FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
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).
November 2018 (3)
October 2018 (4)
September 2018 (3)
August 2018 (6)
July 2018 (4)
June 2018 (3)
April 2018 (1)
March 2018 (2)
January 2018 (1)
September 2017 (1)
August 2017 (1)
May 2017 (1)
April 2017 (1)
January 2017 (1)
November 2016 (1)
September 2016 (1)
June 2016 (2)
May 2016 (3)
April 2016 (2)
March 2016 (1)
February 2016 (3)
January 2016 (1)
December 2015 (1)
November 2015 (5)
October 2015 (1)
September 2015 (3)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (6)
June 2015 (3)
May 2015 (2)
April 2015 (3)
March 2015 (5)
February 2015 (1)
January 2015 (1)
December 2014 (9)
October 2014 (2)
September 2014 (2)
August 2014 (2)
July 2014 (1)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (2)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (2)
February 2014 (3)
January 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (3)
September 2013 (5)
August 2013 (3)
July 2013 (3)
June 2013 (3)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (5)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (3)
December 2012 (5)
November 2012 (2)
October 2012 (4)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (4)
June 2012 (3)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (6)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (3)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (3)
October 2011 (3)
September 2011 (3)
August 2011 (2)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (3)
May 2011 (4)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (5)
February 2011 (3)
January 2011 (3)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (4)
October 2010 (4)
September 2010 (5)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (4)
June 2010 (4)
May 2010 (4)
April 2010 (3)
March 2010 (3)
February 2010 (1)
January 2010 (3)
December 2009 (4)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (2)
September 2009 (3)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (5)
June 2009 (3)
May 2009 (5)
April 2009 (4)
March 2009 (4)
February 2009 (3)
January 2009 (2)
December 2008 (4)
November 2008 (3)
October 2008 (3)
September 2008 (3)
August 2008 (2)
July 2008 (3)
June 2008 (4)
May 2008 (5)
April 2008 (5)
March 2008 (4)
February 2008 (5)
January 2008 (3)
December 2007 (2)
November 2007 (5)
October 2007 (4)
September 2007 (4)
August 2007 (5)
July 2007 (4)
June 2007 (4)
May 2007 (5)

The Best Advice I Ever Received from Other Cops

Throughout my career, veteran officers imparted gold nuggets of wisdom and sometimes I listened

September 16, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Over the years, I received a lot of great advice from other officers. I can't say that I always acted on it. But if I sometimes paid a price for not acting on their wisdom, all it did was underscore its validity.

1. "Don't Be a Slap-Dick."

Courtesy of my training officer the day he finally signed me off training. He said he had no doubt that I was capable of doing the job. ("But then, any idiot can," he added.) The question in his mind was: Would I? Would I go out and do the work I was paid to do, and do it well? Would I be as vigilant for the guy driving like an ass as I was for some scrawny hype? Would either even fall on my radar, or would I be sitting on my ass 24/7?

2. "If You Dance, You Dance Alone."

Even the most charismatically challenged SOB can find all manner of temptations that come with the job. Indulging such inclinations may raise moral, ethical, and even legal concerns. Should you decide to push the envelope or sample the forbidden fruit, don't involve others in your decision. An acquaintance of mine put it this way, "If you dance, you dance alone." Then another added, "You make your own decisions. Live and die by them alone." Don't pull your radio car partner or some other poor bastard down with you. And don't count on a supervisor to bail you out. If he's smart, he won't.

3. "Learn from the Best."

This meant taking the time to ask questions of those who'd developed skills in recognizing G-rides or dopers. Of course, some of these go-to guys weren't always wild about having been gone-to, and I'd skulk off to the report writing board and review copies of their reports. I made a point of not just reading the "fun" reports where the deputy and the interloper play but even non-workable burglary reports because I knew I'd be taking a lot of them and anything that could streamline the process while doing justice to it appealed to me.

And it wasn't just the "good" arrest reports I read and learned from. I also profited from those whose narratives screamed out for clarification and left themselves open for all manner of judicial vulnerabilities. One guy told me that long before they'd meet me, detectives and district attorneys would form an opinion of me based upon the kinds of investigations I'd done and the reports I'd written.

I never realized just how true that was until I became a sergeant and began reading deputies' reports.

4. "Don't Be in Such a Damned Hurry to Get Your Ass Kicked."

