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Blue Brief: What Citizens Should Know About Law Enforcement

In this Blue Brief, our resident LE expert lays out what he wishes the regular public knew about police work.

    Over the course of my 20 years in law enforcement, I’ve been approached by many citizens asking me questions about the nearest place to eat or how to get to the next town over. 

    While I don’t mind answering those questions there is one I’d have really liked to have been asked…

    Officer writing a police report

    “Is there anything citizens should know about law enforcement?”

    Well, now’s my opportunity to answer that burning question…so, let’s talk about things that officers wish the general public knew.

    Table of Contents


    Training & Safety

    First, you should know what kind of training we in the law enforcement community have to endure. Training happens annually, semi-annually, and quarterly.

    We go through a lot of scenario-based training with defensive tactics — that’s our arrest control, basic “how to put handcuffs on bad guys” training, and firearms training.

    Officer training at the Georgia Police Academy
    Officer training at the Georgia Police Academy (Photo: Georgia Public Safety and Training Center)

    Firearms training is either to qualify to carry on duty or shoot don’t shoot scenario-based training on the range or simulated via a laser and movie type training.

    With budgets cut, some agencies on smaller budgets have had to get creative with firearm instruction.

    For example, using an old lawnmower and some paracord with a pulley, you can attach a target to the lawnmower and pull it along as shooters try to hit their target.

    Police Car Lights

    As law enforcement, we spend a lot of time in our vehicles. We drive a lot for the job so it’s important to attend driving training.

    We tend to push those patrol cars to their limits on the safety track and the streets.

    Maintaining Traffic Flow

    Car crash
    Car crash (Photo: Charles Edward Miller)

    When it comes to securing the scene at a vehicle crash we are often tasked with rerouting traffic or stopping it altogether. Once everything’s taken care of, we can get traffic moving easier.

    But that means we need everyone around us to follow the rules, even those just passing by.

    Police handling the aftermath of a car accident
    Police handling the aftermath of a car accident (Photo: Aaron Doucett)

    So, be patient. Please don’t drive past everyone on the shoulder. Don’t ask if you can turn in front of where the police, fire, and medical are currently working.

    Let us do our jobs.

    Measuring and working vehicle crashes takes time because we need to preserve evidence. We know you have somewhere to be and that it’s an inconvenience to you, and we’re not trying to make your life harder.

    If we are directing you where to go, please go in that direction.

    Police motorcycle and a crashed car being hooked up to a tow truck
    Let us get everything taken care of so we can get traffic moving again (Photo: Matt C)

    Traffic Stops

    I know getting pulled over makes people nervous, but please try to be mindful of where you actually pull over. Traffic stops are hard enough for an officer without having to deal with unsafe locations.

    Also, please try not to argue with the officer over the stop. Like I’ve said in prior posts, the side of the roadway is not the place to argue.

    Police lights
    Police lights

    If the officer stepped over the line, get his badge number and name and file a complaint with the supervisor.

    If you want to contest the ticket itself, remember that you’ll have the opportunity to do that in court.

    Judge's gavel and desk
    That’s the whole point of getting the court date.

    As for bystanders, if an officer is on a traffic-related incident, do not distract them while they are conducting their business. This includes asking for directions or approaching the vehicle while they are busy at a traffic stop.

    Just be patient. We can help when we’re done.

    Traffic stop

    “I Didn’t Do It” 

    The four famously said words all law enforcement officers hear anywhere they go while in uniform.

    Somewhere right now an officer is in a store getting a cup of coffee or a bottle of water and these words are being said to them.

    And I know it’s not as serious as some of the other things I mention here, but I can honestly say those four words are kind of annoying. 

    Surprised woman
    Especially if you do this pose along with the line

    I get it, you’re just trying to be funny. But it stops being funny somewhere after the fifth time you’ve heard it…this week.

    Keep Your Children Out of It

    In my 20 years, I cannot express the many times a parent would use my uniform or job status in the community in an attempt to discipline their children.

    I’ve heard, “If you keep acting up, I am going to make that officer arrest you.”

    San Jose Police with children for story time
    We want your kids to have a positive relationship with law enforcement (Photo: San Jose Public Library)

    Now, I know this is meant as a deterrent to keep their children to settle down but in all actuality, it sets your kid up to fear police at a young age.

    We want kids to approach us if something is wrong, not live in fear of us.

    Can I Shoot Your Gun or Taser

    To just say this simply, no.

    Mexican Federal Police Carrying Colt M1911
    Mexican Federal Police Carrying Colt M1911

    You would not believe how many times I have actually been asked this.

    The reality of this is an officer is never allowed to willingly give up their firearm or taser to anyone in the community. Period.

    Final Thoughts

    I want to be clear this is not a rant or any ill will towards the communities where the first responders serve.

    Sean Walther PDP Safariland Holster
    Sean Walther PDP C&G Holster

    These are just a few of the handful of things people should know about the men and women in uniform. They have a hard job and love what they do for the people they serve.

    Some days are harder than others but they willingly get back out there and do what they were born to do. 

    Do body cams hurt or help? What’s your take? Let us know in the comments below. Also, check out more articles on policing in the Blue Brief Category.

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    9 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Leland Keane

      Great piece. It would be useful as part of a school liaison approach and should be part of a national curriculum.

      May 18, 2022 1:25 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Thank you. Maybe this article will start the ball rolling and get some much needed attention.

        May 19, 2022 9:11 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Daniel Long

      Great read. Can't believe anyone would ask to shoot the gun or taser.

      May 17, 2022 7:42 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Thank you. You would not believe the stories I have on things I have been asked over my 20 year career. Some weird in nature and some just plain, "Wow!"

        May 19, 2022 9:12 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Are LEOs annoyed or weirded out when people ask about the gun they carry? I think it's interesting to learn what they carry and why, but I always fear it gives off a creeper vibe.

      May 17, 2022 2:38 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Great question, although I cannot answer for the police population, me personally I never really minded if someone was interested in what I carried. I wouldn't say its a creepy vibe per se, I would think its just an odd question to start off with at first and maybe work it into a conversation if it should come in play naturally. Out of the gate asking just puts those in blue a tad on edge if that makes any sense. Thank you for the question, it was much appreciated.

        May 19, 2022 9:18 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Do you often have to shoot someone mowing their lawn? I guess that one went over my head (not hard to accomplish) As a youngster I got caught shoplifting and a cop came to my house and put the fear of God into me with a lecture that really made an impression. ( haven't stolen anything since.) So there's that.

      May 16, 2022 4:53 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        The lawn mower is a cheap and wheeled platform to hold targets and a target stand and of course there is no engine for said lawn mower. Not talking about a riding mower just an older square type shape with 4 wheels that safely moves back and forth using the paracord and pulley system to create a moving target. Sometimes we think outside the box when it comes to budgets and if it gets the point across safely then sky is the limit. I hope that helps with your question.

        May 19, 2022 9:28 am
        • Commenter Avatar

          Whew! Thanks for clearing up my old mind! Go Blue!

          May 19, 2022 2:57 pm
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