Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Mighty Oaks from little acorns grow

Caption reads: Citizen Soldier: "Now then mate, why don't you join us?" Loafer: "Not me. I like my liberty. This is a free country" Citizen Soldier: "Well it won't be a free country much longer, if everybody goes on like you"
After a few years service, most police officers will look back and find that they went through a number of phases as the vagaries of the job added to their experience and their `box of options` for dealing with the strange anomalies thrown up by that most complex entity - people. Of course people are the police officers' main commodity and the basis for their very existence - the protection of life and the preservation of public order and the prevention of crime. One of the biggest shocks to my system on being posted to my first station in South London, was not seeing my first stinking corpse, my first mutilated car crash victim or attending a cot death, it was discovering that there were one or two officers on my shift who actually avoided work, to a greater or lesser degree. As a lot of us must have done when we thought about joining, I had this mental picture of the police officer as a sworn protector of the public, upright, noble and honest with both the moral and physical courage to stand up for what was right and to do the right thing. To find that this mental image was, in some cases, flawed by the reality of a small number of shirkers shocked me and I can still remember that feeling to this day. I want to say that these people were in the minority but, nevertheless, they were definitely there, as they are in all walks of life. These uniform carriers would go to great lengths and devise devious excuses to either not answer their radio, come up with a reason why they couldn't attend or wait until someone else accepted the call, then say they'd back it up but take their time arriving to ensure that they didn't arrive first. They often put in more work avoiding the job than if they'd just got stuck into it in the first place. Shirkers were not popular and would be quietly resented by the rest of the shift who saw them as empty shells. They were very much a minority, but it always amazed me that quite often their personal `game plan` would be well known, often by supervisors, but the appropriate action to remedy the problem was more often than not shied away from. This was tragic, because often the problem really could be remedied, as there was often an underlying cause that wasn't based on laziness and a good supervisor could have probably turned the situation around. Failure for a supervisor to act appropriately or just pretend the problem didn't exist, added to the resentment felt by the majority. When a supervisor does nothing to fix it, they, in turn, are held in ridicule and are resented even more than the shirkers, because supervisors draw extra pay to lead, manage and inspire. When they don't, the feeling of isolation felt by the rest of the shift can cause all sorts of problems. By contrast, being part of a well led, well motivated and trusted team is a great feeling that can rarely be surpassed in one's professional life. I have worked in some superb teams and cannot find the words to express how much respect I had for those particular colleagues. Having seen uniform carriers early on in my service, along with supervisors who just couldn't be arsed to do anything about them, I decided that if ever this became a responsibility of mine, that I would front-up the problem and do my utmost to fix it. It's difficult to handle such things when you are in your first 2 years probationary period because so many other factors are at play; establishing your own credibility amongst your peers, trying to gain experience, trying not to mess things up and generally trying to become accepted. Rocking a boat when you've just stepped into it can make you very unpopular until the others work out that you aren't intent on capsizing it and take them all down with you. But one thing I did eventually learn, at some considerable personal cost, is that fronting up to problem officers is a lot harder the longer they have been left to establish their ways and the more supervisors who have ignored them, the bigger the stink you uncover when you find yourself trying to stand up and do something about it, especially when a lot of those previous supervisors have got themselves promoted a few times along the way. The police has experienced a succession, nay, a generation of officers promoted to very senior positions, many of whom have quite likely been in the supervisor category I have just touched on. They have become `the system`. The system has been allowed to become what it is because good remedies have been ignored in the face of an easier path, keeping heads down and under no circumstances pointing out what everyone else can see, that the Emperer's New Clothes do not exist and he is, patently, bollock naked. I have a few tales to tell on this particular subject, but I'll have to think about them before I decide whether or not to share them because they inevitably touch emotional nerves. In the meantime, I'll finish on a lighter, slightly cynical note with the below, which was sent to me a while ago by an old, ex job friend. It's been poached, so I don't know who to attribute it to, but it's definitely written by a police officer, that's for sure. Don't take it too much to heart if you recognise someone, because police humour is sometimes a tough one to understand unless you've been there or in a similar role: The Stages of Police Service FASCINATION STAGE Years 1 - 4

