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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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Laugh Often

Don't bring baggage home to family or eat away at your own time.

September 06, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I'm not a psychologist, priest or counselor but I do have a grasp on cop life. I'm sure as a new young warrior, you can handle all that will be thrown at you. What I don't want is for you to take these newly found burdens home with you and ruin family time. This complicates everything and adds to your burden. If you think the little moments will last only a short while, we better have a talk.

Laughter is great medicine. There are times where a good laugh will get you over a bad day or through a tough call. Coppers often have the worst, graveyard, inappropriate, down-right wrong sense of humor. For mine, I have four decades of material to work with. There will be days when a cop across the squad room will read your face and stress levels and have to crack a joke to loosen you up. It's often what the doctor ordered and brings you a needed smile. These are the moments you live for.

I would advise you to take the job seriously but don't take yourself seriously. Face it, you're going to slip on ice; trip and fall on a flight of stairs on an alarm call; or step in dogie poo and track it in the station. Deal with it, OK? Laugh with those who are laughing at you; it's good medicine. Never let up on the job. Never lower your tactical awareness or readiness. 

I worry about the somber people who take everything too seriously and create their own drama and stress. Their unsmiling way concerns me. I can't read them and know when to crack that joke to loosen up their self-induced grim outlook on life. To me, these folks are like a pressure cooker that goes from simmer to boiling over for no reason. Stress is a killer. It wears you down. So loosen up, will you?

You've heard me say this before. I was an only child but I have several brothers and sisters from different mothers. They were my police partners. Now for the young reader, I'm not making fun of your siblings, significant others, and family. Your colleagues are the people you trust your life and career with. There's a different trust relationship here that you don't understand, yet. Your significant other, spouse or whoever else is close to you will never understand, so try to help them. Heck, call me and I will explain it to them.

Even through the years and miles, there are still times that I come in from a rotten day and call up a brother warrior from my past. I know I'll laugh, get my head screwed back on correctly, and maybe even hear a new bad joke. The bottom line here is that all my brothers and sisters understand that when each other calls, it's not about football. It is about us and our sanity. Even bad jokes are good medicine.

It's my sincere hope that you also develop some brothers and sisters. Hopefully, your compatriots will have better jokes. As long as we all end up laughing, it lightens the stress load. Life can then go back to the good side of the fun meter. By the way, did you hear the one about … never mind. Call me some day.

Tags: Officer Mental Health, Police Humor


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

MartyB @ 9/7/2011 12:21 PM

Bill,
Did you and Dean conspire to have your articles regarding "searching for humor in the situation you find yourself in" come out in the same issue?

I think that this was ironic. Thank you both for reminding us that it's ok to laugh at ourselves and each other.

randy ralston @ 9/7/2011 2:02 PM

Nice well written article not only police officers can benefit from BUT EVERYONE! Life is just a bowl of cherries! Don't take it serious, it's too mysterious.

Lisa M @ 9/7/2011 3:49 PM

Great article: I survived 25 years on the street by following that advice, and also I never expected any fairness or caring from my Department; low expectations equalled genuine happiness or at least calmness a lot of the time. Never really got angry or stressed at the Dept. Laughter is my greatest memory of my career: love those guys. Good advice, rookies, cut out and keep this one!

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