Black And Blue

Wow, so it’s been a whole year since I last posted here, huh. I guess time really does fly.

It’s been an interesting time.

I bought a bicycle, mostly at the behest of my father who wouldn’t shut the hell up about it. “Get a bike, son, they’re great. You won’t regret it”. He was mostly right. It’s fast become my favourite possession – doubly so when considering that I don’t have a driver’s licence or vehicle yet, so it’s been a real boon in getting me out of the house more and having to walk everywhere.

That’s not what the main thrust of this post is going to be about, although I could write a book on this six months of cycling and the amount of enjoyment I’ve received from that.

Instead, this is a post about me maybe becoming a police officer.

My small, sleepy north Texas town holds what is called a citizens police academy once a year. It’s a two month course where we get to see the ins and outs of the police department, examine their policies and procedures, and see what it’s like to actually be a cop in this day and age. I’d seen it in the paper the last couple of years at least and always thought it sounded interesting, but never did anything about it. This year I saw the flier again, filled in the form, then sat on it until half an hour before the deadline, going back and forth over doing it. It sounded like something I would enjoy, but it’s substantially out of my comfort zone when it comes to associating with new people I don’t know in an unfamiliar setting.

Well, I managed to talk myself into it, and emailed the application to the police sergeant who is running it, and got a reply saying I was accepted the following day. I’m very glad I did so.

I have enjoyed it tremendously. One side bonus is that we are encouraged to do civilian ride-alongs with a patrol officer. I didn’t even know that was going to be a thing, but it’s been an absolute blast both times I’ve done it so far. The first time I stayed to the end of the shift (6am!) because it was so fun. I learned a great deal about what police officers can do, what they can’t do, what they’re looking for when just cruising around town, etc.

Back when I was living in the UK, a career in the police service was something I was strongly considering. Were it not for the fact that I fell for a cute American girl then I think there’s a good chance that’s where I would have wound up. Since I moved to the US I hadn’t really thought that in a long time though. Now, doing this course, it’s become like an itch I can’t scratch. We had a CID detective give the class last week, and he invited us to come tour the department whenever we wanted if we were interested. The next day I texted him asking if is was ok to come look, and he invited me down. I spent the next two hours going over all of their evidence room, procedures, how they make crime reports, the databases they use, and tons of other stuff. The detective was only too happy, it seemed, to have someone to show all of this to, and I was happy to oblige him as I soaked it all up like a sponge.

I’ve already had an informal discussion with the sergeant running the class about what it would take to join. He is clearly someone who got into policing for the right reasons. He cares about his community, and is not one of those cops you see on the news and wonder how the hell they ever got a badge.

Right now there are two big stumbling blocks.

First, you need to be a US citizen in most states to become a police officer, and this is true in Texas because why wouldn’t it be. I can join the armed forces as a permanent resident just fine, but police? Nope, that’s clearly just a bridge too far. Regardless, the law is the law. I’m not eligible to file for US citizenship until January 2018, and the earliest it could be granted would be April 2018. I can perhaps try and expedite my application on the basis of needing it to join the police academy; that might or might not fly with USCIS, but I figure the worst they can say is no.

The other issue is my hearing. I forget whether I’ve written about this before here, but I am partially deaf in my left ear. I was born with a perforated eardrum, and whilst I had some surgeries in the UK as an infant to try and correct it, it mostly didn’t work. Hearing in my right ear is fine, and hell, has probably sharpened up over the years in order to try and compensate for lefty dropping the ball. Or maybe that’s just a myth. Anyway, I asked the sergeant directly if this would be an issue, and he said not for them. So provided the academy would take me, it wouldn’t be a problem for me to be employed as a police officer here.

I’m really, really considering it. Right now it’s all I can think about on most days. How it would finally give my life focus after the drifting I’ve felt I’m doing these past few years. How I could actually make a difference and directly contribute positively in some people’s lives.

But then there’s the downside of what if something happened to me? My wife is gone, and our two children rely on me. My son is almost 18 so he’s mostly ready to fly solo, but our daughter is 13, so she’s got a few years to go yet. Morally, should I put myself in a position to where it’s possible they are left without parents? This is a small north Texas town and there hasn’t been a police fatality here in decades, but it’s always a theoretical possibility in that line of work.

And of course, I actually have to go to the police academy and pass. It’s a five month full-time course, 5-6 days a week. I wouldn’t see my kids much, but my son would be 18 by then and would hopefully be ok with picking up the slack whilst I was occupied at school. I’d have to get a driver’s licence, since that’s a requirement too, along with US citizenship. And honestly, I’m getting tired of depending on others when it comes to needing a ride somewhere that I can’t do on a bike. The logistics are really annoying (I need a driver’s licence to get a car, but I need a car to get a driver’s licence), so I’m going to have to do some creative thinking about how to get around that.

I’ve also never even as much as picked up a gun before in my life, either. Obviously, that wasn’t going to be an issue when considering a career in the police in the UK since most police there aren’t armed, but here, they are. I’m not crazy about guns, although mostly it’s the fact that I believe most people just shouldn’t have them, not that they are ipso facto bad. The military, police, and maybe some farmers and other people need them in their work; everyone else, not so much. Regardless, maybe I can take some lessons or something since if I can’t shoot straight then I imagine the academy would take a dim view of this.

Right now, my thinking is to obtain the three books on the study list and just go to town over the next year. Know the law, procedures, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, backwards and forwards. And whilst I’m certainly in pretty good shape physically (100 miles of cycling a week – plus weightlifting – will do that), it can always be better. The academy has two intakes a year, in January and then July. If I could maybe convince USCIS to expedite my naturalisation to where I actually became a US citizen no later than May/June, I could hopefully start the July 2018 academy program. If not, I probably wouldn’t be able to start the academy until January 2019. Obviously, this is less than ideal. Even entering in 2018, I’d be 39. That’s not exactly a spring chicken, although there is no maximum age you can become a police officer in Texas (as set by the state licencer, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement), though individual agencies can set their own maximum cutoff ages. In Fort Worth and Dallas the cutoff is 44.

So, this is what’s been on my mind a lot these past few weeks. Am I capable of doing this? Should I do this? I know if my wife were here she would tell me to do it, as well as keep a spare uniform for, uh, “activities”. Maybe this is the point where I draw a line under my self-loathing and hatred of myself, and actually start to think of myself as someone who isn’t a piece of shit.

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