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Why are cops such jerks? (we're not all that bad)

Updated on December 6, 2012

It's not easy being the good guy

About six years ago I was speeding down the road trying to get to work on time. It’s a common occurrence for those such as myself who like to wait until the last minute to leave home. As I was driving and trying to eat a very large breakfast burrito as I went, I neglected to notice the speed limit or the cop who was waiting for drivers such as myself to drive by. I was pulled over and the over weight officer soon approached my window. The conversation went something like this:

“I pulled you over because you were going 55 in a 40 zone,” the officer told me.

“Isn’t this a 45 mph zone?”

“No it’s a 40 mph zone.”

“Are you sure?”

The officer looked at me like I was the dumbest person on the planet, cocked his head back and condescendingly answered, “ I know every speed limit within a mile radius of this location so I think I know what the speed limit is here.”

I just put my hands in the air and thought okay buddy take it down a notch. You are the speed limit guru and the fact that I even dared to question your all encompassing knowledge of the roadway has made me unworthy to stay in your presence.

I left that encounter thinking why are cops such jerks and where do they get off treating people like idiots just because they wear a badge. I bet that guy got picked on in high school so now uses his authority to exact revenge on all of society. I bet he speeds all the time but because he is a cop it doesn’t matter. What a hypocrite. The dude needs to cut down on the doughnuts and start practicing some people skills. And what’s with the moustache?

My thoughts on this officer were much like that of many in society. Cops are often viewed as rude, ignorant, overbearing, doughnut obsessed, egotistical jerks. They wear their badge as a reason to harass members of society rather than protect them. It’s intimidating to many to be around cops or be driving next to them even if you’re not doing anything wrong. The fact is a lot of people hate cops and it’s not just criminals.

Obviously, not all police officers fit into these categories and any one with common sense understands that. However, there are enough officers out there that fit into one or more of these descriptions that it begs the question why do many cops act this way? Is it as simple as they let the authority go to their heads or are they just naturally inclined to treat all people like they hardened criminals? After becoming a police officer, I have gotten a new perspective on why cops act the way they do. I want to try give people an understanding of why some officers seem so out of touch with society and why it is so many of us are looked upon as jerks.

The first thing I want people to understand about officers is we have a difficult clientele to work with. Drug dealers, thieves, child molesters, and liars are not the crowd most people like to hang around. We hang around these people all the time. Unfortunately, our interactions with this aspect of society often carries over to dealing with well behaved, law abiding citizens. After being around these type of people for so long it begins to change how you view just about everybody. You don’t necessarily believe all people are bad, but you begin to feel most people are lying to you if you ask them something. You begin to feel that everybody has something that they are hiding.

The problems is we are lied to numerous times a day. It gets to the point you cannot trust a thing that comes out of the mouth of many who you deal with. They lie to stay out of trouble, to get others in trouble and to manipulate the police. As an officer, you are lied to so often you begin to think everyone is lying to you. Sometimes I think my own mother is lying to me. Because we are lied to so often, we often question anyone we come in contact with as if they are lying to us and this can, understandably, rub people the wrong way. I myself have treated someone like they had just committed a crime and later found out that they had done absolutely nothing wrong. So, the next time a cop is questioning you and being a little over the top about it, just remember we are constantly lied to and it may take us a while to see that you are being truthful.

The other important aspect you need to understand about officers is what we go through on a daily basis. Most people will have to go through tragedy only a few times in their lives. Police officers have to take part in tragedies much more often than that. I have had to deal with deaths, suicides, child murders, child sex crimes, accidental child deaths, overdoses, fatal car crashes, burglaries, thefts and more. I work in a fairly tame area and still, I have had to deal with all these things. In many parts of the country it is much worse for officers. Most people get to live in the light of society and don’t have to experience the darker side of it. We see the evil firsthand while most only catch glimpses of it on the evening news. Try to put yourself in the shoes of police officers and imagine how being around these types of events would affect you.

As officers, we have to find ways to cope with being around these tragedies as often as we are. We may laugh at inappropriate times or seem unsympathetic to the tragedy at hand. To the public, we may seem cold and callous. Wae may seem like we don’t care or that it doesn’t affect us. None of this is true. The fact of the matter is there are times we would like to mourn with the families or take time to do our own grieving. Unfortunately, it’s not our job to grieve and as soon as one tragedy is finished we are called to the next one.

