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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Hazing

Fraternity-style initiations still exist in policing, so take it in stride.

March 31, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I am positive that each of you has belonged to a fraternity, club, sports team, or some other group with its own distinctive rites of passage. You have been warned in the academy that you will be picked on or hazed. Are we in this profession above such rituals? Most often not. It comes with the territory.

Rookies are no different when they enter "police land." Later on when you go to a special assignment such as "detective land" it will start all over again. So just what is right and acceptable? Rule one is to have a sense of humor.

Old School

When I joined policing, the "blanking new guy" caught every sorry assignment. If it was a crime scene that was reeking, you had the crime scene access log so you could smell it. You were not allowed to use the elevator, but had to take the stairs…that one was from my old Chief himself.

You had to get a few embarrassments under your belt and before you knew it, you were somewhat accepted. Some say that you are not the "real police" until you've had your first big bar fight, pursuit (both foot and vehicle), or first trip to the emergency room. It matters not; it is all about "firsts."

Somehow or other I and thousands like me made it through the rookie gauntlet and lived to tell about it. Looking back, none of us would trade these events, and we even laugh about them. And most fully participate in them today, for it is tradition. 

Today

Nowadays, the Field Training Officer (FTO) program takes care of most of the "firsts." Often by the time a recruit has completed the multitude of weeks with an FTO, most of the introductions to the watch or precinct are taken care of. So fellow officers feel the need to make their own "introductions."

I must remind you that officers are not picking on you or bullying, but carrying on their—and soon to be your—traditions. What can be a little joke could be a lead-in for a teaching point. Often, life's lessons are the ones we take the hardest.

For the old guys here, if you insist on this, make sure there is a valid life lesson or teaching point for this gesture. Yes, in police work it is much akin to when your father taught you to ride a bicycle; you got scuffed up but you learned.

Humor

The recruit must understand that this is also a test of your sense of humor more often than your heart. Cops are often the most jaded people I have ever known, but they will laugh at themselves, especially when nobody else finds it humorous. This is a great quality to have.

Now, if the lines of proper decorum are crossed and you are subjected to cruelty or something illegal, contact your supervisor. But, when you find out that your car was set up (all the emergency equipment comes on when you turn the key), stop, laugh, and know that one day you will be subjecting a younger colleague to such silliness.

Train hard but have fun.

Tags: Hazing


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