Photo: Orange_Beard.

Photo: Orange_Beard.

We all have a breaking point. You probably know those little words, phrases or actions that push your button. Most of the time you can hold on to your calm demeanor; however, there will be days when you'll be tested. So before you "blow hot" and land in the sergeants' office with a complaint lodged against you, let's talk about pressure-cooker survival tips.

You've worked hard to get the job, suffered through the academy, and clawed through the FTO program. You don't want to lose it all due to some mouthy drunk calling you names. You know the type. They've been thrown in the slammer numerous times, probably resisted and are just out of jail. They have an axe to grind with the world, especially with the cops. He or she is drunk (again), causing problems on your beat. Here you come to put them back in the pokey. They've got nothing to lose and have been drinking some "fighting liquor" for alcohol-induced bravery. Nothing would make them happier than to get a cheap shot (verbal or physical) from a cop. Then they can complain and even up their scorecard. They want to set you up.

Stop and think! What words or actions create a snapping point for you? Could it be a racial or gender slur thrown at you? Could it be "rotten cop" or whatever other disparaging terms they can come up with at the time? Could it be talking smack about your family? When they talk about your mommy, it's on, right? I don't know what your "blow" hot button is, but you better have a handle on it.

I've always suggested you have some signals between you and your partners. If you feel you're losing control, give the nod or pass it off. Let the other officer handle this one. You can take another call later to even up the workload.

If you're on a solo call and it's bubbling up in you like a bad pressure cooker, request a back-up if you can. If there's nobody available, use some calming techniques and self talk. Exhale, clear your thoughts and do a quick count. Anger will only divert you from tactical awareness. You'll become a Neanderthal and lose your professionalism. If nothing else, remind yourself of the old "sticks and stones" nursery rhyme. If you whip the pudding out of some mouthy inebriated social misfit, all you've done is become a criminal.

When dealing with mouthy insolent people who are "selling wolf tickets," use this simple rule to decide whether to respond. If it would feel good to say or do it, don't say or do it!

A quipped remark can land you in the Internal Affairs office. Remember, the entire world has a phone that can take pictures, movies, and record you when you least want to have it done. You've worked too hard to get the job; don't let some reprobate create a memo in your file or cost you your job.

Author

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.

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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.

View Bio
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