be a day job only and apparently I needed to be there every night to make sure she wouldn't fuck around. I'm remarried to a great woman and met her after I passed all my phases at the job.

I will say that the first 2 years are cool, exciting, and new. The following 2 to 4 years usually the 'respect my authoritan' kicks in. Usually cops gets burned out by their 4th or 5th year. Also usually most divorces take place around this time. During the burn out period many either would have left LE by now or switched to another agency. From the 6th year on out most tend to become rounded with experience. For the most part the asshole (to civilians) stage would have passed but if their are dead set to still be an asshole there are always their fellow officers to be and asshole towards. Many would have either moved up the ranks or do non-patrol type duties, such as I have done.

On the bad side complacency tends to set in. Usually at this point you've become accustomed to the 'LE lifestyle'. I've mentioned before on other posts about how we usually remain in 'condition yellow' and that is pretty much constantly aware of your surroundings become second nature. I can't help it. I'm pretty mellow about it and other non-leo people, to include my family, don't even notice it. They never notice how I always pick the table in the back corner and how I alway sit with my back to the wall usually gun side towards wall if possible. How I always keep my gun hand unoccupied and will feel uncomfortable if it is, some exceptions allowed of course. I always scan other vehicles around me when I drive around and I always look at plates. Now this may sounds as if I'm paranoid but I'm not. Frankly I couldn't give a shit if I saw something that may alert me to the point last Friday seeing someone weaving all over the road. I didn't even call it in. But I will pick out some shitbags hanging around my house. Many in LE get paranoid about bad guys knowing where they live. I don't. I count on it that they do know where I live, and I don't care, but as I stated before I'm always aware. I know who they are the shit bags and they know who I am even though we've never have met. Seems to me it comes second nature. There isn't a trend in this country where bad guys are retaliating officers at home so I sleep like a baby. When I'm off duty don't f with me and you won't get f'd with, but when I'm back on duty I pick it up from there. Too fucking bad for them. Don't be a shitbag then.

I rarely discuss work issues at home but make no mistake I'm a cop. I have just one simple rule at home and that is I demand peace and tranquility. Drama is not to be tolerated and I do have the experience and training to stop drama immediately. With my wife, I pretty much give her what she wants and she takes care of me very well. On the spouse issue, pick the right one and have the cojones to accept nothing else. I have had GF in the past who seem to love drama. Needless to say they didn't last and there are no 2nd chances with in that arena. I don't like to yell or be yelled at and be prepared to live alone but at least be demanding to live with peace and happiness. Actually that should apply to everyone and anyone.

I hope this helped Lex. I had some time to kill.....at work.

Edited to add:

Just to recap as to why not date psyco GF or have problem wives, well put it this way: I remember that ex-bitch GF always wanting to start an argument before I left for work. I don't know what it was that started it. Now that I look back it seems clear to me that was the way she garned attention from me and what frustrated her most was that I din't react as she expected. I would basically not show that it bothered me and I would turn the issues around, thanks to the times I've sat before a jury being grilled by a defense attorney. But of course I still get pissed and THEN go to work pissed. It doesn't lend to being in the best state of mind being that we are not robots. Luckily I've been at the job for a number of years and it wasn't an issue. My ex-wife situation: I took a lot of leave during that time. I'd get to work realizing that if I'd gotten in to a fight I was capable of over doing it. now, my home life is exactly the way I want it. When I come home it is my temple of peace. I leave my muddy boots and shit from the field at my door.

That leads to the next thing: Know your limitations. It's tough to gauge but it's a must. Know when to walk away. We are not superman, but to many that is easily forgotten.

LE is definitely not an easy job. Actually is a very thankless profession but it is challenging so it does attract many type A personalities. If fact I think it's the only thing that makes this job attractive. Definitely nothing like what TV shows and movies like to portray. Some come close, some are dead on in certain areas. And CSI doesn't come close at anything involving actual forensics or police work. It's a really stupid show.

What I find funny is how TV networks will have an 'expose' about something bad a PD officer or agency had done. Then turn around and show some stupid cop show, like CSI, where the cops will say some stupid remark when they arrest someone or come accross a bad guy. But it's comedy to me. Reno 911 is more realistic than CSI.

And regarding human suffering remark, It even astounds me that more than one occassion I've held the hand of someone asking me to hold it as they died. Well two died, and one survived but was convinced he was going to die and so did I. Of course I don't have a clue of who they were or I don't remember. But I can describe them to a tee even though they've happened years apart. And after dealing with that, the next day, heck even within hours, it's back to the same grind and you might have to deal with some fat ass bitch wanting to fight with her neighbor over their cat shitting in her flower bed or things equally stupid. And you must do so with tact and professionalism. And at the end of the day you will have to go home and read bedtime stories to the kids and listen to your wife ask you what you want for dinner the following day as if nothing had ever happened.

