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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.
Careers

The Second Generation Cop

Legacies can be the FTO's biggest challenge.

February 26, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

When a new recruit is a cop's son or daughter, it can be a delicate if not downright difficult matter, the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to face. So what is the problem here, you ask? Often this is a nightmare and sometimes a bonus, but either way the situation requires some thought from all involved.

The Problem Child

I have trained, FTO'ed, and supervised countless cops' kids. I use the word "kids" here because there were many whom I watched grow up. There were a very few who felt they were entitled to a free pass and perceived themselves as veterans without experience. A perennial supervisor's problem child, for they already knew everything about the job - so they thought.

You know the type; they sat around the family table and listened to stories of yesteryear, past exploits, and policing the way it "used to be." Now, they felt it was their turn. And they were armed with all the knowledge they would need. But there's a problem here: the war stories they overheard could have been embellished during an afterhours chat (yes, cops do that). Laws, policies, and the American policing style have changed since then. We need to temper these legendary stories.

Avoid Shortcuts and Biases

FTOs and trainers can have a nightmare of a time here. I have seen far too many examples of the elder cop having taught or told his progeny of shortcuts for completing cases or tasks. The young officer needs to learn the correct way to do everything, not a condensed fashion.

There have been a few that were told of the weaknesses or traits of their bosses, judges, or DAs, and how to manipulate the system. Most often the elder is setting up the young officer for insubordination or ill feelings. As I told one officer whose parent passed along preconceived notions about a former coworker, certain issues prevailed between his dad and the supervisor in question. It would be best for the young officer to make his own measure of the person in question; it is all about being fair. Going over FTOs' heads and seeking preferential treatment has been noted as well.

Now, if the elder cop wishes to pass on sage advice that does not distract from the learning and acclamation process, fine. I would expect the family to step up and assist in the learning curve, but not impede nor circumvent it.

Can the BS, Parents

The best solution for the young officer is to flush a lot of these stories of bravado and keep them separate as holiday stories and family memories. We as parents sometimes embellish to our young about our past exploits. This is similar to a child asking, "What did you do in the war, Daddy?"

If you had an easy, non-action job you could not be a hero in your child's eyes. So you made up something cool! Now your children are living vicariously through your past life, real or not.

Face it, if your advice is not advancing their learning or career, do your legacy a favor and keep the bravo sierra to yourself.

Leave Heirlooms at Home

I would have adored the idea of carrying on a family tradition but that was not my life. There are many I know that do with pride and cherish the family tradition.

One officer came to duty with his family's heirloom nightstick. However, he was trained on and expected to use his department-issued collapsible baton, not a straight walnut stick. I even recall one officer who was carrying his dad's slapjack; they too went away years and policies ago.

If you have a treasured implement, put it in a frame in the family den. Otherwise you're getting yourself into a liability issue.

Life's Little Surprises

I would be remiss to exclude those former and current officers of mine that are legacy cops and nobody would ever suspect it. They conduct their business without clouding up the matter of who their family was or who is kin to them within the organization. They are their own man/woman and stand on their own two feet. They wanted to make it on their own and have done so with pride.

I recall a few that you had to pry it out of them who they were because they didn't want anything but a fair shake.

There is nothing wrong with helping family. Pinning on your shield, sharing at your promotions, and watching you grow as a cop can be great moments with those you love. Uplifting you in the hard times, those moments when the job can crush you is when they should be lending a helping hand.

When telling a war story, make sure it has a relevant teaching point.


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