The privacy of a police locker room is a place embraced by cops everywhere. It is a haven from haters, the misinformed, and others taking cheap shots at police and the noble work they perform.
When law enforcement officers report for work and enter the locker room to prepare for their shift, the conversations can be deeply personal and private.
Spin the dial to open the locker; suddenly partners are discussing yesterday’s felony car stop.
“What did you think when we suddenly found ourselves in a crossfire?” asks one officer.
“I know, right? How often do we discuss it, then suddenly it happened,” replies the other.
Preparing for Duty
Uniform pants ascend into place, boot laces are cinched, and then Velcro from a Point Blank vest is secured.
Cops don body armor without much thought; it’s simply part of the uniform. But when you consider its’ purpose, it is really quite sobering. How many other professions are required to take such precautions to preserve life before heading out for the day/night?
“Lord, please protect me and my partners as we seek to maintain order tonight,” was frequently my silent prayer while getting dressed for duty.
Handcuffs are pulled from their pouch and spun to ensure they are on the final click for quick and easy administration during hostile encounters.
Firearm and Taser in place; check!
The conversations continue with therapeutic benefits that are rarely considered. Partners in arms bond due to the experiences of the profession. The dialogue can be as free-flowing as that of a conversation by a bunch of cops sitting on bar stools, minus the alcohol.
Locker Room Privacy Invaded
The privacy of the locker room was never so real to me until employees from city hall were allowed to invade our sanctified place in order to access the department weight room, which was located between the men and women’s respective locker rooms at my agency.
How dare they, we thought.
Based upon our—police officers—collective reaction, you would have thought inmates from county jail were suddenly in our midst. But that was not the case. City hall employees were good people, but this was our inner-sanctum. Consequently, we didn’t want people outside the fraternity co-mingling with us, whether preparing for duty or changing clothes to go home.
We Had to Mind Our Manners
Suddenly, we had to measure our conversations when using the locker room during day watch, … all the more reason to work nights. We could no longer “high-five” cross-town partners who endured a fight for their life with a crazy person in the hospital emergency room. Unexpectedly, the blue crew had to mind its manners!
So while the sanctity of our locker room was invaded, my peers became like territorial animals marking their turf and deploying an unwelcome form of non-verbal communication.
Although the weight room belonged to the city, the equipment within was the property of the police association. As a result, labels quickly appeared on machines declaring ownership. “PROPERTY OF THE POLICE ASSOCIATION.” How juvenile, right? Yet my peers felt justified in their actions.
Moreover, the icy reception on display when city hall employees entered our sanctum suddenly made it an unwelcome place for non-cops to travel. I.e. A mild form of mad-dogging communicated words that never left our lips.
Naturally, this was not the kind gesture that should have been displayed, but it underscores the thought process possessed by most police officers—Us vs. Them.
Over the course of time, the uninviting atmosphere worked. All but one of the city hall employees discontinued using “our” weight room; thus, they no longer had reason to invade our locker room.
Feeling of Invasion
Sadly, I did not believe this to be a proud moment in our history, although I understood the feelings of invasion that were on display.
How about your work environment? Have you had a locker room, or similar place, invaded by “outsiders?” How did it play out?
– Jim McNeff
Jim worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-eight years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations.