What It's Really Like To Be A Cop

How is it being a cop? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Christopher Hawk, 20 year police patrol veteran, on Quora.

Police work usually involves lots of different things happening during the shift. Depending on the jurisdiction and level of calls, officers might be working call-to-call throughout the shift, or they might have to keep themselves occupied through their shift.

Officers typically have a lot of unsupervised time during their patrol, so they have to be able to push themselves to stay busy. Some officers may be less-than-highly-motivated and can end up getting stuck in "the daily grind" of going down Main Street for a half-mile, then sitting outside Moe's Tavern for a little while, followed by a cup of coffee at the local Stop'n'Rob, and then back to Main Street to start all over again.

Most departments have officers operating "solo," so officers have to be comfortable with making contact with people by themselves. Again, depending on jurisdiction and staffing, back-up may be just a minute away or a half-hour away.

Officers have to be "thick-skinned." Some people think it is the height of hilarity to shout insults to police as they drive by. Others choose to berate officers as they go about their regular duties, such as during traffic stops or responding to noise complaints. Officers are expected to listen to the foulest language or insults to the officers' families and friends while remaining polite to the cretins who are insulting them.

Officers have tremendous discretionary powers in their enforcement activity. They have to be able to recognize biases they carry and make sure those biases don't influence them to treat people differently.

Police work is a 24/7/365 service. You may have to work weekends, nights, holidays, or during Joe, Jr's Little League games or Sweet Janey's piano recitals. You'll work in all kinds of weather, including steamy hot days in body armor and bitterly cold days when your feet will feel like blocks of ice no matter how hot you blow the heater.

Sounds fun, huh? It's really a great job, as long as you can stay focused on the fact that most people are nice, friendly, average folks, even if you happen to meet them at a not-quite-perfect moment. When you deal with the people who are not nice, friendly folks, you sometimes have the opportunity to get them off the streets and away from the nice ones. You'll have the chance to help some people, even if it's just giving a tourist directions out of town without going through the "rough" neighborhoods. Other times, you'll help in a more substantial way, such as recovering someone's purse with the family's vacation money still inside.

And, yes... running red lights with the squad car's lights and siren on is both terrifying and exhilarating!

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