|So you want to be a
Well let me tell you a few things, you can ask
yourself some questions and then we can discuss it.
I’m an old officer: class of 1977 to be exact.
Worked in a fairly large city, and then retired as
Chief in a small city. I have been certified to teach
in Police Academies, I have walked beats, worked
traffic, did detective work --- name it, I have
probably done it. Was also a police officer in the
Navy and was the U.S. representative to Scotland
Yard for a while. To this day I am still on the
advisory board of the National Association of Chiefs
Being from the “old School” I’m going to give you
my opinions on police work—feel free to take them
or leave them.
Back in my day, we were not law enforcement
officers; we were peace officers or just the police
and I liked it that way. We drove around in black
and white prowlers so everyone could see us and
there was never any doubt as to who we were.
And a short thought on traffic tickets. We never
had a “quota.” If we saw a violation we simply
wrote a summons or more often gave a warning.
Speed traps, to my way of thinking, are dead wrong
unless you have statistics to back up your
enforcement. (Accidents etc.) Traffic summons are
not a source of income no matter what some cities
say. Traffic enforcement is a way to control and
correct unsafe behavior.
Anyway we were given a district and that district
was yours. If anyone stole anything or there was a
disturbance you took it personally and if fact could
be held accountable by the supervisors.
We checked shop doors, answered calls for service
and yes wrote an occasional traffic summons. But
we did not just enforce laws. We took “Protect and
Serve” very serious. I’ve changed many a flat tire in
my day for civilians, took kids home I found drinking
underage—after making them pour out the booze,
ran trouble makers out of my district and generally
worked for the people who paid me.
If you owned a business in my district chances are I
knew you and probably knew where you lived. We
were required to memorize the addresses of all the
major landmarks in our district such as buildings,
churches, schools, etc. When someone ask for
directions you could be pretty certain an officer
could tell you.
Answering calls for service: Rule number one for us
was don’t be late. Code or not you obey the traffic
or code rules but you got their in a hurry. Rule
number two: Don’t let the shift sergeant catch you
without your hat. Rules three: Find out what
happened, fix the problem, get back in your prowler
and when you get a free minute you write up a
report, all preferably without calling in 5 other
officers to help with something simple. (But never
be afraid to call for help when you need it)
Back then we carried .38 wheel guns and I am still
partial to it to this day. If a call got really bad, you
reached under the front seat and got out of the car
while wracking a round in the .12 gauge. Believe
me it got everyone’s attention. (I am not really in
favor of the militarization of the police unless it is
absolutely necessary in a large city or certain
situation. There is something very unnerving about
an officer with a black hood covering his face)
And if you think police work is anything like you
have seen on T.V. you’re probably very wrong.
Sometimes it was hours of boredom with minutes
of pure terror thrown in. And in all my time on the
job I can count on both hands the number of times
I have drawn my weapon in anger. (Yes I know
things are different now and safety should always
be a concern.)
I guess the bottom line is this: Why do you want
to be a police officer? To serve and protect or to
act the bad ass and be a bully? What do your
family and especially your spouse think of your
choice of professions? Police work is dangerous
and involves shift work and is tough on families and
social lives. They must be on board if you are to
Attitude is a huge plus or minus. I have seen
officers that could turn a jay walking into a riot or
the other way around. I have also seen officers
that could arrest on a warrant without the slightest
problem. Then I have seen others that need 5
officers and the paddy wagon almost every time
they made an arrest.
A few tips: Listen to the old timers; it might save
your life. Look up every now and then if you’re
sitting somewhere; always know where you are; and
every once in a while backtrack. Just turn around
and drive down the same street. You never know
who may have been waiting for you to leave.
Last piece of advice: Profiling. Yes we did it all the
time and so will you. Example: Grandpa and
Grandma Jones are sitting at a red light in their 72
Chevy pickup. A teenager pulls up next to them
revving the motor of his hopped up car. Who are
you going to watch? Sometimes profiling is just
All this is just an old police officers opinion and
times have changed. Follow your department’s
safety rules and use your common sense. About all
I can tell you for sure is that police work is a noble
and honorable profession that needs noble and
honorable people. If you choose this profession
remember “serve and protect” is not just a motto
but a way of life.
Now rookies hit the streets and make us old timers
God bless you all and stay safe out there.
Chief Steve Newton (ret)
Be generous. If you have any used equipment you
don’t need contact me.
He serves on the Advisory Board of the
National Association of Chiefs of Police and
as Director of the Law Enforcement
Equipment Program. He is the Founder of
the Silver Star Families of America.
Steve Newton is a 25-
year law enforcement
veteran and a former
Marine Navy veteran.
He served with the 3rd
Battalion, 24th Marines,
4th Marine Division.
With the Navy, he was
and was called back to
active duty for the first
Now retired and
afflicted with Parkinson’
s Disease, he continues
to write articles for
publications. He is also
the author of the "Old
Sergeant" and the "Old
Sergeant and Friends."
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker