Movies and television shows about police work are rife with stereotypical characters that are set pieces in the production. It doesn’t matter if the main characters are uniformed cops, detectives, or SWAT types. There’s always at least one character that is a hard-drinking lush, one that is totally incompetent but politically connected, someone who has been suspended and has an axe to grind, and the boss is always a hard ass with hemorrhoids and digestion issues from balancing the demands of his bosses and the work done by those that report to him. Some of them may actually exist in certain agencies, but these folks aren’t as common in our ranks as Hollywood thinks.
There are, however, a handful of characters that I’ve found to exist in about every agency. Aside from a few minor details, you’ve probably met or worked with this more realistic cast of characters.
The Ghost: The Ghost marks on duty at the required time and then vanishes. He or she might not actually be seen the entire shift and will shrug off anyone who asks about the most secretive hiding spots The Ghost holds dear. The AVL (automatic vehicle location) on The Ghost’s patrol car has been mysteriously disabled to prevent any sort of movement tracking.
The ROD: The ROD has decided that it’s foolish to wait for retirement to start acting as though he or she is retired. The ROD has managed to out breathe at least enough people on the squad to be dropped down on the call list and is likely to be found at a coffee shop, restaurant, or department store taking care of personal errands while on the clock for the entire shift. You will only see The ROD at a computer terminal in the report writing area if he or she is printing coupons to use at the coffee shop, restaurant, or department store later in the shift.
The Lapdog: The Lapdog (also known as The Blue Falcon) is the mole for the star and oak leaf cluster club. He or she will initiate conversations with coworkers about topics that will elicit responses that The Lapdog will immediately report to the star and oak leaf cluster club. After being discovered, The Lapdog will complain that no one will talk to him or her and will be hurt when the star and oak leaf cluster club no longer has a use for the mole.
The MacGyver: Have something that is rattling incessantly inside your patrol car? Break a handcuff key inside a set of handcuffs? Need to repair a broken door frame at a burglary scene for an elderly person? Go see The MacGyver. He or she may not actually have anything close to the appropriate tool to actually repair the problem, but The MacGyver will fashion anything needed with items that are on hand.
The OCD: Given the ability to do so, The OCD would spend his or her entire shift avoiding every mud puddle, gravel drive, or any other area that may get his or her patrol car or uniform soiled in any manner. The OCD will clean every surface meticulously to ensure that no dust or dirt is left behind. Want to send the OCD into a downward spiral? Lick your hand and put it on his or her windshield. That will do.
The FNG: Eager to get involved and make a name for himself or herself, The FNG is a car-stopping, call-jumping, report writing machine. The FNG is split into two distinct groups, those who ask questions constantly and those who never ask a question. As a supervisor, I prefer The FNG who will ask questions when he or she is unsure of what steps to take, because the non-question-asking FNG is about to screw some stuff up.
The Salty: As a competent performer, The Salty has grown weary of being rode hard for years. The Salty has no problem with arguing a point. He or she lives in a world of resolving conflicts, and if there’s something to be hashed out, it’s going to happen. It’s probably going to be vulgar and direct to the point. Feelings are of no concern to The Salty, so get over it.
The Boy Scout/Girl Scout: Criminal code books are written in black ink on white pages. Criminal incidents have a lot of gray areas. The Boy Scout/Girl Scout can only interpret the black and white and is completely out of his or her element in the gray. Discretion is not an option, because the code book says “insert crime here” is a crime, common sense be damned.
The Resume’ Builder: I’m all about professional development, but don’t expect The Resume’ Builder to cover an entire month of shifts without missing at least a few days to attend some new-fangled course that will look good on a resume’. He or she may be preparing to apply for a specialty position or promotion, but The Resume’ Builder is finding new training courses to attend as you read this blog. None of them will result in any more proficiency at work, but they will look good on that resume’.
The Shit Magnet: Stand by if this one is newly assigned to your shift, because The Shit Magnet can take a normal call volume and multiply it infinitely just by marking on duty. It may or may not be because of something The Shit Magnet is doing, it’s just a gravitational pull that brings criminals out when he or she is at work.
The Prankster: Always looking for an opportunity to pull a fast one, The Prankster will go to great lengths to get a rise out of a coworker. He or she will unlock and relocate an idling, parked squad car, fill it with Styrofoam packing peanuts, move the driver’s seat, mirrors, and steering wheel, turn the radio station, and crank the heat all the way up to leave it for the unsuspecting officer that didn’t shut the car off to run inside the police department. Then The Prankster will lie in wait just to see the reaction, no matter how long it takes.
The In My Day: No one knows exactly how long The In My Day has been serving as a sworn officer, but rumor has it that he or she was sworn in with a hand on a Bible that only contained the Old Testament because the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. He or she will complain about using a computer for anything, because The In My Day used to handwrite reports or use a typewriter. This individual will speak of things like call boxes, wheel guns, speed loaders, tele-types, brick radios, and bag phones. He or she will have outrageous stories about the way things used to be done and will have arrested several generations of the same families in the jurisdiction.
The Break Glass In Event of Emergency: He or she will typically do only what is required during normal, mundane calls for service, but if it may require a door breach or a patrol rifle, don’t get in the way of The Break Glass In Event of Emergency. This individual will be right at the front, leading the way regardless of the circumstances and will shine when the shit hits the fan.
By no means is this list all-inclusive, and some folks out there may fall into multiple character roles at the same time. I’ve migrated in and out of a few of these myself. Let me know who I missed in the comments section or on my Facebook page.
It’s time to go patrol the Donut…