Secure and Insecure Cops

Few things are more rewarding in one’s career than the opportunity to work among the quietly self-assured. Few things are more depressing than having to work around the desperately insecure.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Let's talk about security. No, I'm not referencing homeland security. Nor am I speaking of the kind that makes sure that guns are not left laying around unattended. 

I'm talking about having faith in who you are. Being secure in yourself as an individual and as a peace officer.

Sometimes, you can define something by its antonym.


A deputy I once worked with-let's call him Deputy Z-had a standard greeting upon seeing me: "I don't want to talk shit about anybody, but..." And sure as hell he would proceed to talk shit about the person in question. 

The subject was invariably a fellow deputy, out of earshot, and blissfully ignorant of his character being assassinated.

The first couple of times, I suppose I was seduced by his faux confidences. Not only was I at some level flattered by the implicit trust I assumed of his confidences, but the dirt Deputy Z dished out was usually pretty interesting. The kind of stuff TMZ would pay good money for if cops were the celebrities they deserve to be.

But given my own considerable shortcomings, I knew it was only a matter of time before I, too, would be the target of his BS. I told him that unless whatever he had to say was germane to my obligations as a supervisor, I really didn't want to hear it.

It proved to be an effective way of curtailing all conversation with the man.

Deputy Z's role as backstabbing conniver isn't unique in the annals of copdom, but he sure as hell was one of the most obvious I've come across.

He came to mind during a recent conversation I had with a sergeant from an East Coast agency. The sergeant said that an officer he'd worked with had a history of calling attention to his fellow officers' mistakes. The calling out wasn't due to his interest in rectifying a problem so much as it was a bid to make himself look better by comparison.

Yet one day this officer-"Officer Know-It-All"-made what was probably the biggest mistake any officer with his agency had ever made, one that put both his and his fellow officers' lives in real and immediate danger. Thanks to the intervention of others on scene, such disastrous outcomes were averted.

But do you think "Officer Know-It-All" was at all repentant about what he'd done?

Not at all.

And within a matter of days, he was right back at it, criticizing others for their "bone-headed screw-ups."

I guess there's no shortage of Deputy Zs and Officer Know-It-Alls in the world. And save for new acquaintances, there really is no mystery as to what they're about: Themselves.

The sad thing is, that is often who they end up hanging with: Themselves.

In Deputy Z's case, he effectively isolated himself within his circle of working acquaintances. Worse still, his obsession for acceptance from some pretty suspect corners found him leaving his beautiful wife and children for a stripper who took him for what she could.

As such, he was regarded less as a joke than a tragedy, but one where sympathies were reserved for collateral casualties.

Yes, I couldn't help but think of Deputy Z. But then I found myself thinking of other deputies that I'd worked with.

Names come to mind. Keith Wall. Jeff Cochran. Eric Barron. Odds are these names will mean nothing to you. But take the name of someone whose work ethic and tact and professionalism you admire and substitute it for any one of them and you will know just what I'm talking about.

In the case of the above-named deputies, my only contacts with them have been in professional capacities: We aren't friends. Moreover, I've even bumped heads with a couple of them.

And yet, I can assure you that I have more respect for them than many other cops.


Because each was secure about themselves-and deservedly so. While they did look for hooks, they didn't look for trouble, nor did they put up with any crap.

As training officers, they kept the criticisms between themselves and their trainees. When their peers messed up, they addressed the matter one on one, and never with an eye toward demeaning the peer but correcting the problem. They sure as hell didn't go out of their way to butter up to anyone, nor did they try to undermine superiors.

They weren't flashy; they weren't the guys going out and getting tanked up on weekends and acting like asses to prove how macho they were. And yet everyone who worked with them knew that they were the ones who could most be counted on when the shit hit the fan.

They knew when to speak, how to speak, and what to speak of. They were quick to give credit to others where it was due, and never shy about owning up to decisions they'd made. And most of all, you didn't find them badmouthing their peers.

In short, they embodied just about everything that Deputy Z didn't. And as a result, they received that which he most coveted, but could never obtain: The respect and trust of a vast majority of their co-workers.

Sad to say, if you embody these attributes, odds are that you'll not be hearing about them anytime soon. For some odd reason, we cops tend to be more circumspect in how that trust gets communicated. Most of the time, the respect is subtly conveyed, becoming manifest in other forms...a tendency to be deferred to in situations...the occasional good natured ribbing that is absent of any overdue acknowledgment in an online patrol column.

Yet you can be assured that you have that respect.

But if you're like Deputy Z, you can be equally assured you don't. But hey, I'll make a point of making sure you're not forgotten.

It's the least I can do.

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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