When you become a police officer, you're going to
work with some police officers who like to "perform"
in public for the benefit of onlookers and fellow
police officers.  What they seem to forget is that TV
and movie actors have the opportunity to retake a
scene when they screw it up, a police officer has no
such second chance.

The most notable actor will be the officer who acts
like the baddest, toughest cop on earth when he or
she has the immediate backup of another
officer(s).  You'll quickly realize this actor falls into a
different character when no backup is immediately
present.  This same actor will like to display his or
her comedic talents by verbally humiliating and
embarrassing victims as well as suspects as long as
there's an audience to appreciate the performance.

While "professionalism" is a very overworked word,
its importance and relevance to your career cannot
be overstated.  The way you conduct yourself is
either going to make you look intelligent, strong,
knowledgeable, and thoughtful, or your conduct will
make you appear incompetent, weak, silly and

There is one valid comparison between the shows
and real police -- you're always being watched by
someone.  Think about your own reaction when you
see a police car or a uniformed police officer.  The
mere presence of a police officer evokes your
curiosity, and that curiosity causes you to watch
and evaluate.
Trust me when I tell you this.  Every person
standing behind that tape is going to think you're
laughing about the homicide.

This scene can look even worse:

Let's say the victim, this time, was shot and killed
by a police officer.  A police officer involved shooting
will bring police officers from all over the place.  One
officer walks up to the officer who did the shooting,
grabs his hand in a handshake, and gives him a big
hug.  While the hugger is only lending his emotional
support to the officer for what he knows has been a
very traumatic experience, you can be assured that
any onlookers will view the handshake and hug as
congratulatory gestures.

Look...nobody's perfect, and you obviously can't
dwell on tragedy.  You shouldn't, and you don't
want to let yourself, become emotionally involved in
the tragedy of others.  However, you do want to
always remain cognizant of your conduct and how it
appears to others in the context of circumstances.

Then...along comes the police officer who's just
simply lazy and incompetent:

How many times have you been driving on a
multiple lane highway when all the traffic is forced to
merge into the right lane?  You know how difficult it
can be when there's no kind of traffic control -- like
a police officer -- to aid in a relatively smooth
transition.  I found myself in this circumstance on
one hot, summer afternoon.

I was already in the right lane, so all I had to do was
be polite and let other drivers over from time to
time.  As the bumper to bumper traffic inched
ahead, I could finally see an accident scene where
the highway raised out of a depression from
beneath an overpass.  As the traffic crawled
inexorably forward, I saw the top of a police car
which was blocking the center and left lanes of
traffic.  The police car was some distance back from
the accident scene, but since no police officer was
visible, one would think the car belonged to one of
the officers on the accident scene.

When I finally got to the traffic choke point, I looked
over only to see the police officer sitting in his car.  
He wasn't writing on a clipboard; he wasn't talking
on his radio.  He wasn't doing anything expect
looking like a lazy, incompetent fool.  He had the
driver's seat in the recliner position, and he looked
very comfortable.  His cheek was pressed against
the headrest, and if he hadn't moved his head once
or twice, one would think he was asleep.  He might
as well have been asleep for all the good he was

Had he simply been directing traffic as he should
have been doing, every passing motorist would
have been appreciative of his presence.  Instead, it
was too hot for him, and his air conditioned comfort
was more important than the totally preventable
negative image he was projecting to hundreds of

As you contemplate your police career, start taking
every opportunity to watch police officers as an
exercise in evaluating conduct.  It doesn't matter
what the circumstances of your observations entail.  
Whether you're watching how a police officer
operates his or her police car, or their demeanor in
interaction with others, you'll be amazed how much
you'll learn about the importance of public image.
When you watch cop shows -- movies; made for
TV, or the so called documentary or reality shows --
always remember that all are, first and foremost,
entertainment.  The producers have very little
knowledge or concern when it comes to the way
they portray police officers.  It doesn't matter to
them whether the portrayal is positive, negative, or
even accurate as long as the production is
As a police officer, you'll deal with some pretty
tragic circumstances, and you'll get used to them.  
What a lot of police officers forget is how people
involved in, or witnesses to, tragic events view your
conduct at the scene of these events:

Let's say you respond to the scene of a homicide.  
Your sergeant assigns you to guard the body which
is, covered and lying in the middle of the street,
awaiting the arrival of the crime lab and medical

There's a sizeable crowd behind the crime scene
tape, and you can hear some people crying who are
probably family members or friends of the victim.  
Another officer walks up to you, and he starts
talking to you about a practical joke he played on
another member of the squad.  Before you realize
where you're standing, both of you break out in
"The way you conduct yourself is either going
to make you look intelligent, strong,
knowledgeable, and thoughtful, or your
conduct will make you appear incompetent,
weak, silly and stupid." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker