Patrol

Why Police Officers Don’t Fit In

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Why Police Officers Don’t Fit In

People can say what they want about the police, but until a person has walked in their shoes, they have no idea what they’re talking about. But one thing I believe we can agree on is that police officers simply do not fit in.

Now, before you continue to read and think I am bashing the police, it’s quite the opposite.

I became a police officer when I was 20-years-old. Moreover, I am about to marry a state trooper. As a result, I know cops don’t fit into society; they are simply a rare breed.

This article is for you to peek BEHIND THE BADGE and understand what I mean.

First, it is simply abnormal to see dead bodies, gruesome crime scenes, handle horrible abuse calls along with domestic violence and suicidal people daily.

Police officers arrive during your worst days, not your happy moments. After a while this takes a toll and makes a person want to shut down. There is only so much negativity before they themselves become sucked into the pessimism.

In order for the police officers to survive 25 years in the job, they are trained to desensitize, because if they don’t, they will not be efficient on the job.

I was just watching the Netflix documentary series on Flint Town Michigan (highly recommend you watch) and one of the officers says just that. He said that you can’t take anything on this job personal otherwise you’d never make it.

And he is 100 percent right. Cops need to put their emotions aside and handle their jobs, even when it’s the death of a child, and they have a child the same age at home.

Now can you start to see why police officers are different than the rest of society?

Cops are trained to solve problems. They have become so efficient that it makes them appear detached to the parties involved. But that is not true, they simply have a checklist of things they need to get through in order to help citizens.

So while they seem short, even blunt, they aren’t trying to be offensive. They are simply trying to discern facts and figure out the best way they can help.

The job itself seems to be an incubator. Stress coming from all areas to include administration, the public, social media, fellow officers, and front line supervisors.

We are in a unique time when every move a police officer makes is scrutinized . . . even when their actions are justified!

This stress causes officers to be unlike the rest of the population. Working conditions have dramatically changed in the past 10 years. There are not enough boots on the ground, officers are multi-tasking and handling assignments that should be completed by additional help, overtime can be forced and time off is not guaranteed.

So, at this point you may ask yourself, why do people sign up for this kind of work?

Well, if we don’t, who will? Who will hold the line between criminals and civilized society? Not a majority of society.

The job of a police officer has become so much more complex than it used to be. All the while, our antagonists have a much louder voice than before. As a result, police officers default and become a breed of their own. Consequently, they don’t always fit in very well in public settings, family affairs, church, etc. It is just the way it is. And now after reading this, perhaps you can understand why police officers are the way they are.

Autumn Clifford is a former police officer. She was in law enforcement for six years before she got hurt on duty and left the job. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is almost halfway through obtaining a masters’ degree in the field.

Autumn was not only a patrol officer, but is marrying a state trooper in September of 2018. Autumn has taken her passion for law enforcement and is now helping officers and spouses understand both sides of the badge. She has also created an online business, which, focuses on helping law enforcement. You can reach her on Instagram @theladysheepdog or by listening to her podcast Sheepdog Nation.

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Author
Autumn Clifford

Autumn Clifford is a former police officer who runs a podcast dedicated to law enforcement. Her podcast is called Sheepdog Nation.

33 Comments

After 24 years of patrol duty your article was and is spot on

Congratulations and thank you for your service

You left out one small detail along with being desensitized they need to put aside their racial puedjudices that seem to become a big problem.

lt, another 11? holy cow! i would think you’d be on the 25 year plan! thank you for your service!

Retired sheriff February 1, 2018 after 29 years of service and the article is dead on.

kevin, thank you for your 29 years of service and thank you for the compliment on the article! i appreciate it.

