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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I Speak Police Code

For Andy Smith, the world of public safety is second nature and although he is now an honorably retired police officer, he still carries a concealed weapon and speaks in police code, out of habit. Andy, joining the public safety workforce at an astonishingly young age, still holds a record today. “In 1985 I got hired as a full time 911 police dispatcher, I was 19 years old and I was the youngest full time they’d ever hired - I hold that record today,” Andy explains, marking his success at a young age.
While Andy has a surplus of crazy stories, he still remembers his job as a police officer as “the best job in the world. Everyday you go into work it’s something totally different, its not like your Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 [where] you see the same people, the same coffee pot, take the same breaks and go to the same places for lunch- it’s never like that. You could have Sunday mornings which are traditionally very quiet- but then the shit hits the fan and its like oh my god, it’s busier than you can possibly imagine!” Andy explains that as an officer you fulfill many roles. “It’s a different challenge because for the job of a police officer you have to wear many hats- you’re not just a cop, you’re a social worker, you’re a psychologist, family therapist, you’re a babysitter, you’re a janitor … “ Andy chuckles as he goes through the list. “I miss it every day.”
One of Andy’s most notable experiences during his career was surprisingly his very first day as an officer. After a year and ten months of grueling training through the academy and his specific department, Andy finally reached the point at which he was on his own. “When you’re on your own, you’re on probation for a whole year- but everybody is looking out for you because they know you’re the new guy. I’d never worked a day on day shift and what did they assign me my first day on my own? Day shift. So here I am on my own, I get in my car and we’re about an hour into the day, which means 8am and we get a call of shots fired inside a house in this kind of rotten neighborhood. So, I thought, are you kidding me? So [we] get there right away and we do what were supposed to, we set up tactically and right after we do that we asked dispatch to call the house and have the guy come outside. Well he comes outside alright, he comes outside holding a shotgun.” Andy breaks his narrative with a laugh. “And I’m thinking, I don’t believe this, [it’s] my first day on the job and I’m actually going to shoot someone! You usually go through your whole career and never shoot someone!” Andy throws his hands up in the air recalling the experience. “My trainer was yelling commands at the guy and he was just getting ready to lower [the gun] and we were all this close to pulling the trigger and at the last minute he drops it to the ground … I was like whoa, is every day going to be like this?”
Although his first day was an adrenaline pumping, heart pounding experience not suitable for everyone, Andy remained passionate about the job. There were surprises along the way. “The one thing that I was not prepared for [was] totally random people that I had no clue who they were, just out of the blue, flipping me off, saying f*ck you, you pig! All of this stuff just as you are driving around, doing nothing. And it really took me by surprise because I don’t even know who these people are! How do they know I’m a jerk?” Andy learned quickly though that once the uniform was on, the public was going to perceive you negatively and while unfair, it was something that came with the job. “The public criticizes you for every move you make these days everything is on video and people criticize that video because they see three minutes of a twenty-minute incident.”
One of the most common scenarios Andy dealt with were car stops. Andy clarifies, “there is no ticket quota, the general feeling is a ticket a day keeps the sergeant away… As long as your writing one ticket a day, the sergeant knows you’re doing something.” Andy explained this method is used to promote accountability rather than just giving tickets to give tickets.
While the job of a police officer is rewarding and something Andy pursued enthusiastically he did have his fair share of scary moments. “If you ever meet a cop who says ‘I'm not scared,’ they’re lying because you’re scared all the time.” Andy remembers one time in particular that was very frightening, mostly due to the uncertain nature of the situation. “A suspicious package call came in the middle of the night… it came in actually as a “man-down” in the middle of the street. This is maybe two three in the morning [when] I get there and I see this body across the roadway. I get out of my car and walk over towards it and I see all of a sudden, that’s not a man, it’s a dummy, but it’s got wires sticking out of it, flashing lights. [I thought] holy crap, this is like a bomb or something.”
Andy comments that in that type of a situation you back up, exit the scene, and evacuate people surrounding a suspected item as such. This certain instance however, after all of the commotion, the dummy turned out to be harmless. Andy believes it was a prank, designed to scare the cops for no good reason. “Let’s just see what the cops will do, we’ll throw this blinking thing into the street.”
His last words of advice for anyone looking to join the field: “I would say as long as [you] understand what the job is, go for it. If [you] think you’re going to be a do-gooder, and do nothing but give people hugs and help people all day, that’s not the right job because that’s not what the job is, it’s a very hard job.”
While many people claim that they want to be a police officer to help people and the community, Andy opts for the honest answer, stating that the real reason ought to be “because I want to put bad guys in jail. There’s a lot of bad out there, there’s a lot of evil, and a lot of people don’t know how bad things are until you’re a cop.”
Andy still reverts back to old behaviors as an active cop. “I still carry my gun with me, I have a CCW permit in all 50 states, and in my car I still have a baton, handcuffs, and pepper spray.” While he may no longer wear the uniform, the police officer mentality still stays with him today, a reminder of the best career he’s ever had. 

Posted by Eliana Sheriff


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