The day a little piece of Officer Friendly died

A rookie quickly finds out that not everyone you encounter is pleased to see the cops


When supervisors and leaders retire, they take with them decades of accumulated skills, experience and patterns of thinking about how things get done – also known as “institutional knowledge” – that may not be passed along. To collect that information, Police1 has created the Institutional Knowledge Project to create a repository of lessons learned around the management of people, policy, training, supervision and discipline that can be applied by future generations of police supervisors and leaders when handling similar situations. This submission is from Joel F. Shults, Ed.D., who retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. 

To participate in Police1's Institutional Knowledge Project, click here. Questions? Email editor@police1.com.

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

What happened?

A proud young officer (me) is given my first call to handle as my FTO looks on. My uniform is crisp, my pride is high, and I'm ready to serve and protect. We go to a disturbance call and as I envision myself dismounting from my white steed with my suit of armor clanging authoritatively, I approach a citizen to ask how I can help. She responded by yelling, "Get the f*&$ off my porch."

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How did you handle the situation?

I was calm and managed to assure her I was there to find out why the police were called. But a little bit of "Officer Friendly" died that day.

Looking back, was there anything would you have done differently?

I would not have created a template in my head about how the encounter was going to go. I had set up a script or set of expectations based on how I would be if I were the citizen approached by an officer. That closed my mind to the variety of possible responses I might have to make.

What lesson did you identify from this situation?

Not everyone is happy that you are there, no matter how right, benevolent and legal you are. I know that's a basic lesson, but one my idealism had to butt heads with in real life early on. Whoever first said QTIP (Quit Taking It Personally) was very wise. A dentist probing for signs of tooth problems will cause some pain and tension, likewise, when an officer arrives and starts probing a situation, they necessarily bring tension and discomfort. I learned to expect that.

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. 

To participate in Police1's Institutional Knowledge Project, click here. Questions? Email editor@police1.com.

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