How do you feel about society in general after being a police officer for so long, especially compared to your opinion before you were scraping drunks off sidewalks on a regular basis?
Excellent question. I get to see humanity with the lid off. I see everyone at their worst; when they're a victim of a crime, when they've been in a bad accident, had an overdose or committed a deplorable crime. For a lot of people, I see them on the worst day of their life. You can get really jaded. You really can't take the job home with you and apply your on duty contacts to your everyday life too closely. You have to be smart and realize that all of the people at your ten to fifteen radio calls are not indicative of society in general. Of all the people who live in a given city, a very small percentage call for police service and en even smaller percentage commit crimes. That being said, there's a decided lack of basic civility in the city I practice law enforcement. I have lived in the city I police in. It is not fun running into people on a day off after I've already dealt with them on duty. It doesn't matter whether it was something frivolous like a family dispute or I ended up taking them to jail, it's never very good. I hate driving in my Personally Operated Vehicle (POV, my car that isn't my black and white city vehicle). When I'm not in my black and white and I have to drive through my city, lots of people cut me off in traffic, box me in while in traffic and generally drive like raging assholes. Outside of traffic the lovely denizens of the city I work are all too eager to cut in lines at the supermarket and seemingly never ever smile or say "Good Morning".
How does being a police officer affect your family life? Your social life?
Positively it pays pretty well, it's a profession I can be proud of and it sets a good example for my son and any brothers and sisters he may have in the future. I really like doing it, so it's something I enjoy doing when I'm away from my family. Parts of the job are a LOT of fun, too. I mean, being allowed to drive fast and carry a gun is awesome!
Negatively, it requires shift work which can just ruin your health. Take your pick from bad diet, poor sleep and not getting enough exercise. The most recent study I came across said prolonged working of overnight shifts can take about four years off of your life. Those things I just named also contribute greatly to moodiness, which all spouses love to put up with. Knowing all this, I've recently switched to a shift (or watch as we call them) with more normal hours, am watching my diet much closer and am exercising. My being a police officer almost cost me ever getting a second date with my current wife. But that's a story for another time.
The darkest part is the mortality of the job. You have the same odds of dying in a traffic collision that you do as dying by a criminal's hand. You have twice the odds of dying by your own hand than you do by a criminal's. Obviously, I'll cover these at a later date, in fuller detail.
How does the general public treat you?
How I'm treated really depends on what neighborhood I work. Most affluent neighborhoods just love the police to pieces. I mean, as you're driving on patrol they'll pull up next to you and enthusiastically say things like, "Thank you for all you do!" Which is a bit odd. I mean, you are welcome and all . . . but some days I do the bare minimum. I work about 195 days a year, I'm not at my tip top all of those days. Other affluent neighborhoods are very Leftist and hate your ass. These self-important douches view the police as "The Man" that is "keeping everyone down" and a direct tool of "imperialist repression". Or something. I mean I know directly of coppers doing their job, they righteously detain someone whom they believe is involved in illegal activity. From the neighborhood they get heckled, "You're racist!" or "Leave that homeless person alone!" Never mind the fact the person they've detained stole a car or had outstanding warrants. The ghetto generally hates us. Unlike the affluent Leftist enclaves, there is a Machiavellian fear that keeps most people in line in the ghetto. There is a silent majority who do appreciate the job we do in the most impoverished areas of the city, but to avoid trouble they don't speak out. These are broad generalities and I have not worked all parts of the city equally and I don't pretend to be a master sociologist where my jurisdiction's concerned.
How does the general public react to you in uniform versus not in your uniform?
I've never worked a plainclothes assignment, so I can't truly answer this too well. I have however worked in unmarked police cars. That is fun. I've been in full uniform and seen something suspicious I would have never been able to see if I were in a black and white. Policing in an unmarked police car really allows you to get right on top of suspects before they notice you.
If you're simply talking about on duty in uniform versus off duty out of uniform it's vastly different. When I drive my black and white, most people drive a few miles below the speed limit, let me into their lane when I have to change lanes, etc. When I'm in my POV it's obviously the same as it is for all of you - Mad Max, survival of the most cunning.