The Worst Advice I've Ever Received

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some of the best advice I ever received. It seems only appropriate that I should also share some of the less sagacious comments I and other deputies and officers have received through the years, as well.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about, "The Best Advice I Ever Received From Other Cops." It seems only appropriate that I should also share some of the less sagacious comments I and other deputies and officers have received through the years, as well.

1. "F 'em if they can't take a joke"

Oh, if that were only the case. It might be romantic to dismiss those who take umbrage with your unique witticisms, but make no mistake about it: You will probably be the one getting screwed if they can't take a joke.

I've seen officers of every rank get their tit in a wringer over something they said or wrote about a person of another sex, lifestyle, race, or creed. Pranks, too, have a curious way of coming back to bite the prankster in various parts of his anatomy. Personally, I love irreverent humor, but the strident, humorless minority will always have the last laugh. Try not to play straight man to them.

2. "You should work down at ______."

When I was working I began to wonder if every deputy I met wasn't a frustrated career guidance counselor. I've been guilty of giving this kind of advice, too: "You got a real purty mouth," spoken all "Deliverance"-like. "You should work vice."

People sometimes mean well in making recommendations about where you might want to work and how it'll be a lot better than wherever you're currently situated. But take it all with a grain of salt.

That greener pastures syndrome found me working at Sheriff's Information Bureau (our Public Information Office), a place I was categorically ill-suited for. Apparently, it's considered poor form for a PIO to tell people to blow it out their ass. Had I done more recon before committing myself to the assignment, I would have saved myself and others a lot of turmoil.

In retrospect, I'd have been better off listening to Dionne Warwick and her Psychic Hotline friends for my career advice.

3. "Come on. No one's gonna know."

Translation: Everyone's gonna know.

4. "Don't worry about it, I got it."

Spoken from the same conscientious guys who were prone to spilling their sodas in their patrol cars, thereby converting the interiors into the human equivalent of fly paper. They'd assure me that they'd do everything from book my evidence, to watch my detainees. The next thing I knew, I was writing memos on missing crap and going on needless foot pursuits.

As a sergeant, I found rookie cops were notorious for wanting to show that they were squared-away and could take care of situations that they hadn't previously been exposed to. Often, this proved a synthesis more hoped for than achieved, and I learned real quick that sometimes it was just easier to stick around and make sure that things were done right, as opposed to coming back later and cleaning up the mess.

5. "Five years from now, no one will care."

Absolute BS.

I still find myself brooding over crap from years ago. And God knows how many people I've pissed off along the way, too. But I do know of a couple whose opinion of me was formed by a singular incident, and it wasn't until years later that any damage control was done.

6. "He's a good guy. You just have to get to know him."

Translation: He's a stone cold asshole.

7. "Specialize."

OK, maybe not bad advice in and of itself. But when adopted early in an officer's career before he's or she's covered the prerequisites, it can leave that officer vulnerable on other fronts. Yes, you'll find the cops who are vacuum cleaners when it comes to taking drugs off the streets and guys who can recover GTAs like a good thing.

But all too often you'll find that they have difficulty handling things that they're less familiar with. Often, this deficiency is the result of a willed denial as they've done everything they could to avoid handling such calls—e.g., domestics, child abuse cases, thefts by trick or device—until it inevitably comes back and bites them in the ass.

Better advice: "Be well rounded first, then specialize if you want."

8. "Trust them-they know what they're doing."

Yeah, right. Like the time the suicidal dude turned on the gas lights. What's the first thing SWAT wanted to do?

Toss in some flash-bangs.

9. "I'll beat your ass to the scene."

And your sister car probably will—if he gets there at all. Don't get caught up in playing "Grand Theft Auto: Moron Patrol." Worry about keeping your own patrol car sunny side up, tire treads down.

10. "Never be smarter than your peers or your bosses."

On the one hand, it apparently seems a good rule to live by: I know a lot of people who do, with little effort.

On the other, if you really aren't smarter than those above you, you'll always be vulnerable to them. It seems to me that you'd want to be smarter than them—and, when provoked, let them know it, too. They'll screw with you less.

Famous Last Words

"He don't look so tough."

'Nuff said.

What are some of your favorite pieces of bad advice from fellow cops? Respond in the comment box below and let us know.

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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