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What's It Really Like on the Street?

November 01, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

Young med students wonder if they will kill a patient. New West Point grads wonder if they have what it takes to lead soldiers into battle. And cops straight out of the academy wonder what it's really like on the streets and are they tough enough and wise enough to maintain the peace.

Doctors have mentors through internship and residency, young army officers have older officers and veteran NCOs to see them through, and you have your field training officer. You also have the advice of those who have gone before you. POLICE RECRUIT asked some of them to share their rookie experiences.

It Can Happen To You

Chuck Buis is now director of business development at BlackHawk Products. But in 1979, he was a rookie officer working in Athens, Ga.

Responding to an alarm at a jewelry store downtown, Buis arrived on the scene and saw that a man was standing on the sidewalk acting as a lookout. Inside the store, another man was smashing in the glass display cases and filling a pillowcase with the merchandise.

The lookout took off running. Buis turned his attention to the man inside the store. As he entered the front door, the man ducked into the back office. Buis then announced that he was a police officer and ordered the man to come out with his hands up.

"He jumped out and I heard a pop, pop, pop. I thought to myself, 'This idiot is trying to scare me off with a blank gun,'" Buis remembers.

But Buis soon discovered that it wasn't a blank gun. "My cheek started hurting. And I reached up and pulled out a wooden splinter. I looked at the wall in the entrance way of the store as I took concealment, and I noticed two holes very near my head," he explains. "The guy had a .32 short revolver. I was used to the loud boom of a .38 or .357, but that sub-caliber gun just made a pop."

Buis returned fire and called for backup. A five-minute gunfight ensued, and the gunman was killed.

"Getting into my first gunfight so early in my career taught me very quickly that it can happen to me," Buis says, advising young officers to always be aware of the danger of the job.

Retired Austin PD officer and close-quarter battle instructor Louis Marquez agrees with Buis' advice, and he adds that sometimes the most seemingly benign people can be extremely dangerous.

Marquez was still under the wing of an FTO when he started to roust a bum who was asleep in a public place. His FTO intervened.

"My FTO grabbed me and made sure that I patted him down prior to doing that," Marquez recalls. "It was a good thing I did because he had a blade on him, and there's no telling what he would have done if I had just rousted him." Marquez offers this advice to rookie officers. "Don't assume that just because someone seems harmless that they are. Always play the odds in your favor."

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