Autumn, you are absolutely right. I learned early in my career to put my personal feelings aside and handle the task at hand. I tried to leave my police work, at the district and mostly succeeDed in leaving it there and not taking it home. I retired in 2016 after forty-six years in polIcing, twenty-eight yEars ( retired lieutenant ) With the baltimore police department and eighteen years ( retired deputy ) with the tarrant county sheriff’s office.

robert, they say BALTIMORE pd is the real deal. i used to work for a guy that i believe retired from there. thank you for your service and thank you for the compliment on the article! i appreciate it!

Retired in 2005 after 32 years patrol and investigation. Your articles arr spit on, excellent JOb, thank you!

mike, 32 years that is an amazing career. thank you for your service and thank you for reading my articles! means a lot.

Autumn,
Your article IS SPOT ON. ONLY IF MORE OF THE PUBLIC WOULD READ YOUR WELL WRITTEN AND FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE OF WHY WE ARE THE WAY WE ARE ON AND OFF THE JOB.
RETIRED in 2016 after 28 years in law enforcement and 9 years in the Marine corps.

John, thank you for all of your service!!! and i agree, i wish more of the public could read this and understand our points of view of things, maybe less misunderstandings would occur.

I enjoyed your The article too.

And that is the question, isn it? How do we explain the essenCe of the work we do on Behalf of our citizenrY? Age old question which requires our very best efforts. All of our lives hang in the balance.

I try to educate one citizen at a time. But find it an increasingly difficult task. My community just buried Sgt. Gannon, yarmoUth K-9 officer. Perhaps this loss helps my community better undertand the risks taken on their bEhalf. In that i Find some Measure of comfort.

I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING YOU SAY IN YOUR ARTICLE. cOPS DO HAVE TO COMPARTMENTALIZE EVERYTHING THEY EXPERIENCE ON THE JOB. However, WE CAN PUT THE “STUFF” ON THE SHELF FOR ONLY SO LONG BEFORE THAT ONE CASE COMES ALONG AND IS THE TIPPING POINT THAT CAN SEND US SPIRALING. fOR THIS REASON, WE SHOULD TAKE CARE OF OUR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELL BEING. wE DO A DECENT JOB WITH ANNUAL oFFICER SURVIVAL TRAINING (WE COULD TRAIN MORE) BUT WE SHOULD ALSO DO ANNUAL CHECK UP WITH A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL TO DEBRIEF THE THINGS WE SO WE DON’T REACH OUR TIPPING POINT.

I APOLOGIZE FOR THE ALL CAPS. I CAN’T CHANGE IT.

Great article, I wish I’d read something like it sooner, I could have passed it on the youngsters I trained over the last 38 years.

I think it’s important to point out that you have to know when it’s time to go. I’m finally going to pull the plug. I was going to try and make it to 40 just to prove a point, but I’ve decided there’s really nothing to prove.

Congratulations on the nuptials.

I literally googled this very question and arrived here. We don’t fit.

I don’t think it’s a “square peg- round hole” scenario; that isn’t specific enough. For us It’s more of a “hexbolt in a pinhole” dilemma. We are complex professionals that see all dimensions of society, yet don’t belong to any of them.

This isn’t necessary a problem. I feel (humbly) that we are hybrids. Our job, as the author stated, is mired in contact with conflicted people. We find a solution for the problem and continue to the next. We rarely have the luxury of sympathy in these situations, instead, we utilize empathy from our experiences as cops and try to resolve (or pacify) people and move on. We do so stoically but effectively. Equally rare is our opportunity to see things through. While this may vary depending on environmental variables where you work- I work for a large agency and don’t often have the opportunity to “check back” and see if I affected any positive change.

By virtue of these points- we disassociate. Over time our disassociation shifts into a state of seclusion whereby only “we” understand “us”.

I’ve only been a cop for 16 years, but it has become a salient point in my career that I have accepted relative seclusion. Society made us this way- but we let them do it.

Retired in 2014 after 25 years in Baltimore, this article is very well written and hits the nail on the head. Great job Autumn, thank you for your service and congrats on the upcoming wedding

Good article, very true. Asst. Chief but I haven’t forgotten my roots. 38 years on the job and still plugging away.

