Evidence 101

EVIDENCE 101...Wherever you go, there you are...

Monday, April 18, 2016

How To Eat Crow

All I dreamt about when I started working in a support staff position at the Casper Police Department in Casper, Wyoming, was being a cop. I took my time deciding if becoming a police officer was the right career for me, rather than jumping right in.  After a couple years, I tested for community service officer and was chosen for the appointment. This was a monumental time in my life. About 6 months into the job, my department had openings for police officer positions. I was eager to apply. It was a happy day when I was chosen to interview for oral boards. I passed with flying colors. 

My recruit officer candidacy was rocky- not because I didn’t pass the tests or oral boards with flying colors- but because I was thought of as “the nice community service officer” and not favored by the supervisors for the job of a patrol officer.  There was hesitation and doubts amongst the administrators with my lack of street experience.

Many sergeants vocalized to the department that I could not handle myself in a bar fight. Not because I lost one, mind you, but because I was so “nice”.  Other complaints had piled up in regards to me being unable to handle any dangerous street situation. This group of supervisors (men) protesting my selection started a chain reaction of holds and “do-overs” in the hiring process.

After I was informed my selection was being revoked, I was called into Internal Affairs (IA). The IA sergeant told me the situation with my candidacy being withdrawn and the concerns expressed by some administrators to create such a revocation. He refused to tell me the names of my protesters, but I rattled them off in a big list and he smiled. There was a long pause of silence.

Silence is awkward for me, so I had to say something for my cause.  I told him, “Sir, I promise to work so hard. You will not be disappointed. I just need a chance. If I fail after that chance, I will accept that this career is not for me and the sergeants were right. But if I succeed, move out of my way because I will not disappoint the organization. But I just need a chance.” I was dismissed after further questioning and my hopes of becoming an officer were diminished.

Several days later, I was relieved as the sergeant had found no grounds for me to be disqualified. He passed me forward onto the police academy much to the dismay of my dissenters. I was determined to make them all eat crow and boy, was I miffed. As the cards fell, I was given the badge number “Adam-96” and so fitting it became over the years. I completed the police academy with flying colors and moved onto the Field Training Officer Program (FTO).

Once we got the car per man program-I got the old 67 in 2012. Love, love!

The day I finished the FTO program, I received my team assignment from the lieutenant. When it was announced, I mostly got condolences. Not only was it the worst team comprised of old grumpy fart veterans, but the two sergeants running the shift were the gruffest of them all. No mercy had been bestowed upon me. I think that was cooked up on purpose because there was a pool going around to see how long it would take before I failed at being a cop.

I called my new blue family “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. The Good contained two patrol officers: one was my area partner and the other was another female. [We had 6 total female officers on the entire department (95 officers) including myself.] They welcomed me to the shift. In fact, there would be no greater area partner. He performed all of his police work to perfection and was a great mentor to me. He was also a Field Training Officer, so he was the cream of the crop. The Bad contained the officers with at least 10 years on who still thought humans existed. The Ugly were the 15 and overs; a bunch of ruthless men who acted like boys and were considered lazy.

They were all evil upon first impression, especially in mass. A time or two they would watch me fight someone all by myself. For all I knew, they could have been gambling on my success or the odds of my failure. I did not give up nor did I lose a fight. It may not have been pretty, but I had reached into some unknown bag of tricks plus used survival instinct to come out on top.

God gave me the strength to endure the alienation I felt.  In today’s times, their behavior would not have been tolerated including the times they wouldn’t help me in fights, nor show up when I called for backup (called circling the block). Certainly all of the severe hazing would not be accepted. It would now be grounds for disciplinary actions in most departments. However, I never said a word. I felt it was my duty to suck it up and work like a dog to prove myself as an officer and a woman. This created a dangerous mindset for myself. I did not trust my fellow officers.

There were times I called off back up on a traffic stop, told them to leave my call, or ignored them just because I couldn’t stand to work with them. I became John Wayne, only in drag, because I was the girl variety. It wasn’t smart. It was mental survival, while disregarding physical safety. I think I threw myself out there to the wolves and criminals without backup- without support-to show them I could do it and, in turn, I sacrificed “cop safety 101”. By the grace of God, I was lucky nothing really bad ever happened.

