Steve Hodel, retired LAPD homicide detective, offers advice to young men and women who have chosen to pursue a police career. He is a New York Times and bestselling author. His book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America as a “Best Fact” true-crime book.
Some Old School Thoughts
by Steve Hodel
This short article is written for all of you who have recently chosen a career in or are about to become a part of the law-enforcement community.
First, let me say congratulations! You are about to embark on an exciting and highly rewarding profession. No other “job” can compare to the life of a cop. In the months and years ahead you have chosen to dedicate your life to protecting and serving others. Your work in “the streets” will bring you: high-excitement, physical and mental challenges, true and lasting friendships, immense joys and a few sorrows.
As the years fly by, both your professional and personal life will be tested in many “trials by fire.” Time and time again, personal temptations will be presented. Remain true to yourself and your oath to serve the public, and you will succeed and experience enormous satisfaction.
Here are a few bullet point suggestions to keep in mind based on my fifty-years of experience in criminal investigations and in dealing directly with “the public” which includes the best and the worst of humanity.
“Be honest” ~ Steve Hodel
– In all your calls and responses for public service be careful be safe. Especially in responding to domestic disputes. Those are often the most dangerous call you will ever receive.
– In dealing with the public be neutral – be fair. Treat all citizens the same. Respect the individuality of each citizen and his or her needs.
– Control your emotions under stress. If you are truly in control, others will sense it and respond accordingly. If it is genuine, you will be recognized as having a “Command Presence” which will serve you well and naturally defuse and de-escalate volatile situations.
– Do your best to avoid the traditional ”Us and Them” mentality. Police work is hard. Bonding with fellow officers is natural and beneficial, but always keep in mind the criminal element you are in contact with is relatively small compared to the overall citizenry. There are many good people on the streets and “in the mix.”
– In addition to your brother and sister officers, try your best to integrate your personal social life with men and women of other professions, so as not to lose perspective. Keep a balance.
– Be honest! Never lie on a police report and never perjure yourself in court to protect a brother officer. If you do, it will come back to bite you – guaranteed.
– Avoid peer pressure. If you see a fellow officer engage in an act you know is wrong – do not join in. Sounds simple, but oftentimes it is not. Again, be true to yourself. In LAPD’s early days of payoffs and corruption honest cops were known as “square apples” and while dirty cops avoided partnering with them, yet they still maintained an unspoken and lasting respect.
– In interrogations with suspects always be objective and in control of your personal feelings. “Good cop – Bad cop” only works in movies. Leave your “attitude” outside the interrogation room door. Use sugar instead of vinegar. A simple jester such as complying with his or her request for a cigarette or a drink of water may get you a full blown confession to a rape or murder. It has worked for me on many occasions.
– Finally, you should know that the use and display of empathy and compassion in your role as a public servant are not signs of weakness. Rather, they are signs of strength. They signal to your public that you are there to protect and to serve and that you are firm, but fair.
Good Luck. Enjoy your life of service to others, and stay safe.
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