So much more could be written about this. I was a PO for just 5 years, and most of that undercover – and all in Narcotics. When I quit (long story, but not under pressure and never really intended to quit – and actually considered returning after 1 year out of the job), in spite of all the “congratulations,” “happy for you,” “sorry to see you go,” from all my closest and less close friends and acquaintances, I may as well have died. At that time (1978), it seemed impossible for police officers to have close friends that were NOT police officers. Ironically, years later, when most of my friends have moved into ranking positions or into federal police organizations, it seems easy to be friendly with one another and talk about life and old times. I just accept it as a fact of life.

Rick, thank you for your service. You seem surprised that you have police officer friends. The bottom line is, that you are still one of us, even though you no longer work with us. You were there and have the understanding. You may not come to the meetings anymore, but you are still a member of the club.

23 and out. Certain current studies indicate that as many as 20% of current and former police officers suffer PTSD. I’ve been out for almost 20 years and my wife still has to remind me to “stop patrolling” when we drive through where I used to work. After two years of treatment, the nightmares have begun to subside. It was a tough job 20 years ago. I cannot imagine trying to do it now.

39 years now retired and tired. This article is good but there is more to the story. After we retire we remain the same. I say hi to my neighbors but don’t socialize with them. I still watching my surroundings and spotting suspicious people. I don’t.make friends unless they are or used to be on law enforcement. Trust is just to hard to come by after 2 thirds ofy life in that job

Great Article,Patrol Deputy for 13 years. My wife also read this article and she truly understands my behavior and what makes me tick. We see what a human should never deal with.

Seems universal.
I was a New zealand cop for 15 yrs, now a Australian cop, for 4 years.
you speak the truth down under too.

Absolutely spot on. The reason we do what we do is because we are chosen. Romans 13:1-4.
Please visit Msleaps.org and check us out on FB!!
LEAPS…Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support. Cops taking care of Cops. The true Blue Family.

What a great article. Totally agree with it all. I have been on the front line here in the Queensland Police Service in Australia for 20 years. I know I am definitely a different person to when I first joined. The job changes us.

desensitize true but does that also mean you believe that 95 percent of the public lie when dealing with the police and proceed on to talk to the public from that point? which if im not lieing puts backs up
this percentage is a direct quote from a senior sergeant Steve Sargent of porirua police . but the police officers dont to there bosses there not the public .

or perhaps the quote from 2 policeman’s wives here in whanganui that the police culture is this e mail because im questioning im to be belittled not respected for a different veiw point than the police one
at mmmmmmmmmm your right the officers dont fit in and from the examples ive given dont appear to want to

sadly we ,like the officers dont know all the idiosyncrasys of the law so treat officers with a level of fear from personal ignorance and as this ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law we fear the potential and therefore apart from the rest of us law abiding folks

i know that the culture of the police will make fun of these comments but im prepared to put up with that

im not saying that all police men are bad at there job but realy if you are going to bunch 95 percent of us together what can you expect in exchange

MIKE BOAG WHANGANUI

Pussies!! I retired 2 years ago last week after 43 years service. This length of service is the norm in Australia.

33 yrs patrol sergeant, still going strong. Great articke

One problem we all have and do not discuss much is the unions and the negative effect they can cause for a human with so much authority. I will not weigh down this post with the many thoughts I have other than to say many less than stellar officers hide behind it and are protected. Less than professional behavior is covered over. Cops must never forget we are trusted and must do whats right when no one is looking to prevent further negative drawbacks. We also must never feel we are “entitled” (Many cops feel entitled from our newer gen of cops) to special privilege to be above the law ourselves. Much of both cause a lot of grief in 2018. Just my .002 worth. I have been a Sgt in 2 departments. I did 37 years. I am comfortable with this much truth. I hope the others can search their heart and see it as well. We need to change who we are in some instances. Not all. I still bleed blue but we MUST have honor.

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