To those of us on the ever-shrinking thin blue line, the phrase, "Well, you're just a dumb cop," is one of the most common insults we hear. As a rookie officer, I easily felt frustrated and angry at this statement.
However, after 11 years of service, I now smirk knowingly in response. With a smile and nod, I wish these folks a good day.
That smile conceals the fact that law enforcement is unique due to its ability to challenge you physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Law enforcement resides in the realm of predatory evolution, with a costly learning curve. Law enforcement officers either evolve with the time, situation and society or they become ineffective in the profession.
This constant and dynamic evolution is driven by knowledge.
LEOs have to have a baseline level of intelligence meeting or exceeding that of any working professional. Law enforcement officers are required to be "book smart" as they are challenged to memorize the penal code, code of criminal procedures, traffic law, health and safety code, environmental law, governmental law, current case law (both state and federal), departmental SOPs, 10 codes and more.
Then, they must pass an evaluation phase conducted in the real world with no safety net. Law enforcement officers must be "street smart" as they contact subjects who have earned their PhDs in street law and whose sole purpose is to escape apprehension.
LEOs must also be financially savvy as they know they have chosen a profession where the benefits of the profession are not measured in the amount of zeroes in their bank account.
In addition, the modern day law enforcement officer — regardless of primary duty assignment, jurisdiction or agency — is expected to rate at least a "master" level proficiency in a multitude of seemingly unrelated fields. A typical patrol officer must ...
be an excellent driver, capable chasing high performance vehicles through heavy traffic
multitask like a jet fighter pilot, simultaneously managing communications, radar, traffic — and of course updating social media as he/she operates a code 3 on the highway
write reports like an English professor
navigate better than Siri on her best days
run through mental checklists like an astronaut before the launch
These skills don't even begin to cover what must be done when the patrol officer arrives on scene. Once on scene, the officer faces an entirely new litany of challenges from being able to permanently solve disputes faster than Judge Judy and raise more children than Mr. Rodgers.
No other profession requires its practitioners to master so many seemingly-unrelated fields and still, at the end of the day, remain approachable to the everyday citizen.
Not only is the successful LEO required to master all of these skills and apply them in volatile environments, but they are also often harshly judged by laymen. Thanks to the advent and proliferation of social media, not only can we get our fill of cat videos on an hourly basis, but we can also be bombarded with sound tactical tips by folks whose closest experience to a high-stress situation is when they played "Call of Duty" on a difficult level and were unable to save their game.
When taking down an armed assailant or engaging in hand-to-hand combat, our brothers and sisters do not have the benefit of being able to retroactively examine the situation like so many individuals who have become hand-to-hand combat experts due to their consistent attendance at the local bar to watch UFC fights. Unlike the MMA pros, LEOs don’t have the ability to "tap out" when things get difficult.
So, the next time one of your favorite customers decides to insult your intelligence with a derisive quip, resist the urge to respond in kind. Nod, smile and thank them. Lao Tzu said it best, "There is no greater danger than under estimating you opponent."
Remember, my brothers and sisters, you are anything but "just a dumb cop."
About the Author
Rajib "Jeebs" Bhattacharjee has been in law enforcement for approximately 11 years. During his time in service, he has served in roles from Patrol Officer, Accident Investigator, Acting Supervisor, Narcotics Investigator, to his current role on a full-time Tactical Team. Jeebs, as his friends call him, has a passion for all things nerdy and noncardio-related. Jeebs proudly serves with a Sheriff's Office in Central Texas and can be reached via email at email@example.com.