THE CONSTANT UNIFORM

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When I was still in law enforcement, the most asked question I got was: “How come you belly hangs so far over your belt?” (“It’s where I store my spare ammunition.” Stupid kids.) The most asked question I got from real adult persons was: “How do you like being a cop?” Usually I’d say: “There are things I like and things I don’t like.” Which was true. What I didn’t say was, the thing I disliked the most was always having to be a cop and never really being able to take off the uniform. It wasn’t that I wanted to break laws of rob a bank—unless I was absolutely sure I could get away with it—but it would have been nice to have been just one of the guys.
Most people thought of me as a cop first and a person second. If they saw someone go through a stop sign without stopping, I’d always get the obligatory: “You better go write them a ticket.” (Sorry, I left my squad car in my other pants.) Or if I was riding in a car with several people, and the driver went a couple of miles over the speed limit, I was sure to hear. “He’ll be sending you a speeding ticket tomorrow.” (Sorry, it isn’t a calibrated speedometer, so I have no evidence they were speeding, even if I wanted to give them a citation, which I don’t.) I always heard about a wife, sister, brother, mother, father, cat, parakeet… that got a ticket for speeding and wasn’t speeding. (It didn’t happen. In twenty-six years of law enforcement and tons of speeding tickets, I never had one person tell me they weren’t speeding. Often they said they weren’t going as fast as my radar said, but they still admitted to speeding—so why would I make up a higher speed when they were already speeding?)
My wife and I once went out to eat with some other couples. Another couple rode with us and two other couples followed in a separate car. As soon as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot and stopped, the driver of the car behind us came running up to my car.
“If I was a cop I’d be writing you a speeding ticket,” he said. “Because I had you going fifty-six miles an hour!”
“I had the cruise control set for fifty-five all the way,” I said.
“That’s true,” the guy who was riding in my car said. “I watched the speedometer all the way, because if he went over fifty-five, I was going to say something.”
I wonder how they would feel if the police started writing people citations for going one mile an hour over the speed limit?
There are other occupations where you can’t take off your uniform even if you don’t have a uniform. I imagine people are always coming up to doctors, even away from the office, asking about an ache, pain or funny looking lump. If I was a doctor I could fix that rather easily.
Guy walking up to me if I was smart enough to graduate from medical school: Hey Doc, I keep coughing up this funny looking purple stuff. What is it?
Me, pulling out a rubber glove out of my pocket and snapping it on my hand: Turnaround, drop your pants and grab your ankles.
I think after a couple of times, the word would get around and people would leave me alone when I’m not in the office, but I’m pretty sure I’d get kicked out of Wal-Mart for life.
A minister is another line of work where you can’t take off the uniform. You can’t wake up in the morning and say, “Hey, it’s my day off. I think I’ll go do a little sinning today. Nothing big. None of the seven deadly ones. Just a couple little thou-shall-nots.”
Okay maybe that’s not how it would go. But I think they get tired of being at a ball game and someone blurts out the f-word, and then seeing the minister they say, “Sorry Reverend.” The minister probably thinks: Why are you apologizing to me? I’m off duty, and I didn’t make the rules. I just follow them like you’re supposed to.
To update you on my writing, I put aside the novel that I posted the opening for a few weeks ago. I still don’t like the voice, and until I get it right, I’m going to work on a different one. It’s darker than anything I’ve done before. Yesterday I drowned a guy. Or maybe not.
sticks          gohpl          cover sm2
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About thewritingdeputy

Joel Jurrens was a deputy sheriff for 26 years until he retired in 2013. He has published three novels: In The Sticks, Graves of His Personal Liking and County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald. He tries to keep his blog light and humorous and sometimes downright silly.
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3 Responses to THE CONSTANT UNIFORM

  1. agnesalexander100 says:

    Funny blog, Joel. I have a nephew who is a police officer and I’ve heard him say the same thing. Of course, he says the family doesn’t respect his job. His two sons only think of him as daddy and his wife thinks he’s the guy she can leave the kids with when she needs to go to work. I still think of him as that little boy who used to tell his folks if he wanted something they wouldn’t buy, he’d just ask his aunt. (Meaning me.) Yes, I spoiled him.
    Sill hoping you’ll do a sequel to COUNTY OPS.

  2. Gerri Bowen says:

    I second a sequel to COUNTY OPS.

  3. You are right. However, I haven’t figured out a way to turn it off. I have been a forensic psychologist for forty years. The list of requests include wanting a crash course in child rearing, hypnotize them to stop smoking, or “psychoanalyze” them. We won’t get into the sex questions, but let’s just say I can no longer be shocked.

    But, Lord help me, I don’t know how to turn it off. I watch people. In fact, I make some folks uncomfortable, whether I am watching them or not. I recall one Chief Deputy who would leave the room the moment I walked in. One of the other deputies told me the Chief was convinced I could look right through his eyes and read his mind.

    Sometimes it is thrust upon us whether we want it or not. Like the time I was out shopping with my wife and interrupted a robbery in progress. It didn’t even occur to me to let somebody else handle it. Ran the 22 y/o jackrabbit in hoodie and tennis shoes down in the parking lot and leveled him with an open field tackle. Once a Defensive Tackle, always a Defensive Tackle.

    Later, after the local Gendarmes came and took him away, I overheard somebody say, “Hey, did you see what that old grey-haired guy did?”

    You cannot turn it off. But, do you really want to?

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