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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

Dumb Things Cops Do to Themselves and One Another for Laughs

When playing grab ass, make sure it doesn’t come back and bite you in your rear.

May 02, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

Just off the San Bernardino Freeway, high above the auto dealership it promotes, looms a sign that in big digital letters poses a question for the ages: "Want a Hummer? Come on in!"

Wow! I want to work there.

Now, anyone who wants to deny the double entendre' of that advertising message is either clueless (like, say, the father who bought his seven-year old a Mike's Hard Lemonade at the ball park), or disingenuous (think: "wardrobe malfunction").

Personally, I don't find it offensive. In fact, I think it's harmless. Anyone sophisticated enough to grasp its relative subtlety has probably been exposed to greater vulgarities.

Moreover, when it comes to our profession, I believe that if you can't take an innocuous joke, then you have no business working in a profession where people will threaten to tear off your head and defecate down your throat.

However, my subjective take on the matter doesn't mean much. Nor, apparently, does yours. That is, unless you are that seemingly ubiquitous "third party" who gets your panties in a twist over a joke.

I guess one shouldn't be surprised by the hyper-vigilance with which law enforcement agencies monitor the behavior of their employees. And considering the innately irreverent personality of their many minions, it makes for quite a challenge.

Chronicling deputy and civilian screw-ups as cautionary parables for those whose asses are not already in hot water, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department publishes a Quarterly Discipline Report. Each report includes such inspirational stories as the deputy who abandoned his post to play a potentially dangerous prank on another employee, the five deputies who paid a practical joke on a sixth by sending him a fictitious note from a high-profile inmate soliciting a personal contact, the deputy who received days off for putting the sergeant's personal vehicle into S.V.S. as stolen when it wasn't, and many more examples of LEOs with too much time on their hands.

One would hope such acts of idiocy wouldn't occur with such frequency so as to warrant a quarterly report; yet every 90 days a new report makes the rounds.

But not everyone gets caught and some mysteries remain. Inquiring minds at the LASD still want to know:

  • Who put the "Who's Your Daddy?" license plate frames on the patrol cars?
  • Who sprayed pepper spray on the toilet seats, smeared it on air vents and steering wheels?
  • Who took advantage of a break in the CPR refresher class to have one CPR dummy mount another in a missionary position?
  • Who kidnapped the court deputy's teddy bear and held it for ransom (always careful to send an occasional Polaroid of the hostage teddy in some exotic state of attire)?
  • Who flagged down a kid on a bike during a 211 in progress and said, "Here's a buck. Go look inside that window and tell me what's going on."

No one laments the passage of good times more than I, particularly when studies have shown that humor in the workplace can boost spirits, morale, and productivity. But nowadays, getting a laugh can also get you time off.

We can characterize this predicament as a case of spoilsports, political correctness run amuck, even the end of civilization as we know it. But the fact remains, we work in an era where there is no such thing as "harmless fun."

In briefings, I would gripe about such inhibiters, routinely violating policies in the very act of bemoaning them. But then, law enforcement has a saying: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." And I was willing to run that risk.

But despite all my bitching, not once did I belittle the implications of such policy violations.
So with that in addled mind, might I impart a few suggestions for those who lean toward acts of frivolity?

  • While you may not have any reservations about playing a joke and the target may not have any objections to being the butt of it, beware that seemingly ubiquitous third party complainant.
  • Recognize that no supervisor is doing you any favors in playing "wink-wink" with you. He or she has to let you know the grounds for discipline and leave no ambiguity about the prospects of your getting slammed for transgressions, perceived or otherwise.
  • Check administrative bail schedules. That way if you're tempted to placate your inner child, you'll at least know the cost. Remember to factor in sentence enhancements if you're a repeat offender.

 

  • Know that such acts may find you in civil court, too.

 

  • Recognize when you're being baited. A fetching fellow county employee once pointed significantly at a sausage on my plate and said, "I bet yours is bigger." Aside from being unduly optimistic about my endowment, she was equally wrong in assuming that I'd take the bait. (She apparently succeeded elsewhere, for six months later she filed a sexual harassment complaint against another deputy.)
  • Whoever you do decide to have some fun with, make damn sure you're all on the same page. (For example, make sure that you have dirt on each other. This is no guarantee against having someone stab you in the back with retroactive offense, but it's as good as any.) Be particularly cautious when dealing with matters of race, creed, ethnicity, gender, orientation, or favorite TV show.
  • If you are male, get in touch with your feminine side and ask yourself: Would the "reasonable woman" find my behavior offensive? On second thought, just assume she will.

Finally, consider the wisdom in just saving the screwing around for when you're off duty, away from work, and you don't have to worry about some disciplinarian having fun at your expense.

Tags: Police Humor


Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

irishone @ 5/2/2008 6:29 PM

GREAT ARTICLE AND LONNNNNNNNNNNNNG OVERDUE!

Marco861 @ 5/3/2008 6:06 AM

I am always amazed at how those who joke the most are the most easily offended. Luckily at our place when the jokes get out of hand the worst that happens is the chief telling us to cut it out.

321 @ 5/3/2008 12:19 PM

I have to agree with Marco to an extent. Those people that did the most (and much worse) jokes are now the executioners of any type of work place humor. FUN/HUMOR WILL NOT BE TOLERATED is the order of the day at my office. I can see curbing the brazen, crude humor that was prevalent when I hired on 20 years ago. But much of the internal low level stuff seems pretty harmless. It;s easy to see the other side of the coin though, it is just sad to see humor banished.

ROB ROY @ 5/3/2008 2:03 PM

When I started in law enforcement the men and women I worked with were all very crude with our joke's. But nobody took any offense to them. If I tried to joke around now like I did then I'd be given a week off with out pay. It's sad I use to work. play and party with my brother's and sister's 24/7 now when I'am off there's very few of them that I'll have anything to do with outside work.

David Moore S-55 @ 5/3/2008 8:02 PM

Dean thanks!! Oh yes, Joseph Wambaugh Choir Boys relived and just what I needed this week!! On my retirement plaque my troops stated the following: Founder of the Pampering jar candy (for the whiners on my desk who constantly complain rather than suggest or recommend), Official acquaintance of Buddy Holly? We’ll all miss your version of “Bad Boys whatcha you going to do! And I blame my mom genes “Official member of the flat-Butt tribe – “Have Dave Pull up your sliding pants.” Off course I was a victim of pranks super glued quarter to my desk, along with my penholder and pens glues in…Wonder if super glue inventory knew of all the used-luckily no toilet seat glue (Ouch)! All in the name of return the favor – can we say super glue master lock for (offender locker), or small pieces of napkin in that full-headed draft beer, talk about chameleon and robust flavor. “Being on the same page is highly recommended and KEY!!

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