(Several of the main characters in my novel Wrong Town are police officers. I wanted to make sure I portrayed police culture accurately, so I spent many hours interviewing cops during the research phase. The content of this post comes from those interviews.)
You’re at a cocktail party. You’re bored. You make your way toward the chips and salsa and politely nod at the person standing next to you. They nod back. You say hello and introduce yourself. Eventually, you toss out the inevitable “So, what do you do?” He/she cringes and indicates they are a police officer. Here are 5 simple ways you can avoid ruining his/her night and looking like an idiot:
- Don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s a job. The “Oh you’re a cop…I better watch what I say…hahaha” isn’t funny and gets old really fast. Ever wonder why so many cops are grumpy? This is partially why. Law enforcement is a career and a big part of who they are, but it doesn’t define them. They are also moms, dads, coaches, and bowlers. Talk about something else – they will love you for it.
- Don’t ask them what they think about the scandalous actions of some cop they don’t even know who works for a department on the other side of the universe. Chances are they share your outrage, but they also know from experience that there’s always a backstory. Regardless, having people expect you to answer for the actions of every single cop in the country gets old. Every wonder why so many cops are grumpy? This is partially why.
- Don’t share stories about your own run-ins with the police followed by stupid questions. They have no idea why you got pulled over or why the cop acted the way he did. People get pulled over all the time and they usually deserve it. You probably did too. But even if you didn’t – why does this poor guy/girl have to hear about it when all they’re trying to do is be normal for a few hours? (Note: Yes, discrimination is real and sometimes people get treated unfairly. But if you’re at the same function as a cop, chances are you aren’t part of those statistics.)
- Don’t try to weigh-in on tactics and the use of firearms – especially if you have zero experience with either. Ever wonder why so many cops are grumpy? This is
partially why. The only thing they hate worse than “Hey, ever shoot anyone?” is when people who have never fired a gun or experienced the adrenaline spike that accompanies answering a 911 call try to advise them on tactics. Instead, Google your questions when you get home. (Note: Allow me to handle two of the most frequent for you right now: No, you can’t just shoot them in the leg. And shooting the gun out of someone’s hand only happens in the movies. Thank me later. I just saved you a tremendous amount of embarrassment.)
- Don’t get too chummy. If you hit it off – great, you’ve made a new friend. But hold off on taking selfies with them and exchanging friendship rings. No, they can’t help fix your ticket, and even if they could they probably wouldn’t because they just met you. Asking them to do so is like trying for second base during the dinner phase of a first date.
Bottom line: Most cops are relatively cool people who just want to be treated like normal human beings when they go out. Unfortunately, too many civilians can’t get over the novelty. If you don’t want to be ‘that guy’ – just avoid these five pitfalls. You’ll be happier and the overall cop population will be less grumpy. It’s a win-win.
“Wrong Town will draw you in – I couldn’t put the book down!”
– Lieutenant Michael McCarthy, California Highway Patrol
“I’m reading it for a second time – it’s that good.”
– Colonel Don Paquin (U.S. Army)
Wrong Town fuses the worlds of special operations, counterintelligence, police work, and small-town drama into a gripping adventure full of characters with monumental responsibilities and real-life troubles.
Follow thirty-nine-year-old veteran Mark Landry as he returns home, having retired from an American government black-ops unit. In a small town north of Boston with a rich history, Landry finds that the only girl he has ever loved, Luci Alvarez, is now an extraordinary policewoman at the precarious center of a community’s struggles with change, amidst a powder keg of fear and paranoia not seen since pre-colonial days. Landry seeks to convince Officer Alvarez that he is home for good as he learns the astonishing answer to a lifelong mystery. Landry is eager to begin his new life, but events threaten to expose disturbing details of his past that would send shockwaves through the country and sabotage the only relationship he cares about.
As terrorist attacks and targeted mass shootings increasingly litter American soil, two new realities come into focus: the war on terrorism’s geographic center of gravity is shifting, and Landry’s new life is beginning to look a lot like the career he left behind.