Saturday, April 05, 2014

Wait, so you're a cop for free?

So as some of you know, I'm a Reserve Police Officer for the Metropolitan Police Department in DC.  The "reserve" part means that I collect no salary for this job.  DC is one of the few departments on the east coast that allows volunteer officers to be armed.  That was the reason I wanted to do it.

Now let me simply say that I don't think a firearm is the most important tool on the belt.  In many ways, outside of pepper spray, it's my least used tool I carry.  However in this country, the police are armed and not having a gun sets you apart.  And being set apart is not good when you're not a regular officer.  Also, not being armed can have deadly results.  In 2007, 2 NYPD Auxiliary officers, who wear similar uniforms but are unarmed, were shot and killed.  They were following a murder suspect who then stopped and started chasing them.

MPD Reserve Officers wear identical uniforms and carry the same gear as their career brethren.  The only way I'd come back, especially without pay, was if I could be seen as an equal.  Of course, a uniform doesn't make you a cop. Rather, what you do in that uniform and how you act, is what matters. When told that I'm working as a cop for free, both cops and civilians are dumbfounded.

For my friends, I tell them that this is an activity, like flying general aviation or rock climbing.  It carries certain risks and I enjoy it.  What befuddles them is why I would want to spend my Saturday evening getting yelled at by the public or fighting with crackheads.  The simple answer is that I miss it.  No, not getting bit, but the camaraderie and adrenaline and responsibility.  I'll admit it's strange to have a hobby that involves copious amounts of paperwork, but it is so different from my normal day that I look forward to it.

The cops are understandably confused by my choice as well.  I would be too in their shoes.  Working in a busy city can wear on you.  Seeing the same people over and over and realizing that you're not making a difference as much as you are playing a role can be exhausting and make a person very jaded. Why would anyone want to do this for free?  One of the great things about being a reserve is that it's not full-time, which means it takes longer to wear and grate on you.  This helps a tremendous amount on my outlook and personality while working.  Also, even the most jaded cops want to make a difference.  It's just that those calls are few and far between sometimes.

Of course another huge benefit is that I get to be a cop without any of the politics or the prison-like sentence that can come with pensions.  If I don't want to work on a certain night, I don't have to.
I get to serve the community I live in and laugh.  A lot.  I forgot how many laughs there were.  And laughs are the key to a happy life.

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