No Matter How Tempted You Are
A reader who’s been a sergeant for 4 years wrote: “While recovering from a broken leg, I finally sat down and read my department’s rules and regs and policy manual from cover to cover. I took your advice and highlighted everything I thought was important. Then I reread the highlighted stuff and underlined everything I thought was really critical. It was actually a valuable experience. But what really struck me was that it seemed to be a huge collection of ‘always DO’ things. There were very few ‘DON’T ever do’ things. But thinking about the disciplinary actions I’ve written up, I realized most of them were for doing DON’T DO’s, if you know what I mean. Then you have to find some regulation or policy that kind-of sort-of might apply, but the officer has never been told don’t do this.”
That got me thinking and remembering … always a dangerous thing. Yeah, I can think of a few “don’t do’s.”
The Don’t Do List
O n the second day of an unruly, verging-on-violent mass demonstration over the social issue du jour, DO NOT print up and pass out leaflets saying “FOR YOUR SAFETY: Please remove eyeglasses, contact lenses, dental bridgework, dangling earrings and facial hardware BEFORE the commencement of ass-kicking, tear-gassing and beating-with-nightsticks. Thank you for your cooperation! Sincerely, THE COPS.” If someone else does it, and you want your own moment of notoriety, DO NOT have your own leaflets printed up and hand them out to all demonstrators carrying signs on sticks warning them, “If you’re carrying a sign, don’t hit a cop with it unless you have sanded the stick really smooth, because we’re going to put it where the sun don’t shine.” Got that? Don’t do it.
DO NOT angle the jets of your cruiser’s windshield washers so they’ll shoot juice at 90 degrees to the right and 45 degrees up. If you do, then don’t pull up alongside a curbside clot of your beat’s most annoying scumbags, hose them down with washer fluid, and then accelerate away laughing. Don’t do it!
Elevator Etiquette: If you’re a patrol officer stuck in an overcrowded elevator at headquarters, do not first tentatively scratch at your forearms, then a moment later scratch harder, then start furiously scratching and loudly muttering, “Damn these scabies! They’re driving me nuts! The doc says I got about a million of ‘em!” And if you do this, DO NOT then turn to me and ask, “Lieutenant, are scabies contagious? I don’t remember what the doc said.” At the next floor we had the elevator to ourselves, and that was nice, but – don’t do it.
If you find yourself in the HQ elevator with four empty suits from Internal Affairs, DO NOT tell them, “If you guys had ever been real cops you’d know that only one of you should be tailing me on the elevator. One should be on the stairs and the other two at the front and back main-floor doors. You do have a guy out bugging my car, don’t you?” The humor (if there is any) is lost on them. Don’t do it.
DO NOT replace your uniform nameplate with one reading “ZOG – Destroyer of Worlds,” or “OZYMANDIAS.” There aren’t that many fans of cult-appeal Xbox games or connoisseurs of 19th Century English poetry out there, though that could be a good thing for you. But don’t do it. And if you work with a partner, don’t get matching nameplates reading “JOHNSON,” and then introduce yourselves to suspects and victims like, “Yeah, we’re Johnson & Johnson, perhaps you’ve heard of us?” Don’t do that.
I was working the Duty Lieutenant’s Office one day when a countercultural gentleman (aka dirtbag) came in to complain about an officer whose nameplate read “ADAM TWELVE.” The guy said he recognized the cop’s name, and later, after getting his misdemeanor citation, thought “Hey! He’s the cop from that old TV show!” Then he mentioned it to a pal, another mental giant, who laughed at him and told him, “That name tag is a phony! That wasn’t the cop’s name. I’ve seen that show. It was his car’s name!” I didn’t point out that he could get the officer’s true name off the citation. It didn’t occur to him. Don’t do that one either.
And Never Do…
DO NOT call in sick two hours after you’re already late for lineup and claim “temporary amnesia.” If you do, when challenged on it, don’t say “Sure I got amnesia. The doctor said so!” If you do, when asked for the doctor’s name, DO NOT say, “I can’t remember! Like I told you, sarge — I got amnesia!”
If you’ve stopped a DUI and you get an urgent cover call, do not take the driver’s car keys, lock up his ride, tell him to “chill out,” and throw the keys down a sewer grate. I know what you’re thinking, and DO NOT lock up his car, snap off the key in the door and leave, either. Just don’t.
If you’re a skilled “shuffler,” you know some tricky tap-dancing moves or you can moon-walk like Michael Jackson, DO NOT insert these into your field sobriety testing and have drunks try them — even if you get them on video and they’re hilarious. If you do, don’t share the video with your pals. It will not end well.
Now I’m out of space and still have 2,000-plus “Don’ts.” Maybe we need a “Don’t Do This” book for cops? I’ll think about it.
By John Morrison