How Nice Is Too Nice?

Scott Nicholas
Vice President

Some of the trends we see throughout our careers are the complaints that officers are too nice or not nice enough. Firm, fair and consistent don’t always work in law enforcement, and, as you probably already know, every person we deal with is going to respond differently to every officer.

Ask, tell, make! This was taught in the Academy, but put your badge and career on the line and use it one time. I guarantee you will find yourself in a jackpot.

Example …“I asked you to stand up and turn around.” No response! “I’m telling you to stand up and turn around.” Still not responding, now make them by taking control of their arm, and the fight is on.

Do you think the “Monday morning quarterbacks” will support you? Not a chance in hell. They will say you are a bully, you are heavy-handed, you escalated the situation or you caused the suspect to fight you and resist you because you didn’t use your verbal judo to gain voluntary compliance. LMAO as I type this.

It’s so easy for someone to tell you how you should have done your job when most of them have never worn the uniform. Watching the video is not a fair indicator of the intensity that you were facing to evaluate your decision to use an empty-hand technique trying to take someone into custody. Remember that no use of force looks good on video, so don’t judge them unless you were there.

So, when does being kind and being patient or compassionate become conduct unbecoming an officer? If you try and be kind or compassionate, remember that the Monday morning quarterbacks will say you were either lazy and you didn’t make an arrest because you didn’t want to do the paperwork, or they will say you were looking for some type of “quid pro quo” for going easy on the suspect. 

Some of them may even go as far as to give their opinion on what your intentions were without any evidence at all. We all know that a cop is always guilty until proven innocent. Sad but true. Weigh your options and document your reasons for your decisions. Update CAD and follow policy to protect yourself.

I can tell you there are some very fine lines that our officers have been investigated for, and I don’t agree with a lot of them. Policies are violated every day in order to accomplish our goals of keeping Las Vegas safe. If you get investigated, they will not care that you were just following “practice” like you have been for years. My advice is to ask your sergeant to approve any policy you need to violate. It might sound dumb, but it will help you if you are investigated.

Using discretion is a joke when it comes to someone’s opinion of conduct unbecoming and what is proper in their world. We have the moral police on high alert when they think an officer stepped over any type of line, even when it’s not a policy violation. Take fraternization, for example. What is the true meaning and intent of the policy violation? To the best of my knowledge, the policy and discipline are for an officer fraternizing with the spouse of someone in our custody, and they had prior knowledge of the custody status.

Now we are told it’s the same for doing any favor for a suspect. Couldn’t that be digression? Hmmmm? OK, so what does favor mean? Example! “Officer, can you look up my court date?” “Officer, can I put on a jacket before you transport me?” “Officer, can I kiss my kids before you put me in the police car?”

Are you being a nice cop and using discretion, or are you in violation of a policy that gets you the same discipline as being arrested for BDV or a DUI? Are these all policy violations? How about the case where the citizen was speeding trying to get to the hospital to see his dying mother? The officer decided to have the man follow him (while speeding) and driving code so the man could get there faster. Did the officer use discretion? Or did P# 13841 the officer deserve to get a 40-hour suspension? It’s a lot to think about, but as long as we have people sitting back in their office critiquing your choices, you have to be careful and cover your ass with CAD, Elite reports, emails, texts, ORs or anything that memorializes your decisions or pre-planning.

In my opinion, if you are trying to be nice and you are not breaking the law and not trying to get something in return for your kindness or discretion, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Thank you for your membership, and as always, be safe.