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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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Beware of "Embellishment"

Don't believe half of the war stories you hear....

March 11, 2010  |  by Harvey, William - Also by this author

"Dilution is the reducing of the pollution," I was told when dealing with hazardous materials. Pretty cool jingle to help recall but it also applies to police work. There seems to be a malady that affects police officers; it is contagious and strikes without warning. For now I will call it "embellishment."

You see, no good police story goes without being altered through "one upsmanship" by another copper. Before you know it, that one story is spiraling out of control.

Keep it Under Control

Stop the madness, for this tendency can have far-reaching ramifications. There is always one officer that becomes known for fabricating facts. The days of "the glove box happened to fall open and there in plain view was..." have gone by, I hope and trust.

The other example is the officer who stretches his or her feats to nearly superhero proportions. What can be a recreational fib telling or increasing your standing with your colleagues is one thing. However, what you do in practice and training is a predictor of what you are going to do under stress. Here is where the wheels fall off....

Going Too Far

Cop or FTO superheroes are great on the big screen, but everyone needs to accept that they don't exist in real life. I recall many years ago an unscrupulous officer who was making a mark for himself for his drug arrests. Seems all of his cases reached a higher grading due to the seized weights. He took on the bravado and role of the drug crime fighter. Then his world crashed along with his career.

A suspect of his went to a supervisor with the normal citizen complaint, and then it turned into an internal investigation, which led to charges and the officer's life going down the tubes. The citizen/suspect admitted to having some contraband but not that amount. Plus, he said he never used this brand or color of rolling papers. Seems the attention-getting cop was padding or flaking his amounts to raise the stakes.

As I have said before, we get our arrest fair, not this way. There is always the one cop who "only makes felony arrests." Yeah, right.

Additionally, there are officers with immense prowess in making arrests who sooner or later begin to believe in their own feats. When you start concocting stories about the big pursuit or how everyone resists arrests, pretty soon nobody is going to believe you. The veracity of your statements will be questioned by prosecuting attorneys, courts, and heaven help you if you ever get caught in an embellishment under oath...you are then toast. If you get branded by the courts for untruthfulness, your career is over.

Make Your Word Your Bond

Reality is one thing, telling funny stories is another, and the two should not be confused. Make sure as a recruit you set the path for your word being your bond. Sure, you can tell jokes and have fun after hours, but do not let these things bleed over into your work.

I was always told by my sainted Irish mother that if you tell the truth the first time you will never have to remember what lie you told. Sage words from my childhood that still apply today.

Train true and with focus, never compromise for less.

Tags: Professional Image


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