Have you ever heard this phrase? Maybe you’ve even said it a few times yourself.
For the record, the phrase is incomplete. There’s a word missing that, when added, radically changes everything. If you don’t know the word, here’s a clue.
A _ _ _ _ cop is never cold, wet, or hungry.
Did that help?
In the days when police officers walked a beat, the phrase was “a good cop is never cold, wet, or hungry.” When technology changed in the 1970’s and officers climbed inside cruisers, the ‘good’ was dropped. Not because officers didn’t think it was necessary to be good anymore. The cruiser simply created a shift in reliance. When walking a beat, the police officer had to rely on the neighborhood to help meet some of his basic needs. If you were a lazy jerk no one was going to open up their home to get you out of the cold or the rain and they certainly weren’t going to feed you. Therefore, an officer’s behavior had a direct correlation to his or her level of comfort. If you were a good cop, the community ensured that you were never cold, wet, or hungry. They took care of you because you took care of them.
Now, if you’re cold, wet, or hungry, you just hop in your cruiser and take care of it yourself. You don’t have to be a good cop to be warm, dry, and fed.
I’m not advocating a return to the beat cop. Certainly the beat cop still has a place today in the total package of police services, but I don’t think it would work on the large scale other than the SRO program for a variety of reasons. What I am advocating for is a return to an old but favorable mindset. Namely, that the police and the community are dependent on each other and the concept of my happiness being interconnected with your happiness. Police officers must behave as if everything counts on how they treat their neighborhood.
In other words, you have to be a good cop and not just a cop.