If there’s one thing you learn as a cop in the beginning, it’s that they never show you the necessity of taking tests to see if you were exposed to HIV from the last person to attempt suicide with shards of glass and forcibly resisting while covered in blood or other hazardous shit they don’t often portray in the movies.
The second thing you learn is that it’s political. All political, all the time. Everyone knows someone, everyone thinks they have leverage, and everyone definitely has goals and selective—and long— memories. (Well, OK, most people have goals.)
Federal and state elections are worth so much fart-gas for a city cop, but the local ones? Interesting times.
As a cop, you know things and you know people. Lots of them. Despite my general cynicism, people really do have an interest in a cop’s opinion because while disturbing, cops tend to see things most people don’t have access to. Everything from the inside of a crime scene to the non-public personalities inside city hall and specifically budgeted items.
The problems arise when the cop is held to those opinions, or God help him or her, any political activities they participated in.
In the event the person the cop supported wins, they are labeled an ass-kisser; or worse, the cop has high expectations (either for self or department—made worse, because the odds are still very much not in their favor despite “their” win).
If the party the officer supported loses, then the victor in that particular race or races will of course not let those events go unforgotten. Running for office is a very stressful event, a very primal one; to win or lose on a very public stage is a big deal financially and emotionally, even if the stage is just a local one. Woe unto those who tried to take a bite out of them, from their perspective. It may have been just business to the copper, but it’s always personal to the politician on some level.
Direct intervention by the sore-loser is uncommon because it either makes them look like a sore winner, a bully,or an idiot (not to mention the legal liability). But these officials help determine who is going to be this officer’s superior one day and decide on their budgets for pay, benefits, and gear—and that is where the damage can be incurred. No pressure, right?
The obvious answer is to remain completely neutral, either out of common sense or as forced by things like the Hatch Act (basically, most office-holders or folks like me with guns can’t run for office for reasons of intimidation or impropriety). That makes the most sense to me and I am, by gosh, a very sensible guy. Yet here I am, essentially a political columnist at the end of the day.
You see, cops are generally passionate people. And with the obvious exceptions experienced by nearly all professions, we are generally not complete idiots. And again, we do have access to many things the average voter does not, from an informational point of view.
If a mayor, for example, has the stones to call up a sitting judge to try to steer their opinion on a certain case (this is just a fictitious example of course), do you think he or she would blink at trying the same with a “lowly cop,” common worker or administrator or in his or her employ?
And then there’s the financial shenanigans cops pick up on, the private and public interactions of taxpayer funds, items budgeted for, items left out, those receiving the money and their prior affiliations with the politicians involved. It’s a damn ugly business. And when information like that is placed in the hands of one with, for the most part, an Alpha personality, it stands to reason that it would be hard to “let go.” Or in my case, making me absolutely crazy when faced with the futility that comes with the knowledge.
So vote—but think from time to time of the little people who make up the machinery these officials are or will be controlling. That machine belongs to you and can hurt you or harm you. Participate.
And if you run for office or are subject to one? Remember that while it’s a non-contact sport, it can still get very bloody.
Alex Teach is a police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.