The importance of laughter on patrol

Cops are a peculiar breed when it comes to telling stories about what they've seen and the actions they've taken on the streets

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to introduce the newest member on the PoliceOne roster of writers. Mike Peterson is a retired 23-year veteran of law enforcement — he served three years in the United States Military Police and then 20 years with the City of West University Place Police Department in Houston, Texas. Like many cops, Mike had a part-time job for a portion of his career. Unlike most cops, his part-time gig was performing on stage alongside the likes of Jay Leno, Dave Attell, Richard Lewis, Kathleen Madigan, Frank Caliendo, Ralphy May, and Alonzo Bodden. Mike has also had the honor of performing for our Troops over in Iraq. Check out his debut column below, and watch for his next one — on cops and divorce — in a couple of weeks.

Dispatch gave me a call late one night — a little while after all the bars close down — and said, “See the man in the parking lot of Filthy McNasty’s Bar & Grill regarding a BMV.” I get there and ask the guy what the problem is. He says to me, “Can’t you see? Someone took my accelerator, my brake pedal, my radio, and the whole dash is gone!” I said to him, “Sir you’re sitting in the back seat. Now let me introduce you to the back seat of my car!”

Pink and Orange
October just ended. I love October. The leaves all turn to orange, we get to watch World Series baseball games (congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, by the way!), NFL football is in high gear, and it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Athletes of both MLB and NFL spent much of October honoring breast cancer month by wearing pink athletic shoes, wrist bands, and mouth guards. For me, that means it’s time to break out my pink handcuffs! My pink handcuffs always raise a few eyebrows with Admin, but it raises awareness! I never lose my pink handcuffs or get them mixed up with someone else’s and it takes the air out of those big bad ugly trash talking habituals!

Seasoned law enforcement officers are a peculiar breed when it comes to telling stories about what they’ve seen and the actions they’ve taken during their career. If you’re a fly on the wall of a squad room with the smell of fresh coffee brewing and a half a dozen cops with about 200 years of combined service between them jaw jacking about their latest collar, hold on to your hat because you’re about to be entertained. I’ll never forget a few years back, this young energetic rookie announced to everybody on his shift that he was newly engaged, I said to him “Congratulations, it’s nice you’re getting that first one out of the way.” From these stories come the comedy that creates the laughter and the absurdity that can come with wearing the badge.

I remember when I was a young rookie listening and learning from stories of senior officers. It was fascinating to hear all the facts of an incident that almost always created laughter. Eventually, I figured out it was the humor that would get us through the day, though the week and through the years.

As a beat cop, a patrol officer, or a first responder, you learn quickly that being a cop means solving a lot of different types of problems. Diverse situations mean wearing a lot of different hats. As a police officer, one minute you’re a psychologist the next minute you’re an auto mechanic, or even a plumber! The list runs long and deep.

During my 23-year career as a patrol officer and patrol sergeant, primarily assigned to the night shift in the City of West University Place — best described as a city within a city (Houston) — I had many interesting opportunities, events and situations that created some of the best laughter and camaraderie. It seemed only fitting that this humor be shared with my brothers and sisters in blue.

Comedy Cop
My comedy career officially started in 1998 when I first took the stage at an open mic in one of the oldest comedy clubs in Texas. It was a great experience. The power I felt making an audience laugh was incredible and I was hooked for life. It’s a challenge that is both fun and rewarding.

Soon after attending a variety of comedy workshops and seminars, I started opening shows for national headliners and performing at luncheons and police banquets billed as ‘Houston’s Original Comedy Cop.’ Then one day I received a call from a segment producer for ABC-TV’s morning show, ‘The View.’ They requested my press pack and a video which I overnighted to them. I received another call a few days later confirming my appearance and advising me that they were going to fly me up to NYC to be on their show!

“There’s a lot of stress associated with being a cop, not to mention the low pay, working on holidays, the high rate of divorce... if it wasn’t for the free hookers and donuts, I think I’d quit!”
That was my opening joke “live” in my uniform in front of seven million people back in February, 2001. I thought clearing a building with armed suspects was nerve-racking!

Since then, I’ve had some incredible experiences as the ‘Comedy Cop’ performing with such luminaries as Jay Leno, the late great Robert Schimmel, Michael Winslow, Jeff Dunham, Richard Lewis, Kathleen Madigan, Scott Kennedy, Dave Attell, Frank Caliendo, Angela Johnson, and Alonzo Bodden, just to name a few. I also had the honor of opening for four-time Grammy Award winner, Glen Campbell.

I was a finalist in Houston’s Funniest Comedian contest and was a past finalist in Ed McMahon’s ‘Next Big Star’ contest. However, the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a comedian was when I was offered the opportunity to go to Iraq for two weeks last year and perform for our troops. I’ll be bragging about that when I’m performing in my nursing home while wearing adult diapers.

Cops and Divorce
In future columns I’ll be discussing many different topics related to police officers, some good and some bad, but always with a humorous slant. For example, divorce. Everybody knows there’s a lot of divorce in the law enforcement community. Some of you guys have been divorced more times than you’d care to admit. And we all know what happens when you get divorced; you have to split everything you own right down the middle. I know because I’ve been divorced. I got divorced back in 1996 and I had to split everything I owned, and I mean everything! Do you know how hard it was to arrest someone with just one cuff! A buddy of mine just got divorced. He was a bike officer... now he is a unicycle officer!

I’ll be writing on topics such as drugs and alcohol, high speed chases, 911 calls, suicide by cop, traffic stops, donuts, training, different divisions within the police department, burglary, robbery, neighborhood watch, and did I mention donuts? We’ll have fun exploring the lighter side of law enforcement. If you have any topics you want me to cover please send me an email or post your ideas in the comments area below.

Be safe — but when the opportunity presents itself remember to laugh!

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