I do have a lot of stories of my experiences. Most of I tend to kinda forget, but when I remember them I definitely remember them. Many are pretty funny but they are stories that have to be told in person. I do like the excitement and wouldn't want to do anything else. It will harden you towards many things and soften you to some.

For over 10 years my LE field is in immigration. Not quite the traditional LE duties but every now and then we do it. The bulk of our job is quite unique. Add to what I'm doing now, even more unique that I'm positive if I unleashed some of the stuff I've seen, heard, or experienced many would have a hard time believing them.... until I have a fellow agent sitting next to me saying, "yup, that shit did go down". the southern border is a world in it's own to include even those who live down by the border don't know what happens at the border.

My time as a cop I had to deal with over half my calls being DV or other assault related. Hardly any traffic type stuff.

If you want to be in the best paid LE jobs, go fed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Our police department consists of one officer: the Police Chief. Which is an elected position, I don't remember how long the term is, probably a few years. There is also a part time officer from a nearby town who fills in when you're sick, on vacation or just on weekends. Backup can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes. Sometimes less and sometimes even longer. We had to have a state trooper come from half way across the state once because nobody else was around, took almost an hour for him to get here.

The town is pretty small and the population fluctuates through the seasons. In the summer a lot of people come up here to vacation in their summer homes so the population gets to maybe 1,400 and in the winter time it's probably down to 1,000.

I'm also a Volunteer Fire Fighter and EMT-B in town so I have a pretty good idea of the call volume and the kinds of people that live here. For the Fire and Ambulance weeks can go by before we get a call, sometimes a whole month. The Police Chief is a little more busy since people call him for the stupidest things but from the town report it seems like DV is the most popular, once in a blue moon we'll get a burglary, we get some suicides (to which I respond to anyways as an EMT-B) and then probably less than a dozen MVAs per year. But overall I think our Chief doesn't get more than one or two calls per day, if that, I'm sure he has several days in a row with no calls which he probably spends doing paperwork and the like.

I would not be taking this job for the money (actually, it is one of the few paid positions in the town, everything else is volunteer, even firefighters don't get paid to respond to a call). I currently get paid a lot more as a software developer. I would be taking this job just to prevent a 'Jack Booted Thug' from getting it. Our current Chief is great, he's been elected with a large majority of the votes every time he's run, I believe he's been the Chief here for 20 years. So we will all be very sad to see him go if he decides not to run.

I don't know all of the details of how the process works for getting a new Chief but basically there is an election. If you win in the election you have 6 months to go to the Police Academy and pass. I'm not really sure what happens if you don't pass the Academy, whether they will send the next candidate with the most votes or if they will hold another election.

I definitely would need a lot of supervision and in town training from the current Chief to get the hang of things and I think he would be willing to teach and guide me. I know that there are hooligans in town that cause trouble, I have never actually seen them myself. Although I have responded to calls as Fire Fighter/EMT where supposedly they were somehow involved but ran away before we got there.

As far as taking someone to hotel. The closest hotel is 35 minutes away, so it would take me more than hour of driving to take them there. And they likely wouldn't be able to afford the hotel anyways.

Also, I would probably have to keep my current day job, I would just switch to being part time. Because I wouldn't make enough money in this Chief position to maintain my current life style. Last I heard it was less than $40k a year.
 

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Give it a go. Different people have different experiences. You can always quit at the end of the term if it's not working out. If you are interested, go speak to the chief about it.
 

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Wow! That is small. And way different.

So what happens if they elect a Chief that doesn't quite work out and is more problems than it is worth? Are you guys stuck with him until the next elections? I've always hear about Sheriff's being elected, but this is the first I've heard about a Chief. Usually they are appointed and usually can be 'let go' at any time. Either way it's a political position. I don't think you'd have to worry about a JBT type even running for the position.

Personally I'd advise against it. For one if you are that isolated and you even get a dozon or so DV's, the basic rule is don't go to DV's alone. I've responded to DV's having to wait up to 10 or 15 minutes for back up and although at times it is helpful as you listen to them yell at each other, even start to fight, it's stressful not being able to do anything until back up arrives. And a good share of shootings (sub v. sub/cop v. sub) are DV's. I couldn't imagine waiting an hour much less try it alone. But most DV's probably don't require back up but the ones that do, DO!

