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10 tips for police rookies who think they know everything

You’re almost done with your probationary period and you aced the academy — in short, you think you know a lot

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Slow down in almost everything you’re doing now – driving, talking, approaching a call or sending an email.


Okay, Rookie, you’re almost done with your probationary period. You aced the academy. You’ve spent all kinds of off-time with your nose in the best books on police work. In short, you think you know a lot.

Here are 10 things from an old hand you may not yet know – but should.

1. When you have the slightest sense that you need to use the bathroom, don’t wait. That’s nature’s way of saying you’re going to be directing traffic at a crash for an hour.

2. We ancients aren’t too old to fight – we’re just too old to want to.

3. Don’t let anybody make fun of you for wearing an athletic cup. They’re great for crossing fences, surviving knee strikes and proving to bad guys how tough you are by smacking yourself in the groin with your flashlight as you roar like the Incredible Hulk.

4. Slow down in almost everything you’re doing now – driving, talking, approaching a call or sending an email. I know you have lightning reflexes and great confidence, but the faster you get into trouble the longer it takes to get out of it.

5. Try saying, “I’d like to better understand the rationale for this procedure” instead of “Why do we do this stupid stuff?”

6. Resist the temptation to show off your cool toys to civilian friends. It’s all fun and games until the on-duty officers show up.

7. If you haven’t decided you can kill somebody, you need to work that out now. If you have decided you can’t wait to kill somebody, join the Marines instead.

8. If you ever hear yourself saying a catchphrase from a TV cop show, cancel your cable.

9. For all the advice not to take your job home, it’s not going to happen. This is not a job you do, it’s who you are. So find one thing – art, church, literature – something that will give you a window to the rest of the world or the person you were before you put that badge on.

10. Save your money and forego that $500-a-month truck payment. The freedom of cool wheels beneath you can become a ball and chain pretty quickly.

Next: 6 mistakes every police rookie will make

This article, originally published 06/12/2014, has been updated.

Joel Shults 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. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.