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Unwritten Rules Rookies should know....


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  • Unwritten Rules Rookies should know....

    Like most officers who have been the police for five years or more, I became concerned over the lack of common sense displayed by some of our new officers. I decided that the failing wasn't necessarily the rookie's fault, but probably their FTO's for not informing them of the "rules." In that spirit, I offer a few lessons you rookies should take to heart.

    1. Out here, everybody lies.
    Out on the street, every non-police person you come in contact with will lie to you. The criminals will lie to you because they have to. The victims will lie to you out of embarrassment, to hide their own criminal activity, and to hide all the stupid things they did that led to their being victimized in the first place. Witnesses and other citizens will lie to you just for fun. Always know and just accept that you are never, ever being told the whole story.

    2. They lied to you during training.
    Most of what you learned in during training will need to be forgotten. Most of what you learned in traing doesn't work. For example, unlike during training with your classmates, the bad guys on the street will not hold still long enough for you to scream, "Stop, stop, stop!", step back, and deliver a perfect knee strike to the bad guy's common peroneal.

    3. Never take the word of a drunk person over that of a sober person.
    I cannot count the number of times I have watched a rookie agonize over who to believe in a dispute between a drunk and a sober person. Simplify your life. The drunk is always wrong. The drunk is drunk and therefore, can't remember what happened anyway. Referring back to rule #1, his drunken lies will be stupid and insulting, while the sober person's lies will probably be better thought out and plausible. If you know somebody in the disorder needs to go to jail, and you can't decide which one, take the drunk.

    4. Civilian ridealongs are not your friends.
    My department tends to assign civilian riders to new officers, presumably because they will be more eager to get into stuff, and also because the old heads won't take them. Treat the civilian rider, especially one you didn't bring with you but was approved through the chief's office as a spy. Do not tell them war stories about how you and several other officers beat some thug down. Do not show the ridealong all the cool places where you and you partners go to hide when you don't have a call and want to slack off. Assume that everything you say to them will make it's way back to the chief because it will. Your ridealong may not personally care about the guy you and your buddies had to beat down, but if it's a good story, they'll tell a friend, who'll tell a friend. Remember that "Kevin Bacon" game. Everyone in your city is only six relationships away from your chief and probably quite less.

    Okay, I've got the ball rolling. Any "old heads" want to add on to this list, feel free to do so.
    It is good to hate the French. -Al Bundy

  • #2
    5. Sit back and listen to the veterans. If you really did know everything about being a cop, they would have sent you straight to being chief. God gave you two ears and one mouth because He wanted you to listen twice as much as talk.

    6. Some night, someone will try to kill you. You do not when, who or where. Therefore, consider everyone with whom you come in contact to be a potential threat. That doesn't mean you draw down on a soccer mom in a minivan, but NEVER let your guard down. Like Rowdy Roddy Piper says, just when you think you know the answers, we change the questions.

    7. If you need help, ask for it. That goes for everything from asking your sergeant for advice on a minor case where you are confused to calling for Code 3 cover when facing a threat. The only stupid question is the one you don't ask.

    8. NEVER, EVER lie. That is the one thing that will absolutely for sure get you fired. If your FTO, sergeant or IA questions you, tell the truth. They most likely already know the answer.

    9. Have fun with the job and don't take yourself too seriously. This doesn't mean be unsafe, just don't get uptight and think that we are on a crusade. Loosen up, see the humor in ugly situations and fine-tune your sense of the ironic.
    Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

    I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq


    • #3
      Damn good points, guys!

      I'm still pondering on my points to mention (wouldn't want to forget something!)
      People have more fun than anybody.


      • #4
        Point 9 Brings back the first thing I was told by my FTO back in 77. "Remember, too many people treat this joke like a job!"
        So True!
        "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm" - George Orwell


        • #5
          Let's hear some more. I am learning more here than I did at the academy
          _ _ _________________ _ _

          "All men are created equal, and then a few become Police Officers."


