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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

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 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.

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Boston @ 10/8/2013 4:20 PM

Tell everyone what your doing and post pictures on Wastebook is a quick way of ruining a law enforcement career. Your suppose to set an example not be another social nitwit. You have integrity, honesty,respect and compassion. Beware of dumb females who will get you in hot water.

TheRookie @ 10/8/2013 6:02 PM

Chief, Only problem with you top supervisors is you will tailor what is right or wrong around who you like or don't. I know that from being in the business for 24 yrs., and retiring. I've known cops do stupid stuff that was a personal dumbass venue, and be fired. I've known other cops who have broken the law, and got a slap on the hand. So let us be honest to say, generally it's not who you know, it's who you blow in this business.

Major @ 10/9/2013 6:33 AM

Chief, I enjoyed the article. I too have had to administer discipline when officers have made bone headed decisions. I was on the receiving end of discipline when I was a young officer and I did not appreciate it at the time. Looking back, I realize I was corrected appropriately and deservedly. Now that I am responsible for the department's discipline I make a good faith effort to be fair and impartial. "The Rookie" made some comments towards you that I do not think are fair. It was in his/her experience that discipline was unfairly given. You simply have posted some common areas that have gotten officers in trouble. You mentioned nothing about HOW to discipline offenders. Sounds to me like "The Rookie" has never risen through the ranks and has never been in an administrators shoes. Without making your list too cumbersome I would add alcohol, drugs and finances to the list of items that I have seen get officers in trouble. Great article. God Bless and be safe.

Pup @ 10/9/2013 10:47 AM

Good article Chief...As an old crusty 37 yr vet Master Trainer, it seems most of us learn from our own mistakes. People can talk until they're blue in the face but people will still ignore the warnings until it happens. I also have to agree somewhat with "TheRookie" statement. As for my department, it's attempting to make a change. There is a bail schedule for policy violations. The offense equals the penalty, no matter of your rank. Besides the schedule, there's a new unit which oversees the top supervisors and hold them accountable for their actions. Although LEO strives to be perfect, I don't ever see it happening. We (LEO) have to be accountable and take responsibility for our own actions . The department needs to investigate the actions from within and not be forced to judge and discipline due to pressure of politics or the public. Be safe and God Bless

TheRookie @ 10/9/2013 11:55 PM

Major, yes I did. I made it to the highest rank of guess, Major, too. I've also stepped down from that position on my own accord over watching disciplinary being wrongly handed out. I've held the ranks from Patrolman, Corp/FTO, Sgt., Lt., Capt., & Major. I am retired and comfortable now. But, I can look at myself in the mirror daily, and know I was a cops, cop.

drob181 @ 10/10/2013 6:42 AM

Hey Rookie, congrats on a long career and making it to retirement, but your experience has jaded you. I also worked for a boss who played favorites, and have worked diligently to avoid that as I rose through the ranks. One of my responsibilities is to assure that it doesn't go on below me; fairness and consistency are key to avoiding the favoritism trap. By the way, being a cop's cop is not defined by you, but by others; I hope I have been, and am, but that is an answer that is best left to others to finally decide, whether I aver know it or not. Chief, great advice; you're right, it's not complete, so I look forward to seeing your next installment.

Jim B. @ 10/10/2013 7:42 AM

Rookie, let me weigh in here on why your initial comment may have come across wrong. You lead out with "only problem with you top supervisors...", painting Chief Harvey with the same brush as the supervisors you apparently had unpleasant dealings with in your own career. Chief Harvey is simply writing an article trying to give advice to other cops on ways to avoid trouble in our jobs. As Major pointed out, he isn't espousing the type or level of discipline that should be imposed. He's just saying "Hey, these are some things that can get you in trouble, beware." You may be 100% justified in your beefs with your former supervisors, or you may not, I don't know. You may have been plagued with rotten supvs throughout your career, or you may just be a malcontent, I don't know. But when you start labeling "ALL" supervisors as bad, you are no different then the civilian who characterizes all cops as dirty because of the one "mean" cop they dealt with once. Just my 2 cents.

TheRookie @ 10/10/2013 10:16 PM

I understand how you feel drob181. I did worry about the ones below me. Again, I've seen enough of the, "At the Will & Pleasure of the Sheriff", i.e.; if you literally look at him wrong or make him mad you can be gone with no recourse. Major P.D's. & S.O's. used to be fully covered under their PPA, and/or FOP contracts. That's no longer the case. One is partially covered so they can stimulate, & jockey the procedures to tailor what is best for THEM.
Being a cops cop is making sure that an Officer/Deputy/Etc. gets a fair, & impartial hearing with correct discipline. Not to let one go with a hand slap on the wrist, & another fired for a minor infraction. I still have a little brother in the business & numerous friends I communicate with. My ex-partner just got back from training Afghanistan Security Forces. Point is, I still have good people who respected my protecting of my Officers out there. That's something one can ever strip from me. Just my opinion, & I understand your views, also.

Bill Waxman @ 10/14/2013 7:56 AM

Like most who bother to write in, I have held most of the ranks on my department. When I finally achieved my highest rank and, actually even in some of the intermittent ones, I told my people working under me to do their best and to not do anything they would not want their mother or grandmother to see them doing on the six o'clock news. My theory was that if you would be embarrassed by your statements or actions if your loved ones saw or heard it, then you likely ought not to do it. The other bit of advice was borrowed from a fictional account of Davy Crockett's life as told by the Walt Disney people on an old TV show when I was a kid called "Disneyland" On that show, Fess Parker played one of his signature roles as Davey and said, "Make sure you're right then go right ahead". Whether true or not it is still good advice. When you know clearly that you are wrong, don't. If you are right, you might still get some heat but at least you have the moral position of being right.

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