By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
So they want to be thought of as superheroes?
"There are what I refer to as different psych stages to the job. Year zero to one is the honeymoon year, when everything is new and they all have big aspirations. Years one to five, I call the John Wayne Syndrome. There's a joke that goes: You spend the last 15 years of your career trying to make up for the first five. You've learned just enough to become a very dangerous and arrogant individual. You're not completely confident yet, and everybody from the academy on down has pounded into you that you're the last line of defense . . . Contrary to what the paramilitary department teaches you -- tactics, tactics, officer safety -- only a very small percentage of people are genuinely bad, bad people. You don't need to be this finely honed machine going out looking for battle every day. We're not in Beirut. After you get about five years of this, you start getting into a settled mode, where you pretty much know your job, and it's just kind of a graceful, go-along-get-along program. Then at about 15 years, you start going into the mode where you know you're not young anymore, and you're not going to be the chief of police, and that's when you start seeing, in my opinion, the best officers. They've learned people skills, they can do their job and be friendly . . .
"Here's a scenario I give when I've taught ethics classes. When you do your job, do you have to stand in front of people and smile and tell them you've done your job? Or is it sufficient that you do your job, and every two weeks you get thanked by the place that employs you? If you have a fight in the street, and there's a person down and they're bleeding, and you're waiting for the ambulance, do you have to stand there with your hands on your hips and your adrenaline pumping and talk about what a bitchen episode it was? Or do you back off, clean it up and get the hell out of there as soon as you can?"
Which is what you do . . .
"But no, because the police are these big risk-takers, these tough guys, and they've just had a fight, maybe even a fight for their life, and the natural thing they want to do is stand there and talk about it. They're not standing on the street corner dryly saying, 'Well, I was doing x, y and z, and this guy came at me with whatever, so this happened.' They're talking about, 'Oh yeah, I hit him in the face and I kicked him in the knee and he went down to the ground, and I beat him and beat him and beat him.' The public's standing around, they don't know the events leading up to it, and the reporters are coming in . . .
"I tell these kids that I get out of the academy: You can do almost anything you want to do, almost anything, as long as you can explain a legitimate reason for doing it. If you can't explain, then you're hung out to dry. It's called legitimate authority versus illegitimate authority. Legitimate authority is something that the people accept. They may not like it, but they comply with what it is you want them to do, because they recognize it serves a compelling public interest, yadda dadda da. Illegitimate authority is the guy who comes in and he puffs and he pulls on his badge and 'You'll do it or I'll beat you into doing it.' You got about one officer for every 700 people in this city, approximately. I can't force 700 people to do anything -- they have to accept my authority, and it has to be legitimate."
He pauses, letting Deana refill his beer. "That's five, Mike."
"Thanks, Deana. I can tell you this, with 27 years of marriage, I cannot talk about anything about work at home. Precluded. Don't want to hear about it because it upsets everybody. You talk about a fight you had? Well, normal people don't fight. So you come home, you sit there and you make nice. Christmas Eve, 1984, I was involved in a huge gun battle, two suspects I shot, it was all over the news. When I came home, it was, 'I don't want to hear about it. It makes me afraid.' I could tell you, on one hand or less, the number of times my wife has been at my station, or a department function, or I've discussed something that happened in my working life. And I've been doing this 16 years. They don't want to hear it. It would be nice to say, this happened at work today, I was frightened by this. I got knocked down one time and a man came over me with a pistol pointed at my face and he pulled the trigger, right up against my forehead. The gun didn't fire. It would be nice to talk with somebody, right? But I can't go home and talk about that, because they're gonna say, 'You coulda got killed,' or 'Normal people don't have this kind of a problem.' I think the biggest issue is, at what point do you cross the line from normal to abnormal, in the way you view things, the way you talk to people? I don't like to surround myself with just policemen. When you insulate yourself, I think you lose touch with reality."
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