He sits in the front row of the briefing room, silent in his anxiety. It’s 6:50 p.m., and he’s ten minutes early as instructed. His back is to the room, a sign of submission to the inevitability of his lack of seniority, when the chairs in the back and closest to the exit are coveted by those of more lofty rank and lower badge number.
His uniform is perfect. Each shiny Class A button affixed so that the logo is right-side-up. The leather gear of his duty belt is unscuffed, unblemished – free of wear marks indicating thousands of hours sitting in squad cars. His hair is freshly shorn, his shave impeccable, his boots mirror bright.
The badge on his chest that he so recently earned shines brightly in the harsh interior lighting of the windowless room where roll call is held. His badge number will be the butt of a few jokes in the days to come, Officers claiming they can’t count that high, and sharing stories of their own first day, when their badge number was incomprehensibly high back then, and now is an indicator of years of Service and experience.
I study him from behind, seated in my chair in the back of the room. I see the straight back, that does not yet know the pain from wearing that duty gear that shines a soft black glow. I see the shoulders unbowed by the burdens of decisions made, lives changed, and stresses survived. I see his notepad on the table and pen in hand, poised to record all of the daily intelligence shared; unknowing that after awhile it all blends together – the suspect vehicles and persons of interest forming a background montage by which you live your life and serve that nights tour of duty.
Right now, he is a name to me on an Excel spreadsheet, an assignment, somebody new to train. In seven weeks he will be a source of stories, potentially life long friendship as I have with my own FTO’s; a source of pride or a source of shame.
It will be my job to turn him into a warrior, a mediator, a counselor, a traffic light, a report writer, a guardian, a parent, an advocate for the homeless and downtrodden, a social worker, a friend. I will keep him alive and pour my energies into him as if I was his parent, coach, or drill instructor – of which I am equal parts.
By the end of that first night, he will have known the first pride of Service. He will have heard the first curse yelled in the direction of his squad car as he rolls through a busy entertainment district, an insult targeting him for the uniform he wears. He will have his first coffee paid for by a grateful citizen.
He will have his first war story – an arrest of the nicest panhandler ever that turned out to be a hardened criminal with a parole violation warrant.
It will break my heart a little as I break him in to this new paradigm and world view that he has worked so hard to become a part of. A front seat to the greatest show on Earth is what I promise him, and to do everything I can to keep him alive long enough to learn if this is the job for him.
For now, seated in the back of the room as the Sergeants call attention to detail, all of that is in the future; a few short hours away separating the start of shift from the end of shift.
For now, he is a shiny new badge, an unknown nameplate, a fresh face to our nightly ritual of roll call. A nervous voice introducing themselves and trying desperately to sound confident as he is asked to stand, turn, and gaze at the room of hard faces and steaming coffee cups staring back at him.
His eyes ask permission to join our fraternity. We shall see.
For now, he is simply The Rookie.
Dan Cincinnatus | Instructor/Staff Writer, P2 Concepts