What I'll tell my daughter if she wants to become a cop
After my initial reaction of "hell no"
Welcome to my nightmare.
“Daddy, I want to be a cop like you,” my daughter says matter-of-factly. “I want to help people. I know it’s a dangerous profession, but I watched you my whole life and I just know it’s what I want to do.”
My first reaction? “Be a firefighter, honey. Everybody loves them.” My second reaction? “Over my dead body, sweetheart.”
At the time of this writing, I’ve got nearly 17 years in law enforcement. I’ve seen the way policing has changed during that time. Cops get ambushed in their patrol cars. They get ambushed in the parking lot of their own departments. Suicide rates are depressingly astronomical.
This country appears to be pretty anti-police. And that’s to say nothing about the challenges a female officer faces.
Do I want my daughter to face these issues? I don’t think a resounding “Hell, no” is strong enough. But then I think of my mom. She loathes the fact that I carry a gun. She is not a fan of the verbal and sometimes physical abuse I am required to handle.
But, she does put her faith in me, my training, and, more importantly, God. She has no choice but to do that. The alternative is to go insane from worry.
My daughter has grown up watching me. She loves to watch COPS and ask me questions. She learns new things about my chosen career all the time. I know she looks up to me. While that knowledge makes me walk a little taller, it also scares me.
If she decides she wants to be a cop, I will tell her these simple things:
1) Train harder than everyone else.
You never know when you’re going to be fighting for your life.
2) Learn how to talk to people.
Have some wit and humor. It’s disarming. People expect cops to be rigid, authoritarian, and argumentative. Don’t engage in that. Put them off with a wisecrack and build some rapport. Not everyone needs you to kick their ass.
3) Go on a ton of ride-a-longs.
Make sure this is something you want. Don’t listen to your dad’s over-dramatized stories (because he loves to tell stories) and assume every call is similar. No two are alike.
4) Listen more than you talk.
All too often, cops like to hear their own voices. But, if you’re on the radio, be concise and clear. If you’re talking to people, do the same. If you’ll take the time to listen, people tend to tell you what you’re looking for.
5) Learn how to type well and accurately.
Be efficient with your time. It will earn you the respect of your peers and those in command above you.
6) Remember that this job is fun.
When it stops being fun, it’s time for one of two things: Reassessing your calling or looking for a new career path. If you’re not having fun, there is a strong likelihood you will end up bitter and you’ll drag those around you down with you.
7) Finally, seriously consider the fire department.
Seriously, honey. For me.
I am reminded of my mom telling me repeatedly over the years, “I don’t care what path you choose, so long as you do it to the best of your ability. If you want to be a plumber, then be the best damn plumber you can. If you do that, I’ll always be proud of you.” I like to think that sentiment stands for my girls, too.