So, we took the kids to the Intrepid Museum in NYC last week while I was on vacation.
A country boy, the drive into, and around NYC always daunts me. I get sweaty, nervous, and probably a little short-tempered. After my GPS had a minor stroke and decided to send me towards the center of Manhattan island to find an aircraft carrier, my wife and I used her phone to find a snug little parking lot right across the street from the museum where we could stuff the car for an eye-watering $30 for the day.
We open the door to the ticket office and I immediately froze. Security and metal detectors were immediately inside the entrance.
“Oh. Crap.” I said out loud. I looked for a security guard.
Me: “Excuse me sir, can I talk to you for a second?” He looks at me.
Him: “You’re a cop and you’re carrying?”
Me: “Uh….yeah…How did you….”
Him: (grinning) “We can spot you guys a mile away, go on through” he said, after I showed him my ID.
I go through the metal detector, which bings at me, completely baffled. My wife laughed at me.
“Come on, there’s a LOOK about you guys that anyone in the know can spot. Close-cut hair, clean shaven, relatively good shape… (she emphasized ‘relatively,’ which cut a little.)
I guess she’s right, although I always try to go out of my way NOT to look the part. I don’t wear any law-enforcement themed shirts, hats, jackets or anything in public. I often dress like a well-to-do hobo, and when I’m on vacation, rarely do I shave. I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of keeping things on the DL when I was in public…but apparently not.
My wife also informed me that no- I’ve not been doing that great a job. Growing up around people who were on the job, she can spot a cop from a mile away so if SHE says it, it must be true.
I’ve been mulling the incident over for a few days, and realized that there have been a few other instances where this sort of thing has happened. “Oh, you look like a cop.” or “You’ve got to be a cop somewhere aren’t you?”
I realized that it all goes back to my academy days when the instructors we had took a bunch of raw jokers from all ages and walks of life, and molded us into police officers. One of my drill instructors, whom I’ll never forget as long as I live, told us one day “No matter how big you are…walk as if you’re ten feet tall.” Apparently, I took that to heart without even realizing it.
Very few professions can boast changing a person’s behavior, attitude, and overall presentation as much as law enforcement can. Our training all but requires such a change. When a lot of us consider police officers as “Never off-duty” you start to develop a personality that brings part of your training home with you when you leave your uniform hanging in your locker.
I’m still very, very fresh to it all. With less than four years on the job, I’m still learning all of this- these things that are sometimes alluded to, but never really taught in formal training. I guess I don’t know if my starting to LOOK like a cop when I’m out with my family is a good thing. Perhaps I have completed the transformation now from IT nerd to police officer, but on the other hand, I feel like there’s a sort of advantage lost by looking the part when I’m out and about. I also don’t want to take too MUCH of the job home with me, as there are a lot of things I see and do that I don’t really want my kids exposed to yet. I don’t need to use my ‘police voice’ when I’m trying to discipline them, and I don’t want to go distant or callous when I’m dealing with them or their mistakes.
I’ve always said that I’m juggling the job and my family, and the more I think about it, the more right I think I am in saying that.