Late last month, I reached out to some law enforcement friends of mine on Facebook to help me gather some wisdom handed down to them over the years that might help other officers ensure that they have safe and successful careers in the great profession of law enforcement.

I asked, "What was the best advice you ever got as a young rookie officer—advice you now as a senior officer give to the young folks on your PD?"

In this space, I've compiled their responses and present them in an anthology.

I encourage you to add your own advice in the comments section below.

Jason Der

I received a lot of great advice from my FTO that I now pass on to my recruits. But the one piece that stuck with me the most was, "Be sure to invest in your own training." I don't think I really understood it at the time but it didn't take long to realize what he meant. That one piece of advice not only made me a better officer but it also set me down the path to becoming a trainer myself.

Daniel Greene

"Keep calm and keep control." Advice from my dad (retired). People who are easily offended are easily manipulated.

Marcus Young

As a young deputy out of the military one of my vivid memories was riding with a veteran deputy sheriff. This was our first shift riding together. We were driving code 3 to a bar fight in progress involving multiple subjects. As the veteran deputy was driving at a high rate of speed he was putting on his sap gloves. As we were arriving at the scene he looked at me and said, "Kid, I want you to go in there and get your nose broke!"

This was an impactful message long-term because it told me to prepare for the fight; expect the unexpected; stay in the fight even if you are injured; even as a veteran LEO, stay vigilant...

Mark St Hilaire

"Listen to your heart" (intuition) told to me by co-worker during a conversation—probably a discussion about discretion. It was my first year. The message I learned is listen to your intuition when dealing with individuals. You can't look at everything in black or white. Sometimes your intuition gives you the answer whether someone gets a break or you need to carry out your duties. As another veteran officer told a guy I just gave a break to: "Christmas came early."

Anonymous

"Never present yourself as being smarter or more knowledgeable than the suspect. You might be, but conducting an interview or interrogation with that attitude gives [them] an unwanted advantage. Be the guy who knows nothing, and you'll confirm everything."

Ken Yarbrough

The best advice I was told as a rookie was: Write great detailed reports, go to every training you can, and don’t forget you live in a glass house. Was true in 1983 and is still true today. Something I always pass on to youngsters.

Mitch Brouillette

As a young LEO I will always remember one piece of advice that I was told by an officer who was within months of retirement....  He told me, "Find something else to do outside of being a cop".  He went further by saying that a lot of people who get into law enforcement let this career consume them and if you let it consume you it will ruin you.  You have to be able to remove yourself from this job and you have to allow other people other than cops to be in your life."

Now that I am that senior officer the advice I give to young officers is this:

"You don't have to be a dick/jerk to do this job!" I tell them that some people who get into law enforcement treat people like they are beneath them.  Like the badge makes you better than them.  I tell the young officers that the person you are treating like you are better than them put their pants on the same way you do. Treating people with respect is a lot easier than treating people like they are not as good as us. 

I promised myself to never let the badge change who I am as a person and to treat everyone with respect.  Those two things have allowed me to have a successful career to this point.

Anonymous

"Stay alert. Stay alive"—Learned from a sergeant in the Army when I was an MP at the grand old age of 19. Obviously, you can’t attribute that to me, but feel free to use it as anonymously contributed.

Kathryn Mckenna

"Eyes and ears open and your mouth shut."

Todd Fletcher

You become the people you associate with. Choose your friends and mentors wisely.

Ken Hardesty

I was once asked if I had a support network at home. I translated that into my own language when I became an FTO. Every recruit that has gotten into my car since 2004, I have asked, "Do you have a support network at home and are they onboard with what you're doing?"

They typically ask why I'm asking. My response is the same. We're out here together and I need your head in the minute. If you're concerned about what you're family thinks, do that at home. Not here. Here and now I need you focused.

All I've gotten in response is 'yes sir.'

Don Re

It’s hard to learn sometimes, but a huge key to this job is to not take anything personally. They’re running and fighting from the uniform/consequences, not you the person. Also, a wise sergeant once told me that cops aren’t paid for what they do every day. They’re paid for what they’re willing to do. That’s always stuck with me.

Ed Flosi

Trust no one...verify everything.

Tom Gillman

Don't let your bulldog mouth override your Pekingnese ass.

Douglas William

Watch the hands (Dave Smith).

Ray Jagger

Remember this is not a one-handed poker game....all these players and us sit down every week ...and while the victims and perps change chairs or roles ...there will be many games with the same players…so it is important to be viewed as a fair dealer!

Lindsey Bertomen

"Never write a check your butt cannot cash," referring to people who just stand there screaming (from my detective friend): "Sometimes, 'ya just gotta' let people vent."

Erick Gelhaus

Things have changed so much in 29 years. Aside from the concept of mastering the necessary skillsets—remedial traffic stop mechanics anyone?—I don't recall hearing specific pieces of advice. What I'm telling my shift and newer deputies is, you need to be your own expert—especially on use of force as well as search and seizure issues. You have to know, really know the law in those areas so you know what you can do or have to walk away from. Then become an expert in the other areas you are interested in. Read, listen, study.

Mark DiBona

When I started in 1985 my Field Training Officer said to me. You may love the job—however the job doesn't love you. He went on to say through the years of him being on the job he saw several good officers get bullied and get in trouble because they spoke up and were not politically correct. He told me, do your job, make you family proud, back our brothers and sisters and never, never sell your soul to your agency. Be proud of being a cop and do what's right, not what's easy.

Conclusion

There's so much great advice handed down from senior officers to LEOs just coming on the job. It's invaluable institutional knowledge, so if you have the opportunity as a more seasoned officer help out a rookie with something you've learned over the years, make every effort to do it.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Web Editor

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).

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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).

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