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Top 10 Things Police Officers Learn on the Job

Peter Moskos is a former police officer and author of the popular law enforcement blog, Cop in the Hood ( He is currently a professor of law and police science at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he specializes in police culture, crime prevention and ending the war on drugs.

It should go without saying that policing isn't like what you see on TV shows and in the movies. But, it's not so easy to learn what policing is like. Here are a few of things I learned policing the streets of Baltimore's Eastern District.

  • Policing is really about the men and women you work with. People are willing to risk their lives for you - it's a powerful feeling.
  • Despite what police say, officer safety is not the number one priority. If it were, you'd never leave the police station. Danger is part of the job.
  • The job can be dangerous, but it's the drudgery of routine that wears you down.
  • On the street, everybody lies. Some of the lies are more entertaining than others!
  • To cops, overtime is like a drug. It's something you'll crave, and something that influences far too much of what you do on and off duty.
  • Interactions with the public go much better when people show you their hands and sit still when asked.
  • Policing is a job like no other. But, when the day ends, it is just a job. Don't take things personally. Even when other people want you to. Especially when other people want you to!
  • If they call for a doctor in the house, you might be the next best thing.
  • You'll be amazed at the things you laugh at. Anything can be funny... at least to a cop. And if you didn't laugh, you'd cry. Laughing is much better.
  • You won't save the world, but you might save somebody's life. What other job can offer you that?

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