7 Time Honored Police Veteran Faux Pas

Police veterans learn how to handle problems in a manner that is not covered in the training manual. Let’s call these veteran faux pas. As a result, sometimes they are effective, while other moments they can land you in hot water.

While we don’t want to give away trade secrets, here are a few common occurrences that happen in jurisdictions across America.

Black and White Taxi

Whether your marked police units are black and white, blue and white, plain white, or another solid color, they have all been used as a taxi. It is amazing how often the homeless-drunk who is causing petty problems around town has “requested” a ride to just outside the city limit. And the seasoned veteran is more than happy to give him a lift.

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Excuse Me Lights

Police officers are exempt from vehicle code violations when rolling Code 3—lights and siren. But the general public might be surprised to the learn how infrequently it’s actually authorized. Therefore, many veteran police officers will go out on a limb. They take it upon themselves to get to the call as fast as possible by activating the “excuse me lights.” This is when they activate some form of emergency lights—usually rear flashing ambers—without the use of the siren. In other words, he or she is trying to say, “excuse me” as they haphazardly fly through traffic.

While it’s admirable, this veteran faux pas can expose officers to civil liability if they become involved in a traffic collision while operating their vehicle in this manner.

Hooker 100 Yard Dash

After running some local hookers for wants and warrants, and they surprisingly come back clear, a veteran faux pas has the ladies of the night removing their high heels and sprinting a couple hundred yards until they pass the city line.

As with the black and white taxi, you might detect a trend as the veteran faux pas actions say, take your vices and unsavory character to the next city!

Space Commander 

Dealing with some of the usual nutty people who’ve arced various wires in their brain is a challenge. (Save the speech about compassion for the mentally ill. . . . I have it, but not for the overwhelming number of bizarre people police deal with who are forced to cope with self-inflicted trauma.)

As a result, police receive repeated calls regarding the same people with no apparent viable solutions. When dealing with these people, the veteran might enter their world to gain cooperation.

In doing so, seasoned officers will conspire with another veteran on a private radio channel. The second officer will then issue orders to the troubled-vagabond. The officer personally handling the troubling individual will tell him or her to listen to the orders coming through the radio from the Space Commander. On occasion it works and the nut-job will actually follow directions.

Early Morning Traffic Stops

The last thing graveyard officers want is a time expansive call for service close to the end-of-watch. Therefore, it’s amazing how many traffic violators the veteran can find during this timeframe in order to make him unavailable for those calls. By the way, these violators almost never get cited because the veteran committing this faux pas certainly does not want to get called to traffic court in lieu going home and crawling into bed.

Hazing Rookies

Experienced officers will go to incredible lengths to haze newbies. One stunt involves setting up the new officer’s police unit to make it appear as though its been burglarized. To do this, the veteran will roll down the passenger side window while the rookie is on a call for service. Once the window is down, he will spread broken glass throughout the passenger area, as if the window were smashed. He will then remove property belonging to the rookie, making the staged crime appear authentic. It works every time!

There are many other pranks worth mentioning, but this was one of the time honored favorite veteran faux pas at my department.

Napping on Duty

Naturally, this should be avoided at all costs. But since the human body does not come with an on/off switch, it’s also physically impossible to stay awake and alert every second of every graveyard shift; particularly when you’ve been in court all day.

So the veteran faux pas involves creative ways to safely shut your eyes on duty when it becomes practically impossible to keep them open. The practice includes everything from having a partner watch your back in a dark corner of the city, to a secret place in the police facility with your pack-set (radio) cranked full volume to act as an alarm clock if necessary.

Finally, experienced officers perfect these practices when meeting one another for coffee during their shift. So the next time you see a couple of pros on a coffee break, say “hello” and smile knowing their conversation is really advanced officer training in the area of veteran faux pas.

– Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today

(Photo courtesy Chris Yarzab)

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