Ask the Police: Q&A

Jim Doherty, 20+ years as an officer at local, state and federal levels.

What are/were your favorite and least favourite parts of being a cop, and why?
I became a cop for lots of reasons, but if I had to pinpoint a moment in which I had an epiphany, it came in the fourth grade.

Once a week, we had ten minutes to go to the library, find a book, and borrow it. I got a book about the US Secret Service. Had a great pulpy cover; guy in a trench coat and snap-brim fedora at the forefront in silhouette. Inserts showing car chases, and presidential assassinations getting thwarted, and counterfeiters getting busted. I snapped it up.

I was enthralled. From that point I started borrowing all the books in the school library on law enforcement. One week I’d get a book out about the FBI. The next week the Canadian Mounties. The week after that Scotland Yard. God knows what my teacher thought about all the cops-n-robbers book reports I was turning in. But, what the hell, she never liked me anyway.

By the end of the year, I’d made a career choice, and never looked back.

CONS: Paperwork. Shift work. Working holidays. Working weekends. Working twelve hour shifts seven days a week during the Christmas season because of some vague tip that no one sees fit to give you the details about. Paperwork (and, mind you, I don’t really mind the narratives like a lot of guys do; it’s those mind-numbing, endless forms). Wives worry about you. Bosses. Paperwork. Feeling, after about ten years, that nothing you’re doing counts. Paperwork. Being cursed out for no real reason by some arrogant clown with an over-developed sense of entitlement. And have I mentioned paperwork?

PROS: Getting bad guys off the street. Having little kids look up to you like you’re Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Marshal Dillon, and St. Michael the Archangel all rolled into one.

Helping people with mundane stuff like directions (lots of cops don’t like that, but I do). Wearing a uniform that makes you feel proud. Helping rookies learn the craft. Having more discretion about how you do your job that just about any other profession.

If, in an argument, someone plainly stated, “I dare you to shoot/kill me”, and you did, would you get a lesser punishment in court?
In principle, no. Not if there was no other overweening justification. If you deliberately kill someone, without lawful justification, it’s murder. A jury might regard the fact that he dared you as a mitigating circumstance, but not a justification.

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