When you have to deal with things like this as often as we do you come to learn the only people who really understand you are your fellow officers. Because of this, police officers gravitate towards one another and often shut others out. For better of for worse this is the way it is. Police officers have a high divorce rate and often can’t cope with life outside of being an officer because it becomes who they are as a person, not just an occupation. Again, this isn’t all officers, but many fit into fit, at least partially, into this category.

The last and most important thing people need to understand about cops is that we genuinely want to help society. This is why we became officers. We are never going to get rich at this job and we understand that many are going to hate us just because of our occupation. We got into this profession because we wanted to feel that we do makes a difference. When we are in our briefings and meetings we are talking about ways to take bad people off the streets. We are talking about ways of catching those that make our communities unsafe. We are not thinking of ways to harass the public. We are not talking about how cool we are and how much power we wield. We do this job because we want to help.

Hopefully this will give some a better understanding of why cops are the way they are. While there are definitely some who will always rub the public the wrong way (I work with a few), most of us aren’t that bad once you get to know us. Even the ones we take to jail would agree with this…maybe.

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    • profile image

      Unknown 23 months ago

      This made me think, however, cops are not the only people who have to deal with tradgedies on a daily basis. Many people who work in the medical profession are constantly dealing with tradgedies just like the cops. My aunt worked in an emergency room for years and fixed up hundreds of people, many were children who had been abused, only to have to send them right back to their abusers. Nurses, nursing assistants, doctors and many other health professionals face tradgedies on a daily basis, accudent victims, domestic violence victims, drug abusers, suicides, deaths from cancer and other serious diseases. They still treat people decently. Many other people have faced more than their share of serious tradgedies, a few people I went to school with are examples of this, and they are still very good people. If you can't handle the effects of your chosen profession, then don't do it. You need to be strong enough of a person not to be altered by things you encounter in life.

    • profile image

      Bruce 2 years ago

      I love this I've never been in trouble with the law and this helps me understand more about what you all go through every day I respect and admire all of you officers who risk their lives every day protecting people and A lot of you are nice and kind to helping out people but the real reality is a lot of the stuff you go through stuff that a lot of people can't even see only in movies or in a very short glimpse and I know you all Believe that there are good in people but you just can't let your guard down because there might be a "good person" but there might be a bad person because you're right a lot of people do Lie can't let your guard down and say oh I can see you're telling the truth you may be on your way because once you're back is turned accidents can happen I admire and respect everything you all do think God that we have you every day thank you very much for this and God bless.

    • profile image

      Greg 2 years ago

      Let everyone come in and show disrespect and question and criticize you at work then see if you say no excuse. I sure you can for 1 time but over and over? Don't lie to yourself.

    • profile image

      anonymous 2 years ago

      These comments are sad. This officer took his time wright this article to show you what the average officer goes through on a daily basis. He's not complaining or being a so called "Pussy". he is just illistrating his occupation. He wants people to understand why they might seem cold. But in reality, most the people commenting on this page are the cold ones. Cut him and his fellow officers some slack. They have a difficult, dangerous job and get little pay, just so people can continue with their lives.

    • profile image

      RespectCOPS...not 2 years ago

      If cops did the job they were sworn to do, you know, protecting the public, assisting the public, handling real crime the general public would show less contempt for those civilians who work in law enforcement. Cops demand respect while earning none. They are usually uneducated and have little worldly experience/knowledge thus, no discretion while doing there job. Instead of working for the public they are all to often insistent on revenue building through moving violation citations. They are like welfare recipients living off the publics dollar (pigs and there toys are expensive) and stealing more money from the people they are sworn to protect every shift all while trampling on constitutional rights. This is just a short preamble to why cops should not be respected....

    • profile image

      badpig 3 years ago

      a guy down the street was robbed - the cop (a ladycop) said the victim was in a drug deal - and would not arrest the bloods gang member who was home and was the person who committed the crime -- so much for facing danger - she just wanted to get back to harrasing motorists

      also - why do cops always say they smell marijuana to people who don't use it -- answer - cops are liars

    • profile image

      Dave G 3 years ago

      I've never been a big fan of the police, but I appreciate what this guy's trying to do here. And I'm rather appalled by the negative comments that this has attracted. People - here you have a cop who is trying to level with you! You may not agree with every word, but appreciate the motive.

