Part of being a cop is having the ability to answer important questions when they arise. Neighbors listening to loud music at 3 am? No sweat, we’ve got it. Involved in a motor vehicle crash? Call us. Need to report a theft? Sure, we do that. The list is endless.
We’re problem solvers, it’s what we do. I have been doing this for over a decade, and I think I have my head wrapped around most of it. There are some problems that I have yet to figure out a solution for, even though I’ve tried. The following thirteen problems have perplexed me to no end and seem to be the few things about this job that remain constant.
Problem 1: How does dispatch know that I just started to eat, or just sat down to take a grumpy and much-needed dump? I don’t think I’m alone in this, and I don’t fashion myself a paranoid type of person, but seriously, did someone plant a monitoring chip in me? The priority calls wait…right until I receive my food or finally get to evacuate my bowels. I’ve had many a meal go cold, and pinched off more than I care to share while doing my 4.5″ by 4.5″ paperwork because of the “hot call” that seems to wait right until I’m busy taking care of business.
Problem 2: Whenever I’m running late to get somewhere and I’m driving my police car, I get stuck behind the world’s best driver who absolutely will not go even one mile an hour over the speed limit. My agency has a take home car policy that allows officers who live in and near our jurisdiction to drive our issued cars home and for personal use in an approved area. I don’t use my car very much when I’m not working; but because I’m working in some capacity most of the time, I spend a lot of my life behind the wheel of a marked police car. Roll call, off duty employment, testifying in court, and training sessions all have a specific start time. If I’m running even a little bit slower than usual, I manage to get behind a vehicle that will not get out-of-the-way. Presumably out of fear of being the subject of a traffic stop, these drivers drop their speeds well below the posted limit and always seem to be headed just beyond where I need to go. These folks will bring friends to create a rolling road block on multi-lane roadways, but only if I’m running late.
Problem 3: The nights that I come to work well rested and ready to take on the world are absolutely slow. The nights that I come to work in bad need of sleep or while I feel awful, we’re absolutely slammed with calls. Once again, maybe someone in dispatch is conspiring against me, but somehow this is a fact of life. If I’m really not feeling like being at work, we go from call to call all night long. When I get plenty of sleep and feel like being really proactive at work, very few calls come in and nearly every citizen decides to stay home.
Problem 4: If I find a comfortable pair of duty boots that fit just right, they will immediately start to squeak or will fall apart. This may be a symptom of me being too cheap to buy a $300 pair of duty boots, but it’s a law of nature. When I find a pair of boots that aren’t too heavy and don’t make my feet or knees hurt, they soon start to sound like I have an epic case of the walking farts, or they implode. And if they choose to implode, it’s usually at the most inconvenient of times, like during a foot pursuit or just prior to the start of a uniform inspection.
Problem 5: When we get a new schedule, all of my kids birthdays and most of the major holidays will be scheduled work days. We work eight shifts in a fourteen day pay period. Those eight days always seem to fall on every date-specific important event in my world, forcing me to either schedule time off or miss them all together. And the majority of the things that just pop up usually follow suit. On those occasions when I am already scheduled to have these days off, or I take time off, I’ll get called in for a SWAT callout. If I plot out the following year on my current rotation and find that I’ll actually have some of these days off, I’ll be moved to the other rotation.
Problem 6: If I get an itch while I’m at work, it will either be under my vest where I can’t get to it, or it will be while I’m wearing latex gloves and handling something nasty. I’ve tried rubbing my back against a corner, I’ve tried using a broken antenna as a back scratcher, but nothing ever seems to get it. They must put something on those latex gloves that sends a signal to my nose to itch painfully as soon as I’m wearing them and get involved with some form of human bodily fluids.
Problem 7: When it’s time for a new Chief of Police, the one candidate I really don’t want will get the job. The debate will go on for weeks leading up to the selection of a new Chief of Police. Usually those of us who have no authority over the promotion process will arrive at a consensus as to who we’d really like as a Chief and who we think would screw everything up. Lo and behold, our civilian promotion board will choose the one we think is way too incompetent for the job. Every. Time.
Problem 8: When we complain about the new Chief to each other over coffee in between calls, someone will have a body camera that is still recording-the whole conversation. It’s usually the person who is recording that is talking the most shit, so to my knowledge it’s never been intentional; but it’s happened more than once. And if it’s not a body camera, it’s the body microphone for our in-car camera that will be left on. They download wirelessly, cannot be deleted, and the videos are readily accessible to the administration. It’s because of this phenomenon that most of the best conversations at my department now begin with the instigator doing a shake down of every possible recording device in the area.
Problem 9: If the department adopts a new report writing system, it will be far worse than anything used before. In this day and age of technological development there has to be a cop somewhere who can develop a report management system that isn’t overcomplicated and ridiculous. Since we share a border with a major city, it’s long been my agency’s practice to keep the same software as the police department there. We went from software from the 1980’s to software from the 1990’s to a new program that was supposed to be user-friendly and would give us lots of information in the field. It didn’t. It’s awful. I’m not terribly computer-machine literate, but I can type a report. Now we have drop down menus for drop down menus and have to change our passwords way to often for me to be able to keep up with it.
Problem 10: If you have multiple programs you are required to use, you will never be able to synchronize all of the passwords. I currently have to maintain passwords for my agency e-mail, case reporting system, electronic traffic ticket system, performance tracking system, time keeping system, and others. Most prompt a password change at a different rate. Some have passwords that are issued. They all drive me crazy. For the ones I use less frequently, I usually have to go through some sort of verification process and create a new password that I’ll forget the next time I need to use it.
Problem 11: The most emotionally disturbed, drug using nomads from places that are forever away manage to find the Donut and won’t leave. Suburbia has its charms, and the Donut County where I reside has a lot to offer its citizens. Even though we need them, we don’t have much in the way of social services like homeless shelters or places to take those who need psychiatric counseling. There have been plenty of times that we’ve dealt with someone who originated from a location across the country, or from another country, that has ended up raising all kinds of hell in my jurisdiction. We don’t know why they end up here, but they do. It’s almost like we are the screen that catches the discarded before they get fully flushed. Eventually they commit a criminal act and get jailed, only to return to the area when they are released.
Problem 12: If we receive a 3% pay increase, our health insurance rate will increase at least 20%. Raises are few and far between in police work, but if you get one you can count on the health insurance rate to increase more than the raise. To add insult to injury, the insurance policy usually gets more restrictive in the process.
Problem 13: If my police car has a headlight out, every citizen driving in my area will flag me down to tell me. It’s almost like a “gotcha” moment for these mostly well-intended citizen motorists. Chances are, I’ve already noticed that the front of my car isn’t fully illuminated. Your frantic waving, honking, and gesturing has surely tipped me off that you want my attention. Yes, I’m aware of my equipment violation. If we have a headlight for me to replace it with, I’ll get it as soon as possible. I will not buy one, but I’ll sure as hell cannibalize one from a car left at the police department just to make it stop.