Police and Profanity


I can guarantee that you’ll have a much easier career path if you can embrace these two simple suggestions: Erase profanity from your police vocabulary, and don’t take anything personally.

Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.

Police and profanity is a toxic combination that needlessly damages a police officer’s personal and professional public image. Most people respect and appreciate the service and contributions police officers provide to society. There are a lot of critics, and you’ll encounter many of them. The worst of the critics count on the negative effect of police and profanity. 

You’ll soon realize that just about anybody will know your duties, responsibilities and authority better than you. You don’t even have to ask them for their opinions, because they’ll gladly provide you with their views unsolicited.

Police officers most often get into trouble for things they say. You should start evaluating your use of profanity even before entering the police hiring process. If you’re prone to using profanity, start breaking the habit. You should at least realize that profanity will never aid you in performing your duties. At the very least, compartmentalize its use away from police work whether it’s interaction with the public or co-workers. Think hostile work environment.

Don’t Take Insults Personally

Do you take outrageous, vulgar or demeaning verbal insults directed at you personally? Start getting over that perfectly normal human reaction as well. In America, insulting a police officer is a popular pastime for many, and the worst thing you can do is verbally respond to the substance of the insults. Nothing looks worse to onlookers than a police officer engaged in a shouting match with some ideologically demented lunatic.

The only response you need make is a warning that his or her behavior could subject the individual to arrest. This disimpassioned response will probably encourage the person to increase the volume and substance of the insults. As the person’s behavior draws the attention of onlookers, you might want to give the person a second warning. At the point of your choosing, you can end the spectacle with these words, “You’re under arrest.” 

This is the important point. You’re not arresting that person because he or she insulted you, but you’re arresting that person because his or her behavior disturbed the peace of others. As a legal point, a police officer’s peace cannot be disturbed. If this same scenario occurred in a location where no other people were present, you’d have no probable cause to make an arrest based on the verbal behavior alone.

Many People will Bait a Police Officer to Use Profanity

Controlling what you say and how you properly react to stupid people or intelligent people intent on baiting you into improper responses will serve you well. The intelligent cop hater might well engage you in a friendly manner to put you off guard. Soon thereafter, unlike the lunatic, the verbal insult will be delivered in a subtle manner. 

I always found that a brief stare with no verbal response followed by totally ignoring the physical presence of the person works well. Nobody likes to be ignored, especially a person who feels he or she is superior to the person who is ignoring him or her. This leaves the intelligent insulter only two unfulfilling choices: walk away feeling insulted by your total disengagement or escalate to lunatic behavior and risk the possibility of arrest.

After your graduation from the police academy, you’re going be thrust into a totally different world with so many things to learn. There aren’t too many guarantees in this world; however, I can guarantee that you’ll have a much easier career path if you can embrace these two simple suggestions: Erase profanity from your police vocabulary, and don’t take anything personally.

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