      I remember when I first got my pistol-carry license, I thought it would feel powerful walk around packing heat. After a week of this it began dawning on me what a huge and sobering responsibility it was. I no longer felt powerful, instead I began fearing the day I would have to pull it out and use it.

      Yes, the job of cop attracts a lot of unintelligent, macho jerks (I'm related to a few), but I'm prepared to believe that they're not all (or even mostly) like that. Being a cop is hard, but being a good cop is even more difficult.

    • profile image

      Joseph Lee 3 years ago

      My older brother is a retired cop. My cousin and grandfather are retired cops. I have obviously been exposed to quite a few present, past, and future cops. I have noticed that they all tend to be insecure control freaks who have difficulty dealing with the normal stresses that the world throws at EVERYONE long before they become cops. The perceived power of the position attracts emotionally weak people. Seriously, would anyone who can actually cope with reality want to be a cop?

      Many apologists try to attribute the high divorce rate of cops to job related stress but if you dig deep you'll discover nearly every cop had a history of abysmal relationship failures long before they became cops.

      Sorry, but the reality is that the police force doesn't break people, it attracts broken people. The general public isn't fooled one little bit. We know you wear dark glasses to hide your fear.

    • profile image

      thomas j pieken 3 years ago

      i hate cops they are very bad people they prey on the innocent they don't even earn their money they get paid 2 much they bust people 4 smoking pot they bust people for drinking alcohol they are pigs they are always going 2 dunkin donuts and 7eleven

    • profile image

      Daddy 3 years ago

      Well maybe if you job skews your opinion about society so much; and you are so paranoid you can't trust your mother; that particular individual isn't cut out for the job. Pussy.

    • profile image

      Public works Guy 3 years ago

      BALLS! Don't join if you are upset by having to put up with"the clientele" . You knew that going in. I have met returning soldiers who have to put up with being Shot at daily and risk getting blown up on a regular basis who act with more humility and maturity than many cops. I work for a highway department. I risk getting run over quite regularly, have the public throw bottles at me sometimes, and even had a shotgun fired at my snowplow once. I don't get to shit on the world because of it. I also meet cops a lot in accident situations and when setting up lights for nighttime sobriety checks. Cops tend to let their guard down around us because either, we are both state employees, or we are as unnoticed by cops as everyone else. Let me tell you, the conversations I have overheard cops having about The John Q's (as in john q public or as some call everyday people-"The heard") Would piss off even the people who slobber at the sight of a badge. Contempt isn't the word. There is a reason why a lot of cops hang out with and, sometimes, marry other cops Maybe they get each other, but more people get THEM than they think and can't stand what they see.

    • profile image

      a12n4o53n 3 years ago

      As "Mark" said, your excuse is utterly invalid.

      Tell me then, why do cops act as they do during peaceful strikes and demonstrations? Why do cops enter those peaceful groups in disguise and try to incite violence on purpose? Don't you see that you are the same as we are? You should be on our side, fighting corruption in our world, not beating women, children and elderly on peaceful manifestations.

      As you say, because of your profession and the lies that you have to face everyday, it makes you question everyone around you. Well, it's curious that you do not seem to be questioning the orders that are given to you by your superiors. You execute said orders blindly and without questioning.

      I'm sorry, but I think you police-men should all be severely punished for your actions against the people you are sworn to protect. (And trust me, you definitely will) Instead, you follow some shady government's agenda, blindly. Your families must be ashamed.

    • profile image

      Mark 4 years ago

      I understand your explanation as to "why" so many cops treat even the law abiding public poorly. This, however, is no excuse. There are plenty of jobs that are more difficult, stressful, and, yes, much more dangerous. Yet these other professions do not have a high percentage of people who treat others disrespectfully while on the job. And WE pay the police's salary. And most of a cop's job IS NOT protecting us. Most of the laws police enforce are not laws that protect us.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Interesting hub. I understand why you feel. A lot of people drive drunk. While watching one of those "Reality" shows, it said that about 70% of the people who were in jail, had committed the crime while they were drunk or on some other kind of illegal drug. Being a cop must be a very difficult job.