They Bug You Because They Like You!

It can be intimidating for a female officer to come into an environment of mostly men. When I started there was only one other female officer on the platoon I was assigned, and although she was very nice, I felt more intimidated by her than all of the others. She had survived the initiation stages and had developed excellent bonds with the male officers, and I felt that they would always be comparing me to her. I wondered if I could live up to her standard. But once you do build those bonds, you quickly see that one of the best parts about being a cop is the camaraderie. It can be huge fun joking around with one another when both of you have the same sense of humor and tolerance level for certain types of ribbing. I'm not talking about sexual harassment, or the harassment in the workplace, I am talking about some good clean fun that makes it a joy to come to work. This is different for each person.

For example, some of the officers bugged me about having a chubby butt. One day I was walking down the hallway with a set of seized license plates, and one of the officers said, "They're making you wear plates now?" I thought that was hilarious. The very next day, I got my turn. It was pouring rain outside, and this particular officer was should we say....follically challenged. As we exited the building together I said, "Well I guess you don't have to worry about getting your hair wet." He split a gut laughing. This is what I mean about good clean fun. Usually, you find your niche of friends within the department with whom you can be yourself. When you do, there is nothing like it. You feel like you fit in. The day I became fully accepted by my colleagues was a memorable one for me.

Just as I was completing my six month probation, my training officer, a huge gruff man who got a five-o'clock shadow half an hour after he shaved in the morning, had an assignment for me. It wasn't a secret that I hated dead bodies, especially dead bodies in the dark. I have since found that this is not a gender thing --my girlfriend eats her lunch at a murder scene, and my male supervisor throws up at the sight of any blood, so gender is certainly not a factor. However, on this cold and dreary night at about 3 o'clock in the morning, we were called into the station to see the Staff Sergeant. This is the same Staff Sergeant who, after playing cribbage in the communications/dispatch center all night, answered the 9-1-1 phone, "Fifteen two, fifteen four....I mean 9-1-1, can I help you?"

Anyhow, during his break from his card game, he called us in and handed my training officer a toe tag. He said that day shift had forgotten to tag the toe of a body in the morgue, and that we needed to do this so the coroner knew who the body was and what the occurrence number was. My trainer promptly handed me the tag and said it was "my turn". Of course, our morgue has to be situated in the middle of one of our cemeteries--go figure. As we proceeded into the dark cemetery, my trainer illuminated the back door of the morgue with his headlights. Fog billowed across the cemetery and dogs howled in the thick night air. Okay, maybe not, but it felt like it. I began to sweat and my hands had a slight tremble, which I explained was because there was a chill in the air.

Upon entering the morgue, I turned on the light and saw a body lying underneath a sheet, with white feet sticking out. I went to place the tag on the left foot as my trainer said, "No you have to tag the right one." Shaking a little, I moved to the right foot when the body suddenly jumped up and roared. Under the covers, lying on the metal slab, was one of our plainclothes officers. My legs shook uncontrollably to the point where my uniform pant legs were vibrating. This was my initiation and welcome into policing. Of course all of the officers on duty that night rushed in to laugh about the prank. One officer said that some citizens out there thought people were at the cemetery sacrificing virgins, but he said, "Don't worry, Sue--I told them you were no virgin."

So that was the day I knew I was an accepted member of our platoon. It really is true that if they like you, they bug you. In the early years, we heard a lot of different stories; one officer painted the rookie's nightstick white and made him carry it on the beat. One had his rookie stop a car, and when he went up to get the drivers license and registration, the partner drove away and never came back, leaving the rookie with documents in hand and no way to write a ticket and nowhere to go. These are harmless fun situations that let you know the guys like you.

A lot of the pranks have been eliminated, purely from a liability standpoint nowadays, but war stories are fun and part of our history and culture. I do recognize that jokes and pranks can have a negative effect on the working environment if both people involved don't share the same humor, or if the ribbing was done with malice. People also have to know when it is time to quit and where to draw the line. Some don't have that ability and go overboard. No one likes to have their shortcomings mentioned day in and day out in front of a group of people. But generally, police officers are thick-skinned and should be able to joke about themselves.