          • #6
            10. If you think someone is watching you....they are.
            "When you guys get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a *****."
            -Commanding General, 1st Marine Division


            • #7

              12 Never, ever, under ANY circumstances stop your radio car in such a position that your FTO has to step into a mud puddle when getting out of the car!
              6P1 (retired)


              • #8
                Originally posted by Dukeboy01:

                1. Out here, everybody lies.
                I know that a couple of stops I've been on that if I hadn't been with one of the seasoned officers, the person I stopped may have gotten over on me. I can think of quite a few instances that I realized, after the fact, that I had been lied to. My very good friend who is an officer in a neighboring PD told me "Summer, it's the badguy's job to lie to you and it's your job to find out the truth." So true. I would like to give an example:

                I few months ago I stopped a black Lexus for running a stop sign. When I get to the vehicle I realize that I know this guy (I work in the vicinity in which I grew up in so 8 out of 10 people I stop, I know... the other 2 out of those 10 I'm most likely related to!) Anyway, I realize that I know this guy through my ex boyfriend. I also know the passenger. I decide at that point that I'm still going to write him a citation because he blew the stop sign with such disregard that I couldn't fathom letting him get off with just a warning. I ask him for his license and he tells me that he doesn't have them on him. I get his name and D.O.B. so I can do a BMV check. I'm a little unsure of his real first name because I know him mostly by his nickname and the D.O.B he gave me seemed to make him a little younger than I thought he was. Lo and behold the dayum BMV's computer system is down, so I write him for the stop sign and send him on his way.

                40 minutes later, when the computer comes back up, the registration for his car comes back to him and his girlfriend (who I also know) Now I remember his real name because it came up with the registration and guess what... it's not the name he gave me Guess what else? He has no dayum license and to add insult to injury... he had warrants Boy I was ****ed. But that taught me to stop taking things for granted. Eventhough I couldn't do anything about getting the info back so late, I didn't thing that he would lie to me.

                Thanks for starting this post, I look forward to more responses! You don't know how helpful this info is (well, I guess you do know or else you wouldn't have posted )

                [ 02-25-2002: Message edited by: Summer Rain ]


                • #9
                  Good lesson, Summer. I've learned the hard way many times also. Also, I sometimes have to RELEARN. I had two that I should have arrested that (I found out later) gave me a false name in one week! One I've caught and lawed (she got to stay in jail a while... {teras, tears, crying, tears...} )

                  Unfortunately, this applies to use of force also-often someone has to get hurt before it clicks with them how fast we must go hands on to KEEP from getting hurt.

                  On the guy, did you go back and law him, or at least arrange for it with another officer and agency? With me, if you screw me, I'll see that you have what's legally coming to you, if I have to work OT. Don't let them have the last laugh.
                  People have more fun than anybody.


                  • #10
                    1. Go Home At The End Of Your Shift-

                    That's the first rule of law enforcement-that you go home at the end of your shift.
                    Officer Jim Malone (Sean Connery)
                    The Untouchables (1987)

                    Enough said. However, I’ll give my thoughts on it. It is proven that officers intently focused on going home, with the mentality “I WILL not die here on the street” will be more apt to survive deadly encounters, and FAR more likely to survive a potentially deadly wound. Officers have survived being shot to the heart, brain, etc. You MUST adopt the mentality and motto: “They WILL NOT HURT ME-I MY GOING HOME TO MY FAMILY!”

                    Many officers point out picking something that means the most to you-a spouse, kids, a parent, a DOG, and focusing on that when shot, stabbed, ran over, whatever, and credit that focus toward keeping them alive. I can’t begin to tell you of the officers who have lived through bad injuries and said they just refused to die.

                    I read a story once by an American who joined the Rhodesian Army in the 70’s looking for action. In an encounter with a terrorist, he took SIX AK-47 ROUNDS to the legs and torso, and lived and is totally 100% recovered. Being shot does NOT, BY ANY STRETCH of the imagination, equal “dying.” Don’t give up. Be like the cab driver who was shot and SWALLOWED the bullet, and fought back, and lived. Be like SGT Roy Benavidez: http://www.mishalov.com/Benavidez.html
                    Remember, “small arms fire” means 7.62 RIFLE ROUNDS, not the .38 lead round nose of some crackhead, and “killed his opponent” meant “brutally beat him to death in vicious hand-to-hand combat, after being shot, stabbed, etc.”

                    Get mad if you have to, BUT NEVER FREAKING GIVE UP. I’m going to die on a boat, in my sleep, in the Caribbean, after retirement, and my girlfriend is going to be so upset she has to drop out of college! NOT on some dirty grease covered street!

                    2. Pick A Secret Mentor
                    Observe officers and learn from every one of them (although some you may learn what NOT to do!) Pick one that you feel is the best officer you’ve ever met, and try to model yourself after them. I say keep it secret, because it would make them feel “weird” if they knew you respected them this much, and was watching them this closely. I told one early in my career (before I figured out the “secret” part) and he actually got MAD about it!

