Saturday, December 22, 2007

Book Smart vs. Street Smart...

Many agencies these days want folks to have some college units before they will hire them. I can kinda' understand the thought process. By going to college and passing some classes, you show that you're educateable. I know, that's not even a word... so freakin' sue me.

College makes you book smart. Book smarts can be a very good thing in life. Unfortunately, book smarts are not all they're cracked up to be. We have had some very smart people fail FTO. We have also had some very smart people realize law enforcement is just not for them.

We had an officer a while back who was very, very smart. The guy had a Master's degree in some obscure biological discipline. Why he wasted that on a job in law enforcement is beyond me. Anyway, the guy is intelligent, articulate and very personable. All good traits for a cop. This was his first job. He came to us right out of college.

The problem is, he wasn't the least bit street savvy. You could tell he grew up in a rich area and went to rich schools. He probably never heard a cuss word in his life. He has likely never been in a fight.

One day, I rolled up to cover him while he was in training. He was talking to one of our typical hoods, and the knucklehead was "motherfucking" him up one side and down the other. The officer was just standing there trying to get a word in edgewise, trying to tell the guy to sit down, trying to tell him why we stopped him, but the guy just wouldn't shut up. The officer was simply too nice for his own good. This guy took advantage of the "niceness" and took control of the situation. Not a good thing to let the bad guy take control. I couldn't stand it anymore, so with the blessing of the trainer, I stepped in.

I told our friend to shut the fuck up and sit his ass on the curb so the nice officer could explain the situation. Yes, those were my words. You know what happened next? The knucklehead shut the fuck up, and sat his ass on the curb. I was speaking his language and he understood he was no longer in control.

When I looked at officer "Friendly", his jaw was hanging open as he stared at me in amazement. He had apparently never heard such language from a police officer's mouth. I think only my mom would have been more surprised (I wonder if she reads this). Nobody else I work with would even bat an eye. That is the caliber of person we deal with on a day to day basis. You have to talk to them in a language they understand. I certainly don't talk that way to everyone. You have to be able to read people to know who needs what sort of treatment.

I grew up in a not so beautiful town. It was a decent area, but all of the schools sucked because they served the entire area. You were either a beautiful person, or you learned to deal with business. I tended to keep to myself in school. I had a small group of friends, and that was it. I didn't hang with the badasses, but they generally didn't screw with me, I suppose because of how I carried myself. I knew how to talk. Not just speak, but talk.

Book smarts are great in this business, but street smarts are by far the more important trait to possess.

1 comment:

USAincognito said...

Excellent post. I agree. More officers need that street smartness over book smartness. What knowledge you got up in your head can only get you so far. What knowledge you got from experience can get you a lot further.