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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.

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Careers

How to Ruin Your Police Career

Follow agency rules for firearms, issued ammo, defensive tactics and social media for a long police career.

October 03, 2013  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of William Harvey.
Photo courtesy of William Harvey.
As the old crusty chief, sometimes I have to be the spoilsport. This may be partially correct, because I've grown weary of good young officers doing bone-headed stunts that get them disciplined or fired.

My job here is to remind you about the hazards of the job. I was taught as a young lad that there's always some good in the bad. These tips are true to life. Many careers took a hit and several ended. We can learn from their mistakes.

You can have a fine career here in Copland and can do so without breaking the rules and ending up in trouble. Each of these lessons learned comes from a true story that had liability and professional repercussions. Field Training Officers (FTOs) should pay particular attention so they can share these lessons with your field training recruits.

We'll now outline the first group of hints for success.

Using unapproved equipment will get you a trip to discipline at minimum, if you get caught. The sad thing is most do get caught. We have rules, regulations and orders that are not designed to stymie your life, but to protect all concerned. Certifications and accreditations offer some hurdles against lawsuits. If you've ever been in civil courts, these are often the shields protecting against litigation.

Another point here is that the unapproved is often untrained as well in its proper application. There are numerous accounts of unapproved items such as batons, electric control devices, and some near torture-delivery items.

One detective found his standard departmental issued handcuffs too cumbersome. So, this chap purchased a set of thumb-cuffs to lighten his load. Things were uneventful until he applied them to an EDP (emotionally disturbed person). These items link the thumbs together and in this episode, the EDP in their state of panic nearly shredded off his thumbs. The aftermath was gruesome and totally avoidable.

Use of unapproved ammo can be another perilous issue. Some departments now even go to the lengths of purchasing signature barrels to identify which weapon launched this particular projectile. The intensity of the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting is never fully appreciated until you arrive in court. Your police armorer has made recommendations for your duty ammo to match the needs of the department.

Now if you've read some gun writers, you may feel that you should make some selection of a toxic-tipped, nuclear-fueled, zombie-killing bullet of death. You would be making a serious mistake. Have you ever wondered why ammo is also inspected with your weapon inspections? Compliance!

If you did deploy this, you would be operating outside of the rules and regs of the department, which opens you up to all sorts of civil liabilities. Several cases of undocumented ammo have clouded post-shooting investigations, so stick to what you've been issued.

Carrying unapproved firearms is another huge mistake. The reason you were issued a particular weapon was not by happenchance. There are logical reasons. I've heard of several cases where after leaving the station the officer switched from the issued weapon to a fire-breathing larger caliber. All was good until its deployment.

I've heard the "tried by 12 verses carried by six" motif. However, if you are that uncomfortable with your issued weapon, try training a little harder. Bullet placement is paramount. Having a bigger caliber of ammo will not result in neutralization with a miss or poor bullet placement. Train and know your issued and secondary weapon systems.

Going outside of your defensive tactics system will be cumbersome at minimum. Many officers train with other defensive tactics systems or the martial arts. The training, conditioning, and confidence building are great but there must be a match with your departmental and state guidelines on the application of physical force.

Trying to fit how you applied the ancient drunken monkey kung fu move into a formal use-of-force program will be difficult to explain to internal affairs and the courts. One particular case was where a young officer promptly handled a drunken knife-wielding subject. The subject sustained an injury that the city had to pay for. The investigation concluded this was handled outside of the local and state rules of engagement.

Social media leaks seem to be a recurring topic on PoliceMag.com. I don't see one real reason for an officer to broadcast photos of accident victims or the other gross and inhumane things we encounter. There are countless cases where not only police but all of emergency services have violated privacy expectations entrusted to us. The pure unprofessionalism of stating hurtful if not vile things about the public goes without saying. Don't do it. Be professional in all your actions.

These aren't all the sins that can derail a career. Watch this space for a second blog with several more.


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