Over the past couple of weeks we have spent a lot of time talking about different police and military myths that we see pop in movies way more often than they should. We're going to take a bit different approach today. Today we are going to talk about some real life quirks that can be used to make your law enforcement characters more realistic.
- We Love Playing Pranks: Contrary to what some may think, there are a lot of really, really boring hours packed into a day on the job. For every hour of excitement there is probably five hours of paperwork and or waiting for something exciting to happen. So what do we do? Play pranks. Any type of pranks (that won't get us fired). They range from hiding annoying noise makers in our bosses' offices, putting fake video cameras above the desks of the most paranoid officers (facing their computer), calling the overnight shift pretending to be drug smugglers asking questions how to best get past the drug dogs (yes, people fell for it) or locking officer's radios in the vending machine.
- We Haze Rookies: Not in the college frat "call an ambulance and a counselor" type of way. But in the "welcome to the team but don't forget you're a rookie" type of way. Two favorite types of ways? We would walk into the break room, act like we were going to lunch and ask if anyone wanted to go to the main terminal (where the best restaurants were). You could tell who the experienced officers were. They were the ones who didn't make eye contact. But rookies always answered with, "Sure, I'll go". That's when we would pull out a $20 and say, "Great, while you're there could you get me #5 from Wendy's?" That was a one-off type of joke. We would also tell rookies that if we gave them a nickname it was because we liked them. They didn't get to choose the nickname, but they should wear it with honor. Then we would choose a nickname based off something embarrassing they did. Like the rookie whose first seizure was a Fish and Wildlife violation for importing endangered monkey bones. He was beaming until he figured out what was coming. He said, "Are you going to nickname me Monkey Bone?". Well, we are now.
- We Only Use Last Names: I used to coach our work softball team. The other manager came over to exchange lineups and his was, "I've got Randy, Dave, George, Matt, Mike, Mike H...." Mine was "I've got Sager, Ortiz, Rice, Merlino, Wanless..." He remarked about how weird it was that I used last names and I remember thinking, "But those are their names to me". In fact, sometimes my wife doesn't know who I'm talking about if I use a first name. The reason for this? Safety. We already have our last name plastered on our chest for everyone to see. We don't need to give them our first name as well. Remember, many people we deal with aren't exactly predisposed to wanting to like us. So we always use last names when we talk. It's just safer.
- The Thin Blue Line is Pretty Thin: I was called for Jury Duty last month and the first thing the lawyers did was jump on me and the old "Boys in Blue" mentality. I calmly told them not to blow that out of proportion. There were officers I would jump into harm's way for, officers I will be friends with forever and other officers I wouldn't give the time of day to if I saw them on the street. We know the bad officers and hate them just as much as you. More so even, because they're giving us a bad name. The only reason the union defends them so fervently is because of a legal principle called "The Duty of Fair Representation". Basically it means we didn't get to only defend the people we thought were innocent. I've been in meetings where I have 100% agreed with management and when an offer was presented for punishment I've screamed "Take the deal! Take the deal!" in my mind. When the officer turned it down, because "They were going to prove their innocence", all I could think was "Son of a bitch".
- We Don't Feel Like Working Everyday Either: Ever have those days where you head into work and you're like, "Screw it. I've got nothin today"? You're not alone and police officers aren't exempt from it either. What happens on days like this? Well, it's kind of like you're going to have to talk me into a seizure rather than trying to talk me out of it. In other words, if I'm doing paperwork that day, you REALLY had to screw up. I remember the first Christmas Eve I ever worked. I thought I would be smart and volunteer to work the Victoria Clipper. It's a small pedestrian ferry between Seattle and Victoria, Canada. Totally low risk and on my way home. Perfect. That was before the senior officers told me that the late night flights at the airport would cancel on Christmas Eve and everyone there got to go home early. Damn cagey veterans. So here I am, eight at night on Christmas Eve, waiting to clear about (or aboot in Canada) 50 passengers coming from Victoria. Last guy off the boat, home free and on my way to Grandma's for homemade ravioli. All he has to do is say, "No" to the question, "Do you have anything to declare?" Pretty simple, I thought we all knew our roles here. But no, he has to go ahead and declare that he has half of a Cuban Cigar. I told him, "No you don't". "Yes, I do". "No, you don't". It went back and forth multiple times until I finally said, "Look, if you say yes one more time I have to seize it. That means you and I will be here for another hour, on Christmas Eve, doing the paperwork to seize half of a friggin cigar that I'm sure you forgot that you threw it away in Canada. Right?" Insert huge pregnant pause while I stare at him, nodding my head up and down, until he finally get's it and says, "You know, I think I did throw that away in Canada." Good, get out of here.... and Merry Christmas.
In case you're all still wondering, I wasn't selected for the jury. Something about it being a DUI trial and me having arrested people with outstanding warrants for DUI. Defense attorney must have figured that wasn't a good mix.