One day, class finished early. My partner (we shared a table in class) suggested that we stop for a beer, because we suddenly had extra time when our wives were not expecting us home. One beer became a few and as we left the tavern, Mike said, "Let's tell our wives we just had one beer. They won't know the difference." I readily agreed.
That seemingly unimportant event became a watershed moment for me. It was then that I came to this realization: cops get to write their own stories, create their own facts and make their own history with little risk they will ever be found out. I suddenly felt as though I had been given a super power.
Where Is The Line?
Skipping ahead a short time, I was called in for an oral board interview by an agency where I had applied. It was my first oral board. I was really nervous because of the horror stories I had heard from others. There were three officers seated at a table. All of them were focused on me. I could feel myself sweating. Then came the first tough question.
"You are a rookie cop working with a seasoned veteran on a midnight shift. At 3:00AM, dispatch sends you to a convenience store in response to an alarm. You find the front glass window broken out. You and your partner secure the scene and find no one. You advise dispatch. You are told that the key-holder is 30 minutes away. While waiting his arrival, your partner takes a small package of gum (worth maybe a quarter) and puts a stick in his mouth. The remainder goes in his pocket. He does not put any money down. What are you going to do, as a rookie?"
I respond saying that based on the totality of the circumstances, I will do nothing.
"It is a week later. You are working the same shift with the same partner. At 4:00AM, you come upon an abandoned vehicle that is partially blocking the road. You run the tag and everything comes back clear, but there is no driver to be found so you advise dispatch to send a wrecker. Your partner offers to write the tow sheet. As he is doing the inventory of the vehicle, you see him pick up a $20 bill from the front seat and put it in his pocket. Now, rookie, what are you going to do?" they ask.
I was really sweating now. I told them that I would take a $20 from my pocket and put it on the seat in the subject vehicle. I went on to say that I would tell my partner that he had put me in a most compromising position and should he ever do anything like that again, he will leave me with no choice but to report his actions to the shift sergeant.
"Same partner, same shift. Dispatch sends you to the scene of a car wreck. The at-fault driver sped off. On arrival, you see that the remaining vehicle is damaged and the driver is injured. While the injury is not life-threatening, this person will need to be transported for further medical care. You take the necessary information and begin checking the area for a vehicle that matches the victim's description of the one that sped away from the scene."
"After a short while, you and your partner find the suspect vehicle. It is parked in the driveway of your chief and it is his personal vehicle. It has damage consistent with the crash you just investigated. The senior officer wants to report that you were unable to locate the at-fault vehicle. What are you going to do?"
I had to think about that for a moment, though it seemed like an hour at the time. I told the board that I would respond by saying that I would not go along with the story. I intended to tell the truth in my report. In addition, at the first opportunity, I would advise the sergeant of what had happened.
In reflection, it was clear that this panel was using hypothetical situations to test me. Did I use good judgment to establish a reasonable course of action in each case? Did I understand the idea that there is a line which should not be crossed? Did I know how and where to place that line?
The Tests of the Real World Would Come Later
In my early days on the street, while I was still in the FTO phase, I remember encountering a slug whom every cop in the department had handled at one time, or another. He became verbally abusive and then passively resistant when I attempted to pat him down for weapons. Without much hesitation, my partner went hands on to insure that passive resistance wouldn't become aggressive resistance.