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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.

Murphy's Law for Police Rookies

Murphy's law also applies to recruits, so don't be surprised when things don't go your way.

June 20, 2012  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Murphy's law is the adage that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Several websites and books are dedicated to Murphy's law and how these truisms can be applied to various occupations, stations in life, and situations.

Read the Muphy's law website for police here.

As for the true origins of Murphy, most scholars differ but I tell you this, Murphy is Irish. If there ever is a definitive race of people who could exemplify this, it is us indeed. You may remember reading in this column about my blue-haired Irish mother.

If Murphy had written about being a police rookie, what would these proverbs state about "rookiehood?" Here are three:

You will have an accident in your first year.

Don't panic about this one. Police work has a learning curve. Nearly every cop I know had a "bump" during the first year on the street. Nobody died. Most of the time, it was nothing serious. During my first week, I backed into a dumpster and put a scratch on the car. Not too bad, but Murphy was right.

Most of these little inconveniences will give you a chance to learn how to fill out the department's pesky accident paperwork. You'll be called "Crash," and you'll get to know the inside of the sergeant's office. It will be a wake-up call reminding you to wear your seat belt, slow the heck down, and use this as a safety learning experience.

One of your first solo calls will be legendary.

You'll be working one of your first shifts, wanting to prove you can work a call without a Field Training Officer (FTO), when it happens. The Gods of Policeland drop a call on you that will take all of the king's horses and all the king's men. Don't get embarrassed; we all know this happens.

Remind yourself that it will make a great story after work. I'll remind you that you should call for backup when the call is beyond your capabilities. Why do the Gods of Policeland do this? They've got an awesome sense of humor when it comes to rookies.

Despite how nice you are, you will get a complaint.

Holy IAD, Batman! What do you mean I'm getting reviewed over that silly call?! Calm down. Most of these calls result from either a communication breakdown or a courtesy complaint. Most of these are unfounded, and you'll have your first trip to fill out the "why, oh why" paperwork.

Don't panic, and follow the direction of your FTO and/or supervisor. Just remember that what is no big deal to you can be a major deal to a citizen. This may be the first parking ticket a person has received in 60 years of driving, and now it's your fault that he'll reach the pearly gates to face his maker with a parking violation. Stay professional in all interactions. Remind yourself that if you do your job, you'll get complaints, most of which will be unfounded.

Here are a few other Murphy-isms for rookies:

  • You'll direct traffic in the rain on the day you forget your raincoat.
  • There will be a snow squall the night you forget your winter jacket and gloves.
  • You'll be subpoenaed the day you have scheduled for a mini-vacation.
  • The last call of the day before a long weekend will require a crime scene access log.
  • The squad will win free pizzas in a radio contest the week you start a diet.
  • Your official first-watch party will be scheduled for the weekend you plan a second honeymoon.
  • You'll get to work an overtime detail, after your spouse has bought tickets for a concert.

Tell us your best police Murphy-ism, by adding it to the comments below.

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

TripWire @ 6/26/2012 10:03 PM

A few of murphys laws that I heard in Iraq could be applied to police work: 1. If the enemy is in range, so are you. 2.Friendly fire isn't. 3. If your attack is going real well, it's an ambush. 4.Anything you do can get you killed, including nothing.
5.When you have plenty of ammo, you never miss. When you are low on ammo, you can't hit the broad side of a barn. 6. If at first you don't succeed, then bomb disposal probably isn't for you. 7. The seriousness of a wound (in a fire-fight) is inversely proportional to the distance to any form of cover.

Cecilio Mendez @ 6/28/2012 5:12 AM

You will need to refuel your cruiser... at the most interesting part of the chase.

Steve Chandler @ 6/28/2012 3:39 PM

You will need to call your supervisor to your traffic stop, because you locked your keys in the car, oh and it’s raining.

pjdonnelly @ 6/28/2012 7:43 PM

I wasn't a rookie at the time, but I backed a car into a pole in a parking lot. I wrote up the report stating that the pole just jumped out in back of my car without warning. It's a good thing my supervisor had as twisted a sense of humor as I did.

Trigger @ 7/6/2012 4:55 AM

Anyone ever "misplace the weapon", check the back of the toilet

Jack Betz @ 7/8/2012 11:30 AM

Every Murphy's Law in creation has O'toole's colliquary right by it (SOmebody else do the spellcheck, OK) Murphy was an optomist.

sgtbuck187 @ 8/7/2012 5:58 PM

It will never happen to you; until it does!

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