More advice from my training officer. I was chomping at the bit to knock some moron on his ass. I was sure that I could take the dude, but my T.O. reminded me to never judge a book by its cover. He'd known a good many cops and suspects who'd gone headlong into fights, thinking they had the upper hand by virtue of their age, size, or perceived martial arts skill, and they promptly got their asses handed to them. Such episodes tended to be memorable for all involved, even if the guy getting his ass kicked didn't learn by them.

When it comes to the prospect of proving your bravery, you shouldn't feel you have to: You put your ass on the line every time you go in the field. Second, you work in a profession where you will have more than enough opportunities to get your ass kicked without looking for them. Be happy for the peace in between.

5. "Slow Down and Do Things Right."

Unlike the ass-kicking caveat, this referred to my driving, my investigations, my approaches on traffic stops. Perhaps where I should have taken it most to heart was early in my career where, despite protestations to the contrary, I did care what others thought of me and tried to make more arrests just to keep on pace with stat-conscious others. In the process, I may have sacrificed quality for quantity. Given a choice between three revolving door misdemeanants or taking in one good-quality threat to society, give me the latter. Note: I include DUIs as threats to society.

Through the years the importance of being attentive to detail has been driven home repeatedly to me. I've seen everything from forensic missteps to clerical errors undermine cases and take their toll on all involved. Tragically, such mistakes have cost the lives of both civilians and officers.

6. "Cuffs Go On and Cuffs Come Off."

Never be shy about using your cuffs, especially if you're by yourself and particularly if you're working either end of the population spectrum: Out in some rural area all by yourself like some Aames Home Loan commercial or in a big city where most of the time you don't know who the hell you're stopping. The sooner you can justify detaining someone in cuffs and do so, the better to mitigate the chances of their assaulting you or hauling ass. In crowded situations, the sooner you can get the loudmouth secured somewhere out of earshot, the better chance you have of keeping things from boiling over.

7. "Practice."

That single-word piece of advice has meant so much to me on so many fronts. Whether it is radio coordination, baton strikes, or shooting, a cop should continually work towards perfection. You'll never achieve it, but that old "shoot for the stars" thing has some validity.

8. "Till! Till! Till!"

Bucolic Buffalo was an American Indian character in the Old West comic strip "Tumbleweeds." He had trouble with the K sound. So his battle cry was "Till! Till! Till!" And you know what he was really saying.

Actually, this wasn't what was said to me. The joke just cracks me up.

What was communicated to me was: "We don't 'shoot to stop,' we shoot to kill."

"That's the kind of sentiment that can save your ass in civil court," my friend acknowledged regarding the whole "shoot to stop" mantra. "But a fat lot of good that's gonna do if you ain't around to be sued. And if you operate like that, there's a good chance you could find your own ass shot. Ain't nothing more dangerous than a cornered and wounded animal. Make sure you put that SOB down when you have the chance."

My friend had been in more than one officer-involved shooting and had strong respect for the sanctity of human life. Moreover, he suspected that some cops didn't always do as much as they should to mitigate the need to pull the trigger of a firearm. But he also believed that once an officer's hand was forced, that the officer was obligated to do everything he or she could to make sure that the threat was effectively neutralized.

"We don't want to give the bastard another shot at killing us now," he said. "Or another cop later."

I tend to agree.

9. "Don't Bark if You Ain't Gonna Bite."

This is one that I found myself repeating through the years. It's a warning to never commit yourself to a promised action that you aren't prepared to follow through. I never said that I would arrest someone or use force unless I was prepared and justified to do so. Unfortunately, I've seen too many instances where cops would make hollow threats that would only piss people off and escalate things. Often, it was the cop who ended up looking bad.

10. "Pick and Choose Your Battles."

I should have acted more on this one. Sometimes I conducted myself like a typhoon in search of islands to destroy. Just as we shouldn't be anxious to get our asses kicked, we shouldn't be anxious to alienate those around us. With the advantage of hindsight, I would have taken principled stands only on things that really mattered, instead of getting in pissing contests with people who often simply had a different point of view.

11. "Don't Let Their Sacrifices Be In Vain."

This is a two-pronged command, at once acknowledging that the job is important enough to keep up the work that brave men and women have sacrificed their lives for and insisting that you learn by whatever lessons their deaths may have illustrated.

When you look back over your career, what pieces of advice have helped you out? What would you want to impart to others? Respond in the comments below and let's start a great discussion that can help other cops.

Be the first to comment on this story

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Recharging Your Batteries: The Benefits of "Unplugging"
There is certainly benefit to being current on events involving the people you consider...
Speaking on the Unspeakable: Ending the Pandemic of Police Officer Suicide
I've talked with officers who have lost a colleague to suicide—as well as many widows of...

Police Magazine