This is very long: almost three thousand words but that is because this is a very complex subject with many inputs that have to be considered. The creation of a cop takes about 5 years and during that time he is exposed to a carefully planned training program that is designed to wipe out his personality as a member of normal society and fill his mind in “Cop Think”. Read it carefully and stop along the way and wonder how you would cope with the regimen. Also think about what can be done to restore the system because the product it is producing stinks.
The first thing a Canadian citizen should understand is that the Blue Brotherhood is not the creation of our Canadian Cops but is international and applies to Constabularies everywhere. Our Canadian version has become an aberration and exceeds the norm as will be explained later. At this point we have come to the point where there is a knock on your door and there is a Cop, a member of the Blue Brotherhood, who wants to ask some questions. To continue:
You stand in your doorway and you look at this Brother in Blue wanting to talk:
The answer to those questions was fairly well volunteered by an older Police Officer speaking as a member of the Brotherhood when asked about the effects of a career in law enforcement on officers in general:
My name is Sgt. XXX and today I am here to give you an orientation into what the course of your life will be if you do join the Force with the intention of a life time career. The first thing I want you to understand is that your entire life will change in the course of your training and so will your personality and outlook on life. Much of that change will be due to defensive reactions to unpleasant pressures to conform to the system and avoid discipline for failure to do so. Following I am going to chronologically outline what you can expect to encounter in the course of your career and some good advice on how to react and assess each development as it occurs.
Most of us start the academy with a servant’s heart. Remember the old LAPD motto “To Serve and Protect?” That’s all of us, that is supposed to be what cops are all about, but pretty quickly into your law enforcement career, it becomes less about “them” and more about “us.” We separate ourselves from the rest of society, even from our family and friends. But it doesn’t have to be that way, if you learn why this common police pitfall occurs and how to avoid it.
Remember, less than two out of every one hundred police applicants ever become cops, so as soon as you get hired, you start to feel like you’re a member of an elite group. And you are! There are few professions where we are expected to potentially lay down our lives as part of the employment agreement. However, that elitist feeling you have in the academy can be just the beginning of your “us v. them” mentality.
Your first couple of years are consumed with learning the job. You spend a considerable amount of time around veteran officers, trainers, and supervisors trying to learn the profession and earn the trust of your peers. As Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, PhD. talks about in his book Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, a new officer begins to rely on the friendship and support of other officers, usually to the detriment of their “non-cop” relationships. Because there is so much to do and learn, and so little time to devote to your personal life, new officers find themselves socializing only with their co-workers. Old friendships may begin to fade way, not intentionally, but after all, are any of your “old” friends willing to meet you for a beer at seven o’clock on a Tuesday morning when you get off work? Not likely.
There are no grey areas. The law enforcement officer works in a fact-based world with everything compared to written law. Right and wrong is determined by a standard. They have a set way of going about gathering the proper evidence for the law and can justify their actions because they represent the "good and right side." In the real world, clear rights and wrongs are not as likely to occur. The newspapers are an opinion-based system, the court system is an opinion-based system and, needless to say, relationship decisions and proper parenting techniques are opinion-based systems.
Adjusting from right and wrong, a black-and-white system, to opinion-based systems is very difficult and requires a complete change in mental attitude.
“The average cop will see more human tragedy in the first three years than most people will see in a lifetime” according to Dr. Ellen Kirschman, author of I Love a Cop. As we become a competent veteran officer, we develop a macabre sense of humour and are forced to control our emotions at all times. We view the world as a violent place full of idiots, con artists, and liars. We become sceptical, paranoid, and hyper vigilant, and we look down on those who do not share our cynical and alarmist view of the society. Not only do we cease most of our “pre-cop” friendships, but our family relationships may begin to deteriorate as well. We become distant and dark-spirited, even when we’re at home. We complain that “my family doesn’t understand,” and we may become overly strict with our kids, not wanting them to be exposed to the outside world that we know is violent, dangerous and unpredictable. Eventually, your family may grow weary of your “us v. them” attitude and decide they’d rather be with “them” rather than being a part of “us.”
You need to be in constant emotional control. Law enforcement officers have a job that requires extreme restraint under highly emotional circumstances. They are told when they are extremely excited, they have to act calm. They are told when they are nervous; they have to be in charge. They are taught to be stoic when emotional. They are to interact with the world in a role. The emotional constraint of the role takes tremendous mental energy, much more energy than expressing true emotions. When the energy drain is very strong, it may make the officer more prone to exhaustion outside of work, such as not wanting to participate in social or family life. This energy drain can also create a sense of job and social burnout.
It’s no secret that cops have a 75% divorce rate, a high rate of alcoholism, and we die twice as often by our own hand as we do by felonious assaults. After all, if you go from a fun-loving, idealistic, service-oriented rookie to a dark-hearted, cynical veteran, you’re not going to be much fun to be around, and eventually you won’t like yourself anymore than anyone else does. So don’t let it happen!
Your FTO may know everything there is to know about impaired drivers, but why has he been married and divorced) three times? Your favourite sergeant is a wonderfully supportive mentor to you, but why does she end every shift sitting at the bar of the local gin joint? Sometimes the most qualified cops on your agency are also the least successful when it comes to their personal lives. As delicately as you can, try to find out why. Ask them if they could do anything different, what would it be? And then listen to what they have to say.
This can be tough to do. Your “normal” friends are either going to be “weirded out” by your new profession or they may become distant, intimidated, even hostile about you becoming a cop. However, don’t give up on all of them. Your true friends are going to accept you, for who you are, just make sure to touch base with them and occasionally get together; and when you do socialize with them, don’t spend all your time together telling cop “war stories.” Ask about their job, their life, their problems, concerns, and successes, and then really listen. Don’t make it all about you, even if they try to. In other words, don’t get mired in your own self-importance.
You stood in your doorway and you looked at this Brother in Blue and asked yourself: