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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Picking Partners

Who we work with determines how we work.

February 08, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

Some agencies are lucky enough to field two-man cars. If you happen to work for such an agency, you probably are—or will be—working with a partner officer. Some partners are assigned randomly by the scheduling sergeant.

But not always.

Sometimes actual thought gives genesis to crime fighting duos. Partner officers occasionally are put in the same car because they have similar work philosophies and temperaments. Others are paired in the hopes that one will enhance the other's performance, or at least improve his or her work ethic. Occasionally, such well-intentioned pairings backfire with the problem officer exerting an inordinate influence on the would-be mentor and actually bringing his productivity down, as well.

Perhaps the saddest of ill-fated partner pairings goes to those orchestrated by the officers themselves. Officers who requested to work together because they felt simpatico with certain aspects of one another, only to find that they didn't necessarily like working with one another.

For example…

As both of us were recently off training and still made a habit of reading the report board, Earl and I had enough vicarious exposure to one another's work that we had gained mutually favorable impressions. His well-detailed reports left me with the impression that Earl wanted to go out and take lots of dirtbags to jail. For his part, Earl thought I was smart enough to go places on the department.

Each of us ended up being correct, at least in part: Earl ended up with writer's cramp (over one two-day period Earl ended up documenting 50 pages over the course of four criminal reports—handwritten pages, no less). And sure enough, I did end up going places—namely to any number of the department's various gulags in the aftermath of some political misstep. But I digress…

The fact remained that Earl wanted to get his patrol ticket punched as soon as possible and not only move on, but upwards and onwards—which he did (he's now a captain). And at the time that we worked together, I wanted to make arrests.

History has a way of repeating itself, if somewhat differently…

Fred was a gregarious guy, funny as hell and great to be around. At least in social settings. We'd gone out drinking enough to know we had fun together. Fred was rude, crude, and lewd—appealing aspects in the developing age of p.c. run amok. Fred was a throwback, a goof who wasn't about to stop and do an ideological 180 simply because the rest of society had. As such, his persona appealed to those more subversive aspects of my personality.

Jeez, I thought: If this guy is this much fun off duty, I'd bet he'd be a kick in the pants on patrol.

With visions of Wambaughesque Choir Boy practices dancing in my head, I asked to work with Fred.

I got half my wish. Sure enough, I was assigned to share a car with Fred. But I soon found myself doing all the work.

The first arrest we made, he bitched and griped all throughout the booking process while I wrote the report. The next night, I ended up writing the arrest report and doing the booking. When I pulled over a parole dirtbag and his old lady on our third night out, the first words that came out of his mouth were, "Holy f___! Don't tell me you're gonna try and make another chickenshit go-nowhere f___ing hook!"

I didn't get out of the patrol car. That is, not until we drove right back to the station where we got a mid-shift divorce. I couldn't stand the fact that all he wanted to do was be a slug. He hated me for making c.s. arrests.

Fred was eventually fired because even the laziest of cops will find something to occupy their subsidized time, and usually it's not only out of the department's purview but sometimes even against the law.

Both of these partnerships were byproducts of the same problem: bad inferences. A willingness to ascribe motives and possibilities that are at cross purposes with the truth. In each case, some heartache might've been saved by simply asking some obvious questions.

Some of those questions should come from within. And those questions should be of oneself as much as of the other guy.

That wise s.o.b. Descartes said, "Know thyself." If you've got that down, you've won half the battle. It took a long time for me to get to know myself: What a mercurial li'l shithead I could be (and still am). Mood swings…insecurity…a volatile temper. A mid-80s dabbling in steroids didn't help, as evidenced the night my partner pulled me aside after I'd counseled one kid and said, "Dean, I don't know what you're doing, but you'd better knock it off." Realizing that any asinine actions could have implications for my partner, as well, I knocked off the steroids (and eliminated the attendant roid-enhanced aggressiveness).

It was probably one of the few smart things I did during my time on the department, at least in terms of doing right by someone I worked with.

If you do have some say in who you work with, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to work with this particular officer?
  • Is it for the right reasons?
  • And are those reasons grounded in reality, and not in some incorrect inference derived from insufficient data?
  • Is this the partner that will help me maximize the odds of my finishing my shift safely?
  • Does he or she unnecessarily push the envelope?
  • And finally: What do I bring to the table?

The answers may surprise you.


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

spearit @ 2/8/2008 9:11 PM

Unfortunately this is true even with single man units working collectiively with others.

I would tell new recruits to keep their eyes open. Know who works, who will back you up and who will find an excuse to let you know why they could not be there when you needed them. You do not have to like them, but you have to find a way to work with them, they are still a brother in blue.

I learned through the school of hard knocks that I would have to look at the shift roster and unfortunately it would tell me if I can do some real policing, or be a little conservative in my police practices because I would not know if backup would show when I really needed them. I learned this very early in my career and I wish I had a resource like Police Mag. to give me a heads up.

When I was a rookie, I would say, "No one told me about this in the academy!" You realize a little dark side of law enforcement and finding that you personnaly like the guys who hold on to the dark side, or the lazy and scared, but professionally despising them.

Sometimes this dark side was for lack of backup, being retired on duty, heavy handed officer making the situation worse, or the officer was just plain afraid if the heat was too high. And I hate saying this, but sometimes it is not the bad guy on the street that you have to worry about, but sometimes the person standing next to you in the same colored shirt.

This article has really hit home and I want to commend the author on this article for sharing this story and hope it helps others, especially new officers who read it.

ronavallone2 @ 3/30/2008 3:08 PM

Another good article to contemplate! Ditto's to spearit's comment. Over the years I have seen officer's come and go as well, some on the wrong side of the law. Being discerning with courtesy and professionalism has worked for me. Bitting the bullet (figuritively speaking) is sometimes a casuality of the job.

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