When you become a police officer, you're
going to work with some police officers
who like to "perform" in public for the
benefit of onlookers and fellow police
officers.  What they seem to forget is
that TV and movie actors have the
opportunity to retake a scene when they
screw it up, a police officer has no such
second chance.

The most notable actor will be the officer
who acts like the baddest, toughest cop
on earth when he or she has the
immediate backup of another officer(s).  
You'll quickly realize this actor falls into a
different character when no backup is
immediately present.  This same actor will
like to display his or her comedic talents
by verbally humiliating and embarrassing
victims as well as suspects as long as
there's an audience to appreciate the

While "professionalism" is a very
overworked word, its importance and
relevance to your career cannot be
overstated.  The way you conduct
yourself is either going to make you look
intelligent, strong, knowledgeable, and
thoughtful, or your conduct will make you
appear incompetent, weak, silly and

There is one valid comparison between
the shows and real police -- you're
always being watched by someone.  
Think about your own reaction when you
see a police car or a uniformed police
officer.  The mere presence of a police
officer evokes your curiosity, and that
curiosity causes you to watch and
Trust me when I tell you this.  Every
person standing behind that tape is
going to think you're laughing about the

This scene can look even worse:

Let's say the victim, this time, was shot
and killed by a police officer.  A police
officer involved shooting will bring police
officers from all over the place.  One
officer walks up to the officer who did the
shooting, grabs his hand in a handshake,
and gives him a big hug.  While the
hugger is only lending his emotional
support to the officer for what he knows
has been a very traumatic experience,
you can be assured that any onlookers
will view the handshake and hug as
congratulatory gestures.

Look...nobody's perfect, and you
obviously can't dwell on tragedy.  You
shouldn't, and you don't want to let
yourself, become emotionally involved in
the tragedy of others.  However, you do
want to always remain cognizant of your
conduct and how it appears to others in
the context of circumstances.

Then...along comes the police officer
who's just simply lazy and incompetent:

How many times have you been driving
on a multiple lane highway when all the
traffic is forced to merge into the right
lane?  You know how difficult it can be
when there's no kind of traffic control --
like a police officer -- to aid in a relatively
smooth transition.  I found myself in this
circumstance on one hot, summer

I was already in the right lane, so all I had
to do was be polite and let other drivers
over from time to time.  As the bumper
to bumper traffic inched ahead, I could
finally see an accident scene where the
highway raised out of a depression from
beneath an overpass.  As the traffic
crawled inexorably forward, I saw the top
of a police car which was blocking the
center and left lanes of traffic.  The police
car was some distance back from the
accident scene, but since no police officer
was visible, one would think the car
belonged to one of the officers on the
accident scene.

When I finally got to the traffic choke
point, I looked over only to see the police
officer sitting in his car.  He wasn't
writing on a clipboard; he wasn't talking
on his radio.  He wasn't doing anything
expect looking like a lazy, incompetent
fool.  He had the driver's seat in the
recliner position, and he looked very
comfortable.  His cheek was pressed
against the headrest, and if he hadn't
moved his head once or twice, one would
think he was asleep.  He might as well
have been asleep for all the good he was

Had he simply been directing traffic as he
should have been doing, every passing
motorist would have been appreciative of
his presence.  Instead, it was too hot for
him, and his air conditioned comfort was
more important than the totally
preventable negative image he was
projecting to hundreds of people.

As you contemplate your police career,
start taking every opportunity to watch
police officers as an exercise in evaluating
conduct.  It doesn't matter what the
circumstances of your observations
entail.  Whether you're watching how a
police officer operates his or her police
car, or their demeanor in interaction with
others, you'll be amazed how much you'll
learn about the importance of public
When you watch cop shows -- movies;
made for TV, or the so called
documentary or reality shows -- always
remember that all are, first and foremost,
entertainment.  The producers have very
little knowledge or concern when it comes
to the way they portray police officers.  It
doesn't matter to them whether the
portrayal is positive, negative, or even
accurate as long as the production is
As a police officer, you'll deal with some
pretty tragic circumstances, and you'll
get used to them.  What a lot of police
officers forget is how people involved in,
or witnesses to, tragic events view your
conduct at the scene of these events:

Let's say you respond to the scene of a
homicide.  Your sergeant assigns you to
guard the body which is, covered and
lying in the middle of the street, awaiting
the arrival of the crime lab and medical

There's a sizeable crowd behind the crime
scene tape, and you can hear some
people crying who are probably family
members or friends of the victim.  
Another officer walks up to you, and he
starts talking to you about a practical
joke he played on another member of the
squad.  Before you realize where you're
standing, both of you break out in
"The way you conduct yourself is
either going to make you look
intelligent, strong, knowledgeable,
and thoughtful, or your conduct will
make you appear incompetent, weak,
silly and stupid." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2017  Barry M. Baker