Yeah, yeah, I graduated from the academy May 10 and now it’s the 22nd or something. I should have written sooner, I know, but there was an odd kind of writer’s block going on.
I thought I should have something profound to say, some reflection on becoming a police or about what society will now expect or something IMPORTANT.
Turns out I got squat. Turns out what should have felt like an ending (the finale of the academy, the state certification test, the graduation and pictures, the packing up my apartment and finally coming home, the relearning my wife’s name) didn’t feel like an ending at all.
Actually, getting back to work, where I’m sitting in a car with a veteran officer who lets me handle the situation and then critiques me, feels exactly like the scenarios in PTI. So in an odd way, I still feel like I’m in school.
Obviously, I understand it’s different, but it feels the same. I guess that’s good. That means the academy training is closer to reality than I had realized. Or it means my Sergeant doesn’t quite trust me yet and is treating me like a student.
So the last week was pretty simply at PTI. Last few classes, things like first aid and a session called ‘Cop on Cop,’ where an actual copper veteran came and answered questions. Session was billed as the only time you won’t hear the politically correct answers, where the officer would absolutely answer the questions.
And the questions bounced back and forth between legitimate and stupid. Yeah, there were questions about cop groupies and how much free sex there was to be had from them. (answer included a scary story about a friend of the officer’s who is now an AIDS patient because of a cop groupie). But also questions on counseling for stress (and that answer included that knowledge that veterans cops will look down on you for being a pansy, but younger cops mostly all understood the need for counseling sometimes…I guess the profession is maturing).
Then the state test. Four hours and not quite as hard as test number three at PTI. Some really goofy questions and some really goofy syntax but we all got through it just fine.
Other than that, there wasn’t much. In fact, it seemed sort of anti-climactic, sort of let-down-ish. Part of that is simply the groove. We had a routine and a gang of friends. Now all of us have to go back and work with officers we don’t know, relying on policies we don’t know, in a routine and schedule we don’t know.
It’ll be fine, I’m sure.
One thing I did realize during the twelve weeks was this: we are all who we were. In other words, what we’ve done, in the past, is the foundation of who we are now.
I realized it one afternoon doing building searches. It was in a scenario and my partner had already been shot and ‘killed.’ Yeah, it was training and yeah, everyone was going home at the end of the night but the fact that I could look over my shoulder and see him laying there on the floor, watching me finish the search, was wildly disconcerting. Talk about an adrenaline dump. Holy crap, Batman.
But as I continued the search, I realized I had slipped, at least partially, into Theater Guy Mode. I moved through the darkened building — with some lighting through the windows from streetlights, some from ambient sources — with my flashlight, manipulating the shadows just like I did in theater. Stretching and shrinking them, bending them left or right to expose or hide. I felt like I was backstage again, trying to get something done with the audience realizing it.
The audience…or the bad guy. It was weird.
At another point, as I interviewed a sexual assault victim who absolutely didn’t want to talk, I realized I was back in Reporter Mode. And at that moment, I realized with a stark clarity that cops and reports, though on wildly divergent extremes, are after the same, exact thing: the truth.
They might define truth slightly differently, but they each want it. And they each go about getting it pretty much the same way: interviews, fact checking, fact discovering, poring over documents, etc. Much closer under the skin than either group would want to admit, I’m sure.
My point is this: working as a journalist, and later in theater, makes me a better cop. I can work in shadows and use lighting to my advantage, I can interview people and sort facts.
Who would have ever thought that hanging out with lefty liberal reporters and artistic gay men and women would make me a better cop, traditionally right and conservative and waaaaayyyy not into gay/lesbian issues?
Kind of makes me laugh, actually.
And another part of me — fiction writer — means I can take it all in and write about it to my heart’s content (insuring, though, that all the names have been changed to protect myself from libel lawsuits).
So…there is nothing else. But of course there is the entire universe as what’s next. There is more of the same and something new and different everyday.
I am the police now.