                    3. Develop A “Hand Fetish”
                    MAKE YOURSELF watch the hands before you even look at the face. They can only hurt you with their hands. If you don’t see two empty PALMS then assume they have something in it. I can’t over emphasize this-if I have someone run from a car stop, I STILL look at his or her hands before the overall appearance for the description. If I get out at a domestic, when the people come out of the house, I’ve seen every hand there before I’ve seen their face. Many experienced officers can tell you that they’ve approached a violator’s vehicle, made the “Hi, I need to see your license please” spiel, and (maybe unconsciously) watched their hands so closely, they then drop the gaze to the OL and it’s someone they know. I have done this countless times. Develop a “hand fetish”! If you have trouble getting in this habit, watch “Surviving Edged Weapons” once, and think about that butcher knife penetrating and deflating your lung, and as you hit the barn floor, you’ve lost 50% of your strength.

                    4. Report Writing IS “Officer Survival”
                    Yes, you knew SGT Dave would hit on this one! SO many officers hate report writing, so many are backed up on calls, and so many supervisors will rush their officers to get back on the street (what THEM take a call or two???? )

                    We DO NOT have the support of the public we once enjoyed, although since September 11, we are getting it back slowly, but, as you know from intimate relationships, “trust” is a delicate thing.

                    Write your reports to an imaginary member of the public, NOT to just your supervisor. For instance, the layperson does NOT KNOW that “Hilltop Apartments” are a high crime area where an officer was almost killed a few years ago. They do NOT understand why your threw someone to the ground for taking his hands off the car repeatedly while you were patting him down-you must articulate that “in my training I have been taught that most officers are assaulted during the actual arrest procedure, and SINCE HE REPEATEDLY REFUSED TO OBEY VERBAL COMMANDS this furtive movement led me to believe he was reaching for a weapon.” I’m not encouraging you to lie-that is indeed why we have to take them down, but moist officers don’t possess the writing ability to objectively distance themselves, and then articulate these things in subjective terms. Indeed, my motto is that we don’t cover up bad police work-we are just better documenting GOOD police work!

                    Articulate everything you see, and know of a call to help justify your actions. In high courts (Sate and Federal) you don’t get the luxury of adding the details you left out, like you might with your Captain, or in district court. They will assume that if you as a police officer did not put it in your report, IT DID NOT HAPPEN!

                    Judges, lawyers, civilian review board members, insurance companies, etc. do not have the frame of knowledge and mindset that you do-you must write it to their level, but still in guidelines set forth by your agency. Everywhere I’ve worked, allowed me this latitude-you might not be as lucky

                    5. Wash Your Hands!
                    SO many officers are catching cooties from arrestees you must remember that something as mundane as washing your hands, that you haven’t been told since you were 12, it so vastly important to LE. I have bought my own gloves, my own hand sanitizer, and carried my own 50/50 mix of bleach and water for a long time. Also, by keeping this in mind, and doing it, you develop the OVERALL mindset of sanitation and safety, and reaps benefits other than just sanitized hands.

                    6. Wear That Geeky Traffic Vest
                    Almost every year, the number of cops killed in and around traffic is equal to or GREATER THAN the number of cops killed feloniously. The body armor is “high speed” and accepted as part of the job, but the traffic vest IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT.

                    Also, you must make time to put it on. If you roll up at a wreck, the victims/witnesses/gawkers/etc will CONTROL YOU if you let them. You must make yourself not get rushed by them and take the time to put your traffic vest on. You control the situation, don’t let it control you!

                    7. Use Officer.com!
                    I really don’t get any extra pay in my check as a moderator for plugging the site! I have been anal for many years about learning these little tidbits, but I have learned SO MUCH from this site. We can pick each other’s knowledge, and ALL benefit from it. Also, you can blow off stress here you can’t at the office, and stress kills MORE cops than guns, knives, cars. More on that later.

                    8. Have A Life Outside The Job
                    Man, I still recall being 20 YOA, and a rookie! I WISH the job were still that enjoyable! It is enjoyable still, but in a different way. I think I was excited for the first 3 years, straight! I mostly associated with only LEOs, and ate, breathed, slept, and SHAT policing! I would even go in and ride once or twice a week OFF DUTY!

                    As I’ve gotten older however, I’ve seen the need to NOT lose touch with the non-LEO world. Keep some friends outside LE-sometimes they can be very stress relieving.

                    Also, as I said earlier, stress kills more cops that guns. I VIVIDLY recall LT Peggy Shafer of Greensboro PD (5’11’’ blonde, SWAT team member, Firearms, Defensive Tactics, and OS instructor!) who, in a class she taught gave us hard and fast statistical data of how many cops die OTJ or within 5 years of retirement, and it was staggering. She concluded her presentation with this statement “So, you may as well draw your retirement out and buy a fishing boat now, because, statistically speaking, YOU WILL NOT LIVE to enjoy and collect it.” (Guuuuulp… ) It was a very powerful message.