Then there was “the other girl cop”.  She was kind and helped me out, pushed me to prove myself, but still kept the wolves at bay. She fit in. She gave me pep talks and showed me how to put them in their place. Some of the time it worked, but mostly not. Her mentoring happened on breaks or off duty, because she worked about 6 miles from me on the other side of town.

We did go to calls together occasionally because back then, there were very few cops and a lot of city. We covered some ground in which I got lost and often. They ridiculed me every day about my directional challenges and silly mistakes. It was a marriage made in hell, but I owned all of it and kept going. I had the drive of a true blue flame. The work ethic drove the old veterans bat shit crazy because at 3:30 AM when they usually took naps, I was making an abundance of traffic stops and building checks which required backup. Despite their chastising of me, I continued to do it out of spite. Plus, I could not live with myself if I wasted time doing nothing. We had no performance standards at the time so the only thing pushing me was personal pride.

After about 6 months, I had proven myself on some big calls.  The jabs and estrangement subsided. They had to keep up or get out of my way. I think they underestimated the power of a scorned woman. Their anamosity had empowered me to fight for what I wanted to do. Not only did I want to do the job, I wanted to succeed as an officer.  

I had kept my mouth shut but after a few months, my mouth did not stay zipped. I think I took my peers by surprise by standing up for myself. Purgatory was over and I became one of the crew. Words cannot express how it feels when you are finally accepted by your team.

Despite our differences, we all became close knit and worked well together for a few years until I was selected as a detective. I also took that experience and protected any new rookies who made an appearance on my team from any antagonism my crew tried to dish out in my presence. Perhaps these behaviors would not fly in present day law enforcement as police agencies have all progressed out of those times. It was common practice in those days.

I have no regrets.  In fact, their antics made me stronger and helped develop my self-awareness and emotional intelligence. I have to thank them for that. I learned how to survive the dangers of the streets, and they were forced to work as a team…even if there was a girl on it.  We accepted our polar opposite views of the job and they embraced my strengths.

All of those on my original shift are now gone from the department, including myself. We are either retired, working at different departments, or embedded into a new career. We would still do anything for each other if we were called to action, in the line of duty, or facing a personal crisis.

Police officers have a common purpose to serve and protect the citizens of their community. During these moments of working in dynamic situations, you have to rely on each other. Only those in uniform understand one another to the point you  know when your partner is going to veer right and so you go left without uttering a word. Certainly we all know and understand the process it takes to get to the blue bond. 


Bob G. said...

Momma Fargo:
That was a very touching post in a lot of ways.
(glad we got some back-story)
I think a LOT of us can relate in some fashion to this.
Had my share of "detractors" over the years (I just put my head down, did my job and proved any nay-sayer was full of crap in the process).
And yes, there comes a time when NONE of us can keep the lips zipped and we need to speak some TRUTH to those who operate under a slightly flawed "M.O.", even IF they're our bosses.
Maybe it will help them become LEADERS instead?
Your story smacks a lot about the lack (or denial) of EQUAL opportunity, and good for you to sticking to your values to get that point across to the thick-headed you encountered.
It obviously had it's "rewards", which never seem to come soon enough nor frequently enough.
Very good post.
Well said Kiddo.

Roll safe down there, dear.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Momma Fargo;

That was a very good post. I can't add anything to it except we all have had to prove ourselves to others...it is human nature especially if survival is at stake. Now you have to put up with a different kind of "B.S" at your present employer...people that wouldn't last 5 seconds in "da hood". Funny how that happens.

Cheryl said...

What a great post. While there is no doubt in my mind that you would succeed in whatever goal you went after, but the fact that you got "to show the naysayers" that you were up to the challenge really is a wonderful thing. I hate when people make assumptions about other people. I suspect that maybe the outward illusion of being too nice might be a negative for a police officer but without getting an opportunity to show what you can do, that would of been a real shame. So glad that it worked out for you.