New Officer Describes Troubling Incident

Recently over at, a new officer posted a thought-provoking comment about an experience from his probationary training:

I just now, at age 40, became a cop. I was not in LE until age 38. My mom suffered from mental illness and took her own life in 2003. Long story short, the week before it happened, she was certifiably nuts . . . auditory and visual hallucinations . . . the works.

So in my job, I'm seeing that again. I was transporting an involuntary commitment, and the officer I was with said, "he has to be faking it, nobody is this outta touch. Nobody goes from normal to completely crazy like this in a matter of hours." I knew differently, but what could I say? Do I give him a life lesson about seemingly "normal" people losing touch with reality, or do I just agree with him? I chose to agree and then changed the subject.

Am I alone here? Does anybody have any thoughts about this? I respect everyone's views. Mental illness is very hard to understand.

My reply to this and other follow-up comments that he had posted included this: sounds like you handled that difficult situation with dignity. I believe that it is common for officers to make fun of most everything. I saw it less of an issue of lack of compassion, and more related to survival through a coping strategy.

No matter how good a police training academy prepares officers for the job, a newbie’s adventure truly begins when he/she hits the streets. As with any job, you will find good field instructors and less than adequate ones. As with the example above, some comments can be wrong, hurtful, or offensive, but one important lesson for green officers is to always keep a level head. The officer above was able to do just that.

In contrast to the patrolman above, I cannot recall a similar personal experience where I was with an instructional officer and he said something that was overly offensive. For my rotations, I was fortunate to have three excellent field training officers who were patient and exhibited their own style of policing. My field training allowed me to experience police calls in very diverse areas—ranging from the housing projects to affluent parts of town.

I was very Blessed to be assigned to my first instructor. At our initial meeting, he told me: “For these first few days, I don’t want you to do anything but watch and listen. Absorb what is going on around you, get used to listening to the radio, ask lots of questions, and we’ll discuss how each call was handled.”

Through his mentoring, I learned volumes in my first 60 days of patrol.