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