                    She also told us her credentials as a firearms instructor, SWAT member, defensive tactics instructor, officer survival instructor, and then told us that THE most important officer survival technique we could learn was… (we were all expecting some vicious take down maneuver… )…GOLF! This was also a powerful message.

                    9. Trust Your Instincts
                    I don’t care what the courts rule-a cop does have a “sixth sense.” Use it. If you think you need to search someone over, DO IT. If you feel you are being lied to, keep pursuing it. I truly believe God looks out for police officers a little more. You might get hurt and never see it coming, but NEVER go against the “hairs on the back of your neck” when they ARE telling you something.

                    9. Handcuff EVERYBODY / “Search For The BB”
                    You WILL hear this in the academy, but you must practice it. Don’t assume a non-violent arrest for a minor offense means they have no reason to kill you and urinate on your grave after they do it. A local Wildlife officer was killed several years ago OVER A FISHING LAW CITATION.

                    You won’t have this problem initially, mind you. You will be more nervous than the arrestee you first several times! You will do exactly like you were taught. It’s after you get a few months or years, you start feeling like you know enough, and then you may get lax. You try to be good to them and not cuff them on a warrant, or cuff them in front (aaaaaggghhh!) Even if you see others doing this, you will ALWAYS cuff behind their back, every time, for every offense.

                    It’s proven that aggressive proactive officers are NOT the ones who get killed, for the most part. It’s the “Mr. Nice Guy.” A study was even done with prisoners currently in prison or on death row for killing cops. One of the questions asked was “What could the officer have done differently to prevent this?” Almost unanimously, they said “They could have controlled me better.” The evidence points to improper or no use of cuffs, improper or no searches, or a lax method of handling their aggressiveness BEFORE it was to late.

                    If you are not comfortable handcuffing EVERYONE the legislature, the courts, and your department says you can handcuff (which BTW is EVERY arrestee…duh… ) and not comfortable searching their crotch area, then PLEASE, find another job before you get yourself or worse ME killed.

                    You actually make MY job harder, because the next time they are arrested, I AM going to handcuff them behind the back, and then they whine and moan and EXPECT preferential treatment!

                    Search for the smallest of items-a paper clip, a hidden handcuff key, or an Exacto knife blade can lead to your DEATH. Don’t be their friend, be MY friend. Please.

                    10. Be Professional And Courteous, But Never Forget The Next Person Meet You May Have To Kill.
                    The push toward “community policing” and PR and “improved public image” had actually led to some officers not being able to use deadly force EVEN when it called for it.

                    I saw one video where an officer was attacked by a teenager girl with a pistol, and he drew and CONTACTED her body with his muzzle, BUT COULD NOT FIRE since it was a small girl. I have heard of scenarios where a fear of being sued led to officers that died, for lack of taking decisive action. Again, if you feel you cannot shoot anyone (elderly woman, teenager, Catholic priest turned EDP) that is posing an immediate deadly threat to you or another officer, McDonalds is hiring on a continual basis.

                    I admit we must be kind, courteous, and professional, but don’t lessen our ability, in the name of “image.” Enough cops die already-why should we REGRESS?

                    [ 02-25-2002: Message edited by: SGT Dave ]
                    People have more fun than anybody.


                    • #11
                      Ditto SGT Dave!

                      and (you'll have to forgive me just this once 'kay?)


                      Okay. It's out of my system, I promise.


                      • #12
                        9. Trust Your Instincts

                        I feel this is the most important rule there is. If you have a bad feeling about a situation, you're usually right. I learned this early and unfortunately the hard way.

                        And also how about, no matter how stressful a situation, always keep a cool and level head. Never let a situation spin out of control and follow suit.
                        Just my opinion, I could be wrong...


                        • #13
                          This is great stuff gang!! Sgt. Dave, thanks for taking the time to elaborate on these tips, they really make sense!

                          Please keep them coming!


                          • #14

                            these are the points that FTO's oughta be hitting on daily..... more...more....

                            can't stress the hand fetish enough...and remember gone are the days of the dumb crooks....the BG's are getting smarter and meaner everyday.....


                            • #15
                              That hand fetish is important-one of my "non academy" commands I've gotten into the habit of using on persons I feel the need to approach at gunpoint is "SHOW ME SOME HANDS!"

                              Even if I get slack on it, watching "Surviving Edged Weapons" usually gets me back into the habit right quickly.

                              If you miss something in the hands, the worst thing that can happen is they can kill you. If you don't get a perfect look at the face, the worst that can happen is they get away or you lose 1 case in court.
                              People have more fun than anybody.


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