Doing a good job, having the best stats, or getting citizen commendations will mean nothing if you are on the wrong side of those in powerful (or golden-boy) positions.
Maneuvering Through the Minefield
It can be done. Some get through by playing their game. In the process, they surrender their dignity, their honesty and their ethics. They have prostituted themselves in order to get along.
Others latch on to a protector. They identify a leader in their department and get themselves adopted. Operating under the wing of a more powerful senior officer allows the young officer to gain solid footing in his own right. Having a tie to someone in power (like a Dad, Granddad or other relative) has the same effect: The young officer carries the shield of his time-tested predecessor.
Maintaining a low profile can also be quite effective. The young officer stays in the shadows. He avoids both great successes and noticeable failures. He avoids risk the same way that President Obama avoids a meeting of the republican caucus.
Talking From Both Sides of Their Mouths
There is an INSTITUTIONAL DRIVE to protect each other in law enforcement.
We attend classes in the academy and in-service on the subject of ethics. Instructors talk in circles. They use abstract, hypothetical situations to drive home two concepts that your parents taught you from birth: (1) Tell the truth; (2) Treat others the way you want to be treated. It seems so complex in a classroom. In reality, it is not tough to comprehend.
Many of these same instructors, when back at their regular jobs (like sergeants, lieutenants, etc.) seem to be operating from a totally different playbook. To them, truth is relative to the situation. Treat civilians good enough so that it looks OK on the video. Write a lot of tickets and make arrests - it's all about good stats. At the top of the list: don't do anything that might make the boss look bad. Finally: if you have a complaint or an idea on how to improve: keep your mouth shut.
The Real Deal
Well, it's time some of the chameleons in our midst are outed. I am galled to see these people hide. Remember: we are dealing with cops who are lazy, incompetent, bullies or clueless. They are in the minority, but their actions are a huge pain in the butt.
I am going to share a series of real stories and examples. I can't make this stuff up. These incidents have originated in every corner of the country. Most came to me as I traveled the country. I train law enforcement professionals. I have been on hundreds of ride-alongs in nearly every state in the union. Students share their personal stories frequently. Most are fun. Others, not so much. I am using real examples because I believe it is important for young officers to know that rotten things actually happen, and rotten things can happen to them.
Generally, these incidents cited have already been resolved and closed, some time ago. But this kind of trouble remains in our midst. Some say the problem is worse today than ever before. I will withhold judgment.
Any resemblance to anyone in real life is purely coincidental. No one (other than me) knows the true identity of these people or agencies. This approach is being used as a means to educate the young. Think of it like watching a training video from a car camera where everything went sideways. We often learn from the bad fortune of other officers. I want to help prevent the young from falling into the trap of failed ethics.
The Drive To Be, ah, Creative
Case Study #1
The officer was newly assigned to the detective bureau. It was his first stint in the DB after nearly 20 years in patrol. His agency made a practice of queuing-up job applications until there were enough to give one or two to every detective.
The newly-minted detective is given the assignment to conduct a background investigation on a job applicant. The supervisor comments as the file is delivered, "I didn't like the way this guy talked during the oral interview. I'm sure you can find a reason to broom him."