More than two decades with a gun and badge changes you—for better and for worse. After retiring from the force, I found shifting to civilian life somewhat challenging, and discovered that being a cop requires certain behaviors and skills that don’t transition well. Here are a few examples:
Driving fast – After years of what in police parlance is termed “response driving,” I developed the unconscious habit of going everywhere as if I’d been dispatched to a felony in progress. Getting to a dentist appointment, however, is not considered a valid reason for exceeding the posted speed limit. This fact has led to some tickets in the years since I retired, which forced me to slow wayyyy down. Now I drive at a sedate pace. Far safer, but totally lacking any adrenaline rush.
Taking charge – I retired at the rank of Captain, having been in some sort of supervisory role for over ten years. Before that, even as a patrol officer, people looked to me to handle the situation when I arrived at a scene. After all, that’s why people call the police, right? Well, when you’re a regular person—and a woman to boot—such behavior is not always appreciated. I’ve had to learn to bite my tongue and let situations play themselves out rather than offer suggestions.
Investigating – Police are taught to ask a lot of questions. We dig for information from witnesses, suspects, victims, and even passersby. This is good police work. But when your well-honed cop curiosity comes out in regular life, it’s called “being nosy.” I had to shut that down immediately upon leaving the force.
Gallows humor – Constantly witnessing the worst things people do to each other creates a need to blow off steam. One of the best proven ways to do that is with humor. This particular habit is now permanently ingrained, but after getting a few hard looks, I’ve learned to keep the jokes to myself. Kind of a shame. Some of that stuff is hilarious.
Jumping when the phone rings – Years of being on call 24/7 have conditioned me with the Pavlovian response to snatch the phone every time it buzzes. In the shower. On the toilet. In the bathtub. Pushing my cart down the aisle at the supermarket. Yeah, I need a 12-step program for this one.
Constant vigilance – cops incessantly plan for worst case scenarios and imminent attack. This keeps them alive while on the job, but has a weird effect when grocery shopping. A friend of mine (also a retired cop) once dropped into a crouch and reached for his gun when a small child’s balloon popped at a play park. Turns out he wasn’t wearing his duty weapon – because he was no longer on duty – so he ended up patting his empty waist band. I think he would have cleared leather if he’d been wearing a sidearm.
The trick is to have a positive outlook and to forgive yourself for certain lapses. Fortunately, I’m blessed with wonderful friends and a supportive family who truly get me, quirks and all. It’s the price you pay for a life of public service, and if you have a cop in your life, it’s a package deal.
OMG that’s hilarious. For my part I have more innocuous habits,which are probably okay since I still work full-time. I notice fingerprints, and not in a ‘wow they need to clean more’ way, but in a ‘wow that’s a really nice print’ way. And I tend to point out past crime scenes to visiting guests. “I had a burglary at that house once. And hey, I’ve had two pedestrian vs. car at this intersection…”
This is pretty wild – the again, being a cop is always wild – right? I have to say – even though you are retired, Isabella, I wish you were around more….to help when people are in trouble. We need cops more than ever now. Then again – all of your experiences are great background for your terrific novels – keep writing, even while reminiscing.
Loved this! Made me lol and realize that the restaurant manager-trainer in me needs to “relinquish” the constant drive to educate! Fun read.
Isabella, I bet you are still the one people want on hand when things go kerflooey! A ret cop I met said he’ll never sit with his back to a door. I don’t like to either, and i was never even a member of law enforcement!
LOL. This is so funny. I never really thought about how police transition to civilian life when they retire, but it would be sort of difficult to turn off all that hypervigilance and fast driving, wouldn’t it? What a fun piece. I wonder now if Gladys Kravitz from “Bewitched” was a retired cop? LOL.
I was lucky. I went from LE into veterinary medicine (to work for animals that appreciate me) so I got to keep my gallows humor. The harder thing for me was not assuming the worst in every situation. For example, when someone is late, it’s still difficult for me to think, “maybe they just had a flat tire” instead of “they’ve been in a crash and they’re laying dead in the ditch somewhere”. That takes a toll.
LOL! Great post. Ever since I started the Kerrian’s Notebook posts, I’ve had to be careful when and where I share my knowledge of bodies and how they get that way. Discussing murder and mayhem during dinner out at a crowded restaurant turns out to be a sure way to get lots of jaw dropping reactions from neighboring diners. Sometimes I announce that I’m a crime writer. Other times, I let them wonder. I do love my job.