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Which Came First? The Boy or the Badge?


Philosophers have long pondered which came first…the chicken or the egg?  As a self-appointed philosopher, I frequently ponder which came first….the boy or the badge? (Disclaimer:  I do know and admire the female officers out there, but I don’t live with them, so I’m not qualified to explore their personalities!)

Are the guys who become police officers born to be policemen?  Do they have certain specific, identifiable personality traits which act like a magnetic pole and draw them to this job?  Is it their calling?  Is it in their blood?  Are they predestined to be men in blue?

Or, do they develop this “police persona” after the badge has been pinned on and they shift into police mode?  After the academy gives birth to them as “real” cops, do they look around and imprint on their FTO, following him around like a baby chick and inevitably becoming just like him?  Is it a combination of the two?

Michael Wasilewski and Althea Olson, a cop and a social worker who write articles for officer.com as well as on their own website morethanacop.com, have explored this very question. In their efforts to identify a “typical” cop, they discovered the psychological tests administered to police recruits identified a profile group with these personality characteristics:

  • Self-discipline
  • Social boldness
  • Extrovert
  • Emotional toughness
  • Assertiveness
  • Self-assurance
  • Intelligence
  • Sound-minded

While Wasilewski and Olson believe these personality characteristics exist in successful police officers, a distinct “working” personality develops overtime as officers engage in police work.  This “working” personality is often described as the “police” personality by officers themselves.  The “working” personality traits include:

  • Cynicism
  • Distrust
  • Resistance to change
  • Pessimism
  • Suspiciousness

And really, it all makes sense if you think about it.  Are cops cynical?  Of course they’re cynical.  Why wouldn’t they be?  When you’re cynical, you expect nothing good from people.  What do they see every day at work?  Pretty much nothing good. Distrustful?  Yes…they are distrustful, too.  They are lied to daily.  (You know…”These aren’t my pants!) Suspicious? Are they suspicious?  Only if they want to stay alive.  Pessimistic, you say? Well, pretty much.  Pessimism is cynicism.

So, which came first?  The Boy or the Badge?  I do believe men find their way into this job because they were “born this way.”  I do believe they develop a personality –  in order to allow them to survive the job mentally and emotionally intact.  I do believe the two can successfully co-exist.  What do you think?