For most officers, this is their first time outside of the middle class bubble. They have never seen a dead body, never seen life threatening injuries, never dealt with a family disturbance, never witnessed the shit some people call "home life", and never really understood the phrase "Man's Inhumanity To Man" until now. Everything is new to them. You can identify them by the amount of fancy new equipment they carry. A ten billion candlelight power torch, pens that write in the rain, a ballistic vest rated to stop tomahawk missiles, and an equipment bag large enough to house a squad of marines. They love it, they show up early for their shift. They work way past the end of their shift without even considering an O/T slip. They believe rank within the job is based only on ability and those in the upper ranks got there by knowledge and skill in police work only. They believe everyone is competent; everyone is on the same page and working towards the same high minded goals. When they finally go home to their significant other, they tell them everything they did and saw. Some of the more "eaten up" purchase a police scanner so they can hear the radio calls while at home. HOSTILITY STAGE Years 5 - 6

They now show up for work about 2 minutes before their shift, and they are hiding about 30 minutes before end of the shift, writing reports so they can just throw them in the sergeant's in-box and leave ASAP. They have to get to their second job to earn money to pay for the divorce that is pending. They gripe about everything, drink excessively, chase women, and hate the public, politicians, media, etc. They feel they have more in common with the hookers, thieves, druggies, etc. but hate them too. Those pens that write in the rain are no longer needed. Writing traffic tickets can be a lot more trouble than they are worth, even on a nice day. To write one, or to write anything while standing in the rain, is a sure sign of an insane person. Their spouse is no longer interested in hearing about all the gore and heartache. They get the "you spend more time with the cops than you do with me" speech.

SUPERIORITY STAGE Years 7 - 15 This is when cops are at their best. They have survived changes in administration. They know how the political game is played, both inside and outside the job. They know who they can trust and who they can't. They have select friends within the job, and stay away, as best they can, from the nuts and boot-lickers. They know the legal system, the judges, prosecutors, defence solicitors, etc. They know how to testify and put a good case together. They are usually the ones that the gaffers turn to when there is some clandestine request or sensitive operation that needs to be done right. These cops are still physically fit and can handle themselves on the street. They will stay around the station when needed, but have other commitments, such as a second spouse, a second girlfriend (sometimes both), and most of their friends are non job.

ACCEPTANCE STAGE Years 16 - Now the cops have a single objective... retirement and pension. Nothing is going to come between them and their monthly payslip. The boss, the force, the idiots around the station, and the creeps on the street can all go to hell, because they could come between them and "sitting on the beach". There is no topic of discussion that can't somehow lead back to retirement issues. These guys are usually sergeants, detectives, scenes of crime officers, community, or some other post where they will not be endangered. They especially don't want some young stupid cop getting them sued, fired, killed, or anything else causing them to lose their "beach time". They spend a lot of time having coffee, hanging around the station, and looking at brochures of things they want to do in retirement. The retired cop usually dies within five years of retirement, saving the force a bunch of money. Of course, nothing is ever 100% true, but if you are a cop, were a cop, or know a cop, then you will certainly recognize some of the above statements.


Constable Confused.com said...

This is so accurate it is disturbing. What a cracking post I can identify with almost all of it except the extra marital activity in the 7-15 year period.


Hogday said...

CC.com: Me too! My divorce came much later and even then there was no `extra activity` as I can only cope with one thing at a time! What a boring life I lead ;) - and thanks for your comments.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

I think the slackers exist in any work place. There will always be one or two people who avoid work like the plague. Everyone loathes them for it, but often, nothing is done about it. Especially if it's a government run institution. Private sector is more likely to fire a slacker than a protected position with the government. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the slackers mindset is not unique to a single profession. One of my favorite sayings is; "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way".

powdergirl said...

The worst thing I find about the slackers is that doing nothing productive leaves them with tons of time to speculate out loud about what the world owes them.
Busy hands are happy hands, idle hands are just useless.