Police Talk, Police Work

I’m interviewing police for my new research on “gun policy on the ground.” It looks at the frontline workers – from bureaucrats to police chiefs – who are charged with implementing US gun policy. I didn’t think it was possible that I could enjoy a project as much as I enjoyed my work on gun carriers, but I was wrong — I’ve already learned a great dealing talking to cops, and what I’ve enjoyed the most is the ability of police officers to move effortlessly between slogans and story-telling. In my interviews, the heightened wits and unexpected twists of police work meet the poetic simplicity with which police and other frontline workers approach and understand their work. This is a short-but-growing list of some of these sayings:

* “A Happy Wife is a Happy Life.” (Officer counseling someone who was coming to gun board to get his gun license reinstated after his PPO had expired)

* “You have one foot in jail, one foot out.” (Rookie officer, talking about current public attitudes about public law enforcement)

* “Don’t assume anything until you see the palms of both hands.” (Retired officer, talking about his experiences with gun violence over decades of service)

* “You can’t arrest your way out of a problem.” (Voiced by officers of all rank)

* “The only bad arrest is no arrest.” (Officer commenting on domestic violence arrests)

More to come…