The Things Police Instructors Shouldn’t Tell Recruits

As a new officer, I aspired to be the best policeman I could be, so I stuck to every word that was spoken to me by senior officers and police trainers. Most of the things I learned from them were priceless pearls of wisdom and jokes that have helped me navigate my career successfully.

However, not everything I heard from my instructors and senior officers proved valuable or even true. Here are 10 untruths I’ve heard in the past that I hope won’t be passed down to another generation of young recruits who might choose to believe them.

1. “Forget everything you’ve ever learned. Now you are in the real world.”

There is a lot to learn in the real world, but prior training helps officers master and overcome real-world challenges. A much better approach is to tell a new officer, “Now is the time to apply everything you’ve learned to the real world.”

2. “Martial arts don’t work on the street.”

I still wonder to this day why a number of police trainers and senior officers feel the need to make that statement. How could anyone say that techniques from Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Kung Fu, Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, Hapkido or Krav Maga to name a few wouldn’t work on the street? I’m glad I didn’t agree with that statement, otherwise I wouldn’t be here now.

3. “Cops don’t wrestle.”

What a pot! Yes, they do!

As a police officer, I discovered that the countless hours of practicing and repeating practical defense tactics gave me the skills to maintain control of a recalcitrant suspect until I could transition to a docility technique to end the resistance.

I’ve encouraged the ex-wrestlers I’ve coached to use the wealth of skills they’ve acquired in wrestling to do the same, and they’ve done it.

Whether an officer acquires wrestling skills as a young competitive wrestler or in a jiu-jitsu class, they will often prove crucial.

4. “If you’re down, you lose.”

Whether you’re on the ground or on your feet, your skills, physical condition and will to win will determine who wins the fight.

5. “This shit doesn’t work on the street.”

The cynics who spoke here about police control techniques were partly right. The fact of the matter is, someone who says, “This shit doesn’t work on the street” will never train at the level required to use those techniques on the street.

However, I can personally vouch for these techniques because they have worked for me. They even worked better when the officers I worked with had similar training and we grew together as a team.

6. “Us vs. them.”

Officials who have come to this conclusion have allowed the tunnel vision that can naturally occur in law enforcement to shape their perspective. When an officer puts in a hard shift or a punch, it can really feel like “we’re against them” after a while. But the truth is that most people support the police. You just aren’t as loud and pushy as the people causing the trouble you’re sent to cause.

7. “You get paid the same for doing nothing as for doing something.”

The officers who made this statement struck me as miserable and dissatisfied throughout their careers.

My grandfather taught me that my family has long believed that doing a job well pays off. He said we had a tradition of becoming very good at our chosen profession and he challenged me to do the same.

Now that I’m retired, I’m glad I listened to my grandfather and not the “RODs” (Retirees on Duty) who said that. There is great satisfaction in a job well done. Especially one as important as law enforcement.

8. “You’re not a social worker.”

Many officials don’t want to admit that, but even if we are not social workers, we still do a lot of social work. Many of the calls I’ve been sent on over the years have not been criminal in nature. A lot of what I was sent to do was social work.

Like it or not, until recently we were the only social workers on call 24 hours a day. Recently, however, many agencies have had their officers work with social workers to answer calls that are actually “social work.”

9. “You have to be condescending to people.”

Find one person in the world you want to badmouth. I discovered that most people, whether they lived in a mansion or on the street, responded better when treated with dignity and respect.

10: “Relax. You can’t make a difference out there.”

Wrong again!

This is probably the most inaccurate statement of all. Every night when you hit the streets, you make a difference. You stop drunk drivers from killing families, you stop burglars from breaking into homes, and you stop rapists from terrorizing their communities — at least for a while.

Every once in a while, you might even save a drowning dog, rescue a vulnerable person from their abusive spouse, or even pull a pilot out of a crashed plane just before a train hits it. Look at that!



As an instructor or senior officer, wouldn’t you rather be a person who encourages young officers to yearn for it rather than yearning for retirement?

I also thought. Now stay safe, stay strong, stay positive and be careful out there.

NEXT: Staying positive is a discipline

About Clayton Arredondo

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