A question posted recently on Quora asked, “What is the most embarrassing/humiliating experience for a cop?” Former officer Justin Freeman gave his professional opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your thoughts in the comments.
Being found in uniform without your duty weapon is probably near the top of this list. Where I worked, officers were not allowed to take their weapons into the jail, and had to either stow them in the trunk of their patrol car or in a special bank of lockboxes at the entryport. It was always possible to forget to re-holster your weapon after processing an arrest, and you can imagine how incompetent you’d look arriving to an active disturbance with an empty holster. Having a prisoner escape is probably tied for first. There have been instances in the area where I worked of prisoners ‘slipping their cuffs’ (having flexibility enough to slide their cuffs under their feet from the back to get their hands in front of them) and subsequently stealing the patrol car they were in. Goes without saying, but…not good. Accidental discharge of your duty weapon. When I was in police academy, I attended the retirement reception of a lieutenant during which an accidental discharge he’d had as a rookie was brought up. Getting locked out of your patrol car. Running out of gas while on patrol. Missing contraband while searching an arrestee and having a jailer find it. Getting bested by a defense attorney while testifying — whether them walking you through a procedural anomaly or letting them get under your skin. Losing a suspect during a foot pursuit. Also during a vehicle pursuit, but far less so, because sometimes you get called off by a commander and, in any case, you have to drive much more cautiously than the suspect will in order to preserve the safety of innocent drivers and bystanders. Losing your keys or electronic access card. Having to be accommodated during police academy (falling out of formation while running and so on). Falling victim to the dreaded hot mic. This happens on computer terminals, too. When I was working we had a system on the patrol car laptops which allowed you to send a message to an individual officer, a squad, or all officers on duty. One of us second shifters got sent to a complicated call late in our shift, and an officer on my squad, thinking he was set to squad-wide messaging, typed, “Where is third shift??” He, unfortunately, sent that to the entire city instead. A third shifter responded, “We’re right here, buddy.” Made for a bit of tension in the station. Spraying another officer with OC (pepper) spray while trying to subdue a combative subject. It’s understood that there’s no way of totally avoiding crossfire or cross-contamination, but some hits are more direct than others. Lasering (pointing the muzzle of a firearm in someone’s direction) someone on the firing range. Forgetting or mis-wearing a uniform component (name badge upside down, for example). Getting your directions mixed up on your way to a call and either driving the wrong way or driving well under the speed limit trying to get your bearings. Exponentially worse if you’re running code (lights and sirens). Having someone discover (typically your field training officer doing an inspection) that you don’t have a round in the chamber of your duty weapon. That means if you were to draw your weapon and pull the trigger, it would click. Being late for shift or training, or missing a court date. Being forced to use the restroom in a private residence, or to ask a citizen on a scene for a favor of most any kind. Having to backtrack for information you should have gotten the first time. I once had to go back to the jail because I forgot to ask certain interview questions during a DWI (impaired driving) investigation, and have had to drive to witnesses’ residences well after the fact to ask an important question I duffed during the initial interview.