How one police officer made 3 rookie mistakes on his first day (and is brave enough to admit them)
From committing burglary at the station to scaling unlocked gates, these rookie mistakes will bring you back to your glory days
By Michael Morse
After completing the academy, I could not wait to get out there and get the bad guys. I was 20-years-old and ready to do my part to save the world. But as I found out on that first day, I had a lot to learn before I would be any good. They call you a rookie for a reason. Here are 3 rookie mistakes I made on my first day.
1. I broke into a locker, and it wasn’t mine
I packed my duty bag with what I would need for patrol and closed the door of my newly-assigned locker. I went into the guardroom and awaited my assignment. I realized that I didn’t have my citation book holder or citation book. I went back to my locker to retrieve it. I struggled and struggled but couldn’t get the locker open. Somehow the lock built into the locker had locked after I closed it.
I saw a tire iron leaning next to the wall. I used it to pry open the locker, and the door popped and swung open.I was amazed to learn that all of my gear was gone from the locker. I panicked, thinking I was going to be in big trouble for losing my assigned gear on the first day. In that moment of fear I tried the door next to the locker I had just popped open.
I had just broken into the wrong locker. More specifically, I just burglarized a locker in the police station. My first thought was to keep my mouth shut. However, I remembered my instructors saying that it's not the mess up that gets you fired; it’s the cover up. I headed down to the clerk’s office to confess and told me to just ask next time. I knew he was thinking, rookie mistake.
2. I practically begged for paperwork
We arrived on scene of my first accident and found a motorcycle had struck the side of a car. The operator was up and walking around. He was more concerned about his bike than anything else. I was ready to use all of my recently acquired first aid knowledge to assist him. “Sir, I’m Officer Linskey. Where are you injured?” I stammered. He said, “I’m fine. Just my bike is trashed.” I asked him two more times if he was sure, and explained that sometimes in the heat of the moment he might not know that he’s hurt and he should at least get checked out. He refused medical treatment and was going to get his own tow.
I was disappointed that I didn't have to do more. Then, veteran Officer Dorsey said, “Kid, let me give you some advice; if the guy says he’s OK, don’t push the issue. If he’s hurt we have to do a report and believe me, we do too much paperwork as it is. Don’t look for extra.” I got the distinct feeling that he was calling me out politely for a rookie mistake.
3. I got caught on a fence that I never needed to climb
Two hours into the shift, I received a call for an alarm at a building. This could be a burglarly in progress, my second one of the day. We arrived on scene to find a closed business that was surrounded by a 6-foot high chain link fence with razor wire completely surrounding the property. I walked around the fence perimeter and could not see anything amiss. All the doors and windows were shut. No sign of a break.
The owner was 30 minutes away. My FTO instructed the dispatch to tell the owner to call us back when he arrived so we could get inside the fence. I offered to help. “I can do it,” I said. I climbed the fence at the gate and got up to the top. I was trying to get my leg over the razor wire when my pants leg got snagged. I unsnagged the leg only to have my other pants leg snag.
As I was trying to detangle myself, I heard the FTO say, “Hey Spiderman.” I looked down at him and he undid the unlocked chain holding the gate together and pushed the gate open. “It’s unlocked.” My FTO went and checked the doors, finding the building all secure. I struggled to free myself, doing only minimal damage to the uniform pants. When we got back in the car my FTO smiled at me and said, “We learn something new everyday.” It was his polite way of saying, rookie mistake.
How would I ever learn to do this right? One day at a time.
This article, originally published February 2014, has been updated.