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11 ways becoming a police officer will change you

Every once in awhile I long for those blissfully ignorant days before I became a cop


Picking the seat that faces the restaurant door is one of the most obvious ways being a cop changes your behavior. What are some of the other changes?


By Ben Pugh

Two decades ago, an optimistic, bright-eyed lad, clad in his Sunday best, arrived at an orientation for the upcoming police academy.

He was told delightful tales about solving crimes, taking bad guys to jail and protecting his community. He looked forward with anticipation of having a positive impact.

Today, we mourn the loss of that simple bastard.

Check out a few ways becoming a cop changes you (and those you love).

1. You’ll visualize a plan of attack, wherever you are

Every Sunday, I go to church. Every Sunday, I visualize a plan of attack/escape should someone enter and start shooting. I didn’t do that two decades ago.

2. Driving off duty will be tough to get used to

When I am driving my personal vehicle and I witness a violation, I instinctively reach down to turn on the emergency lights. You know the ones that don’t come standard in a 13-year-old Ford Explorer. I blame the last nine years on the motor for that one.

3. You’ll scan the crowd at events

Should you find yourself at an event with a large crowd, you can’t help but look at everyone’s hands and waistbands. Force of habit.

4. You’ll always look people square in the eyes

When you talk to someone, no matter the circumstance, you look at their eyes to see what size their pupils are. People find this intense and creepy.

5. You’ll hear a lot about that “one cop”

Anyone you meet, until the end of time, will want to tell you about that “one cop” who treated them like garbage or how they once got a ticket but “totally didn’t deserve it.”

6. And you’ll hear a lot about the cop in their family

The person from #5 will also have a second cousin, in Iowa, that is a cop. That person will ask if you know their second cousin. From Iowa. The state you have never been to.

7. You’ll react to the news differently

God forbid you watch the news, but if you should make the mistake, you will read into every news story. Your opinion of “victims” is vastly different than your neighbor’s.

8. You’ll sometimes want to be left alone

While at work, you will feel alive, energized and ready to go. As soon as you walk in your front door, you want to close the door on the world, answer no questions and be left alone. That is usually when your family needs you the most.

9. You’ll only have cop friends

Your friends (at least initially) will likely be other the detriment of previous friendships.

10. Conversations will be different

You will begin to view every conversation as either an interview or an interrogation.

11. You’ll change your spouse too

If you’re married, it is likely your spouse will begin to adopt a number of the above-listed items simply by being around your dysfunctional ass.

The good news is, it won’t always feel like this. Sure, I’ll probably do #2 on my way home from work tomorrow, but I’ve gotten pretty good at being aware of “cop mode” and judged when it is and isn’t an appropriate time.

I have unwittingly and unintentionally changed my wife as well. She is no longer the doe-eyed, naive lass she once was. She is a cop’s wife. She knows the deal and has adapted masterfully.

Every once in a while, though, I do long for those blissfully ignorant days.

Next: What cops would tell a rookie version of themselves

This article, originally published 02/15/2015, has been updated.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.