8 LESSONS EVERY COP LEARNS
Lesson #1: There is a culture in many segments of society that says, do not cooperate with the police. It is Us versus Them.
Lesson #2: “Us” takes care of our own business. Never let “Them” tell you what to do, when to do it, or how to do it.
Lesson #3: No matter how much wailing and pleas to “stop the killing” the culture will not violate lessons two and three.
Lesson #4: This is an important one – lessons #1 through #3 have nothing to do with race. These lessons are not unique to any one ethnic or racial group, or economical status. Across the board, police officers hear repeatedly two statements: “I don’t know nothing about nothing.” And, “I really don’t want to get involved.” This seems truest at homicide scenes.
Lesson #5: If you don’t have live witnesses to take the stand you don’t have a case.
Lesson #6: Everybody lies to the police.
Lesson #7: When you lie to the police there are consequences.
Lesson #8: People will disregard lessons #1 through #7 to save their own butts.
For example, one murder I responded to involved a guy who accidentally bumped into the mirror of a car parked at a motorcycle bar. There were over 200 eyewitnesses when the shooter killed the victim. Out of over 200 eyewitnesses, responding officers had exactly ZERO tell them what happened or identify the shooter. Lessons #1 through #4 were in full force.
Sure, there were a few Crime Stopper tips from anonymous callers dropping the name of the shooter. But Lesson #5 kicked in, no live witness on the stand to identify the shooter, no case.
This wasn’t an isolated case. On St. Patrick’s Day a few years back we had a double murder, in broad daylight, at a dope house. The shooters were upset that the occupants, low level dealers, were not giving them a cut of the sales. The two shooters were not doing any of the selling. So, they lined the three intended victims up on the wall and started shooting.
One of the three intended victims was the nephew of one of the other intended victims. Unknown to the shooters, the nephew dropped down and played dead when the first shot was fired, even though he had not actually been shot. Sadly, the other two were shot and killed.
The shooters fled on foot. The nephew got up and left, without calling the police. He ran to a house several blocks away and told another relative to go up and check on his uncle. These folks had enough sense to call the police and ask for an ambulance.
When the paramedics and police arrived lessons #1 through #4 kicked in immediately. Absolutely no one would cooperate with the officers, even though a relative and another person they knew lay dead. This led to Lesson #6: People lie to the police. The nephew KNEW who the shooters were. We later learned he told his relatives who the shooters were. They all told the police, they “didn’t know nothing about nothing.”
People lie to the police for one of three reasons: They did it, they know who did it or you are just supposed to lie to the police. People lie when stopped by the police for a traffic violation. The officer comes up and asks, “Do you know why I stopped you?”
“Why, no officer, I don’t.” Liar. They were speeding, rolled a stop sign, or ran a red light, and they know it. As soon as they saw the cop’s lights come on they said to themselves, “Oh, crap.” But still, they lie to the officer. Why?
People don’t want to be held responsible for “minor” violations. They think, “It’s no big deal.” They are probably right: it isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But, do you know why they end up getting a ticket anyway? Lesson #7 – when you lie to the police there are consequences. Cops don’t like being lied to. People don’t like being lied to. Yet, people get upset with the police for giving them a ticket after lying to the officer.
When people lie to the police at murder scenes the police get frustrated. The message conveyed to the cops is this: “We don’t trust you.” Well, this distrust is a two-way street. Murders are a big deal. Big deals have big consequences.
When a person is repeatedly lied to, especially about very important things, they begin to distrust the people who most often lie to them. Specifically, the cops begin to distrust people they encounter at crime scenes. “I was there, but I didn’t see nothing and I don’t know nothing.”, is the most often repeated lie a cop hears.
When cops are lied to they go into a certain mode of dealing with people, which often comes off as being rude and cold hearted. In some cases, they really are being rude and cold hearted. If even close relatives and friends won’t tell the police what happened to their loved one, why should the police care? A battle of wills begins as soon as the first cop arrives on scene. It is a battle that need not be fought.
The bottom line for cops: cops need to at least appreciate the fact some people will intentionally lie to them, and some are just too afraid to cooperate and get involved. Cops still have to protect and serve, even if the people they are trying to help don’t appreciate what the police are trying to do. To paraphrase Mother Theresa, protect and serve anyway.
The bottom line for citizens: you may not like the police, you may not trust the police, but they are not the bad guys. The bad guys are the criminals who victimized you or your loved ones. Without your help the police cannot bring the bad guys to justice.
Lesson #8: Criminals will violate Lessons #1 through #7 and rat out another criminal to save their own butts. My partner and I had stopped a prostitute working a street corner. She thought she had a warrant for her arrest. Trying her best to not go to jail, she immediately told us where a guy, wanted for murder, was hiding. She described the house in detail and even told us what his rental car looked liked. She readily violated rules #1 through #7 to save herself from going to jail. By the way, she did not have a warrant. We went to the house, found the rental car parked out front, and arrested the murder suspect who was hiding in the house.
These are 8 lessons every cop learns on the job. And, maybe, every citizen ought to know and understand as well. Be safe out there and remember, protect and serve anyway.
Pat Welsh, a Best Selling Author, Speaker and Trainer, is a retired Major of the Dayton Police Department. A graduate of the FBINA and Police Executive Leadership College, Mr. Welsh is also a member of IACP. Mr. Welsh specializes in law enforcement training, strategic work session, keynote speaking and leadership development for civilian and USAF Security Forces personnel. Please contact Mr. Welsh at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.