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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

When Am I No Longer a Rookie?

Indicators include your first fight, lost innocence, and becoming jaded, but don't rush to leave rookiehood.

December 01, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I get this question a lot: "How do I know when I am no longer a rookie?"

This depends on each officer, what you brought with you and how well you adapt to the job. There are some new officers who seem to never leave the naive rookiehood and others it was a never noticed the trip.

Back in the day, old timers often recognized an officer's entrance into policeland based on career events. You had to have your first fight, first foot pursuit, first trip to the emergency room (as a patient), first specific type of investigation or whatever. Each department and each veteran officer has his or her own doormat to policeland.

Where I have concern is that some rookies try to push their luck in gaining these achievements. There are some things in life you can't push or create. Be patient. This too will come with time.

The most bothersome young officer is the one that becomes jaded too fast to experience the process. He is matter of fact, says, "This stuff is boring," and downplays events to impress others with nonchalant behavior. All the time, he really wants to burst with the exuberance of the job but can't do it because he is playing the cool card. Hint here: Enjoy the trip in policeland.

I have a different take on things. When the most mundane things to a "civilian" take on a decidedly law enforcement spin, this is when I believe you are about to enter the metamorphosis from rookie to cop. As a civilian and even a rookie you will do or say certain things in clearly identifiable ways. Real cops don't act and talk in the same way. Here are some examples of how you can tell if you have lost the innocence of life....

You can't drive down a street without having some story or tale of a call you rode there. The last time I was in that restaurant I had a robbery call there...

You can't identify a good cop hangout (food or coffee) without giving the street address rather than saying the name of the place. Let's go to 8820 for a coffee...

When in another jurisdiction, you can't drive past another cop without saying to your friend at least one good one-up about them. They are a good department but we have better (fill in the blank)...

You can't go on a date or out for a good meal without driving past the place three times, sitting in the parking lot watching it for a few minutes and then demanding a table with your back to the wall. No example here; just ask my wife....

Could I go on about this transition? Yes, but the most important part of this article is patience. We all know the rites of passage of rookiehood. You feel that it is an extension of the police academy that never ends; true. What is important is that you don't wish your career away and miss the important teaching points to be learned. You can't push the career nor make up the calls. They come with luck of the draw. Do not push yourself so hard that you miss the experience and the learning along the way; this will be the foundation for the rest of your career. Enjoy the ride there....

Train with meaning and train for the battle.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

mtarte @ 12/1/2009 7:11 PM

When I came on board, you were a rookie until an old-timer said you were no longer a rookie. For some, it was a short wait, for others, it took longer. The greatest feeling in the world for me when I was a young officer was when an veteran cop walked up to me and said "good job kid" at a particularly tense situation where I was the primary. That meant more to me than all the tea in China. I think it still holds true today; the transition will be recognized by those veteran cops and they will pass judgment on the rookie to determine veteran status or still wet behind the ears. Only a veteran cop can make that determination, no one else.

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