After moving here I've been struck by the amount of personally owned vehicles which officers have kitted out with blues/reds to be hired out as security at construction (Normally road construction) sites. How much does that cost, how long does it take to get the money back, and do they actually do anything at such locations? What percentage of officers have such gigs on the side?
Yeah, you can spend as much as you like on kitting out your car for those OT jobs. I don't know as I've never spent the money, I don't do those jobs. I've only done OT through the department, never wanted/needed one of those long term OT jobs. The side job pay varies depending what it is, but it's generally around the $40-$50/hour level.
This is a unique American thing being able to hire off duty cops in uniform. Like all things, its agency dependent, but it generally works like this: Side jobs have to be dept. approved, and can't be related to alcohol, vice (think strip clubs) or any sort of job that reflects poorly on the dept. It's made very clear, even though you are in uniform, you are not acting as an agent of the dept, so you assume all liability out of any actions you take. Get hurt, its on you, make an arrest, it's on you to process it and "own" it. We're allowed to wear the uniform as it's a visual symbol of being a cop. Some jobs might be plain clothes, but most are uniformed. Some events like a large sporting event will contract with the dept, we'll get the OT through work and the event reimburses to dept. I like those, cushy, easy OT and it's all "work".
How difficult did you find the Academy, and would you have found it more difficult had you not been prior service?
I didn't find it that hard personally. Some struggled with the fitness and academics, but most of us graduated. About two thirds of the class were no-military and they did fine. The recruiters make an effort to prep the candidates, as for academics, some people just don't study well. This isn't hard really, but there ya go.
One thing I have to give props to local police for is how they have to deal with all sorts of depressing things in society we like to ignore, from the drug-addled to the child abusers (physical or otherwise). Has there ever been anything you've seen which has caused you to despair for humanity, or say "sod it, I'm quitting tomorrow"?
Not really ever had the "eff this, I'm done" but there have been good days and bad days for sure. There is a higher suicide rate in LE than the general population, as of two days ago, 21 cops died of suicide in the US this year. We do get beaten down but the never ending negative stuff, thats why we're a pretty jaded, cynical bunch. I don't despair for humanity, but doing this for a couple of years, you tend not to hold most of the human race in very high regard.
Presumably you are familiar with Sir Robert Peel's Principles of Policing. How many of them do you think are (a) still valid, and (b) still followed? For example, I would argue that there has been a shift away from #7: Though non-military police are officially "civilians" in US (and international) law, I wonder if there is a common separation or "them and us" attitude by the police use of the term "civilian" to mean "Member of the public" or "private citizen".
I would submit those principles still stand today and are broadly reflected in most agencies core policy documents. As for number 7, that's part of what I speak to above. There is an increasing siege mentality in LE, and it really came on strong last year. No one who is not in this career field can really understand the pressures, stresses, highs & lows of this job. Other public safety like fire & EMS get it to a large extent, but the public at large doesn't get it as much as they like to think they do. I see the same with military, if you've never served, you'll never understand what military life is like.
Yes, we're civilians in a police uniform and we live, play, eat & go to school in the same communities we serve by & large. However we see a side of it no one else does, so it can be hard bridge that mental gap sometimes. We use terms like "civilian", "complainant", "suspect", perp", "victim", "involved" as a means to distinguish people, and it tends to bleed over into our personal vernacular, but probably not unlike any other profession.
I do find it interesting that we are one of the few professions everyone loves to tell us how to do our job regardless of their qualifications. Doctors screw up all the time, yet we don't have a gang of people shouting at them during an operation and questioning their every move. No one would dream of following a lawyer around with their iPhone to record them would they?
I like this video from our partners in the Met in the UK.
Good questions gang, keep 'em coming, but wash your hands & wear your mask!!!