I used to think that military police and civilian police were miles apart in almost everything they did, having served as a USAF Security Police/Security Forces troop for quite a few years.  I’ve had lots of civilian police friends over the years, folks I’m in touch with to this day – many from high school, many who transitioned out of the military into civilian PD jobs, and others I’ve met along the way.

Over the past few years, I realized that there was an amazing amount of similarities between the two facets of police work. 

You come out of technical school or the police academy full of fire and righteousness, some of that fades after a bit, and many of us settle into two categories:  those who are still motivated; and those who are just biding time, trying to survive, literally and figuratively, until retirement or a career change.

I’ve also discovered that there are several certainties in our career fields.  I’m not trying to be negative here – just real.  Some examples:

Haters Gonna Hate

No matter how many cute and faddish things we try to pull off to get the community behind us, like the singing challenge, or the dance challenge, you will accomplish solidifying support of those who already supported you, but you likely won’t reach those who are pre-destined to dislike you.

I realize that civilian police deal with larger groups that dislike them, but we in the military played our games, too.  I was McGruff, the Crime Dog for several years, wearing the full suit in public quite often.  We had bike rodeos for kids, fingerprinting, participated in parades, and worked events like the Special Olympics, BBQ cook-offs, and car shows.  Again, the base of people who already supported us were always there, and we didn’t change the minds of those who regularly opposed us.

Read: The Trauma We Share

Bosses Will Play Politics – But Will They Play Them For You?

Your chain of command doesn’t always have your experience level. This may cause major issues for you when they meet with managers and leaders from other organizations or city offices. 

Many supervisors have been groomed from outside the routine core job structure and learned politics along the way.  A good supervisor or commander is priceless and knows how to play the political game while still standing up for their people 100%.  A bad supervisor can annihilate the morale of a group and cause infinite damage.

Everyone Is Offended By Everything

In this day and age of political correctness, people being offended by the smallest of things, and those who are out actively searching for something to scream about, an officer may hesitate and think twice before taking action in a scenario that should go like clockwork, your body and mind responding to repetitive training. In a recent event, an officer was applauded on social media for using a taser to stop a suspect with a gun. 

Read: The Day I Had to Chose Between Fighting Evil… or Being a Cop.

I’ll never second-guess an officer, and I wasn’t there, but I’d venture to say policies and possible backlash played a strong role in that decision.  What if…and there’s always a what if, the suspect was high or drunk or both, or just mentally ill, or all three, and the taser wasn’t effective and the suspect got several shots off?

Who Can You Trust?

My point in all of this is that the only factor you can truly depend on and find solace in is your own confidence and abilities, and the ability to take care of yourself. 

I learned at a young age in my career that the folks who would dog me for volunteering for some school or course were never going to succeed in their careers.  Volunteer for everything you can.  Take online courses.  Attend meetings.  Get involved.  Not only will it keep you busy, networking always helps, and education is always a good thing.

How To Look Out For You

Build your resume.  At 55 years old and several years removed from law enforcement, I’m still relying, in the expert witness and investigative work I do, on resume/or curriculum vitae entries for courses I took years ago.  They’re still relevant, or attorneys wouldn’t ask me about them during depositions. 

Read: Video: A Message to the Families of Fallen Officers (and America)

Stay physically fit.  Time and fatigue are your enemies.  Even if you just do 20-30 minutes of cardio a few times a week, that’s more than the average person, and it will save your life.  It will also extend your career.

Get involved.  Join SWAT, or whatever similar division you have.  Start a fitness group.  Build your career and body and ignore the naysayers.

You have to come to terms with the notion that not everyone looks out for you, and there will be people who will never like you.  Once I realized that and started working on me, I found myself a lot happier with my life and career.

The only one you can count on is you.