This year as president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) I've had the pleasure of meeting many officers from across our state. They are certainly a diverse lot, but it got me thinking about the types of people that a career in law enforcement appeals to. Over the years (34) there are three character traits that I've noticed that appear in successful officers.
You have to be linebacker tough. I observed this trait first hand watching "Wild Bill" Cody, a New Orleans Saint linebacker, pull off his own big toe nail with a pair of pliers at halftime so that he could continue to play. It had been cracked in the first quarter when a lineman had stepped on it with his cleats. You need to play (or work) through minor inconveniences.
You have to be wide receiver smart. Al Dodd, a New Orleans Saint wideout, had a chance to field punts against the Atlanta Falcons because of an injury to our regular punt returner. Al had bragged all week how great he was going to do. The first punting situation arrived. Al should have fair caught the ball, but in his exuberance to show off and back up his wild talk, he fielded it amongst several Falcons. As I set the huddle after Al had disappeared under a large pile of punt coverers, he came staggering into it and smiled. We all immediately noticed the loss of Al's two front teeth. Just then a Falcon jogged over, held out his hand containing one of Al's teeth and said, "Here, you might need this." We had to take a time out because our huddle dissolved into hysterical laughter. Now, here comes the smart part. Al was tough, he stayed in the game. As he was getting ready to field the next punt, he raised his hand and signaled for a fair catch as the Falcons' punt team was still lining up, before their center could even snap the ball. Al was always a quick learner.
Finally, you have to not want something too much. L.T. was a defensive end, again with New Orleans. He loved to play and would do anything to be on the field. He had separated his shoulder early in the season and had worked hard to come back. The trainer had provided some pain meds to ease his participation in this, his first game back. The problem arose when L.T. took it upon himself to gain a little more pain insurance by taking just a few more of what he thought was pain medication from our medicine chest without authorization from the trainers. He mistook Quaaludes for Codeine. Strong sleeping aides instead of pain control. He had a great first half but actually fell asleep on the bench during the third quarter, toppled over backwards and re-separated his shoulder. True story.
Those values still hold true today. Toughness, intelligence, and prudence guarantee success in football, life, or any profession.