About the hotel 35 minutes away, even better. Most, if not all, agencies will have some money set aside for such things such as to pay for emergency shelter. If I were that chief I'd even have some sort of contract with that hotel and even offer to pay for the stay. If your town can afford to pay a chief 40K and maintain a volunteer FF/EMT station, then they can set aside at least $500 for that sort of thing, to be used sparingly and only as a last resort. I wouldn't doubt that your chief already does it. It's a lot less cheaper and hassle than to come back. Besides if you had to put someone in jail wouldn't you have to take them somewhere else. I'm sure booking and jail fees at least equal if not exceed a cheap hotel cost.

I went to the PD academy with a young chief of a small town. He was about 24 years old and he was a dumbass in my book. He'd let his GF drive the one and only squad car, which was the most equipped car I'd ever seen to date. I think he had one part timer under him and I don't think he lasted more than a year. I believe his inexperience is what sunk him. The town I used to live in has their chief for about 15 years. He did start out as a cop there. It was ultra political how things ran at that agency. Apparently you don't mess with city council members or their family. By what I mean by messing with is don't enforce any law against them.

Even though you are in a very rural part make no mistake you still live in modern day America. And that means if you mess something up you can expect a lawsuit. It seems to me that is as to why many small towns end up contracting with county, state, or larger agencies. In fact that town I used to live in did just that.

If there is some time and if you have the time I'd suggest volunteering to hang with the current chief for about a month. Maybe even asking him to give you a call if he gets a call. That way you should have an idea of what you are getting yourself in to. Once you hang that badge on you people won't see you the same even though you probably have not changed one bit. And you will be scrutinized by all. I can only imagine some old timer in your town that absolutely despises cops because back in 1962 he got a speeding ticket. Then he see's the young 'new chief'. Well you get the idea. Then there are the 'hooligans' as you've mentioned. Like I said, having lived in a small town othing escapes the ears of everyone.

It will be interesting to hear if you will do it Lex. If you do let me know how it goes. Of course I'd be laughing at some things you will go through, not to be mean but just because there will be somethings that I know you will go through and others will be something new to hear. I already start to laugh at you now because I know why you really want to try for the job. I know there is the 'good' reason which I, and darn near 99% of everyone who enters police work say the exact same thing. However, and it's not a bad reason, but for those 99% it is the challenge. At least at first. If you hadn't realized it, you are a volunteer FF and EMT, and I was a resident FF/EMT. I think I saw some pics posted of you doing some rock climbing, or was it just you on some rocks. Well if it is the first one then I pretty much hit the nail on the head about police work attracting someone who wants a challenge.

If you do get the position I will guarantee that the 6 month long academy will hugely impact and change your perspective. And no it won't transform you in to an instant JBT. Then the real fun (or hell to some) begins. And don't be dissapointed on how much time they will NOT cover the 2A at the academy. However 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th will be hammered and applies to day to day work.

Anyways, if you do seek the position I can only imagine that you'd have to give a speech or some sort of statement which begins with, "If I am elected Chief of Police, I promise to...blah, blah, blah". And although I advise gainst it, I hope you do give it a try. The experience in itself is a gold mine. I think you are a smart guy and I think you will do fine for the most part, but the lack of experience will kick your ass, and at times literally. Even for a small town you will be amazed to what you will come accross. As I mentioned before, modern day America doesn't lend itself to kindly to rural small town America.

The job itself is best for someone with 'some' police experience. That and that they know what a small town expects. Real crooks don't wear ski masks. They wear suits with ties and they are called attorneys. Liability concerns are imense for just the 'one guy'. If it wasn't for the politics I'd do something like that and maybe I will when I retire in the next 9 to 14 years. And many of these small town PDs go through a bunch of chiefs at a time until they settle in for one they like. Tombstone Marshall is an example. I think all of them had at least 10+ years experience and they went through 5 or 6 in just a few years. And knowing Tombstone they cannot afford to have a marshall w/o experience.

Good luck Lex, and if you do go for it and want some advise just pm me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So what happens if they elect a Chief that doesn't quite work out and is more problems than it is worth? Are you guys stuck with him until the next elections? I've always hear about Sheriff's being elected, but this is the first I've heard about a Chief. Usually they are appointed and usually can be 'let go' at any time. Either way it's a political position. I don't think you'd have to worry about a JBT type even running for the position.
I've been informed that the Selectmen can appoint a different Chief under such circumstances. And I guess the same would happen if someone is elected and doesn't pass the academy, the Selectment will appoint someone else, etc.
 
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sounds like you are in a neat position if you are so inclined. go for it. It puts you in a unique position to prepare your community for hard times and help guide them thru them. you could do a lot of good.

as to the police acadamy, if you want to complete it then you will. intelligence aint the deciding factor. Drive is.
 
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