What It’s Like to Date a Police Officer
I’m going to do something a little different for this post.
I’m going to talk about my love life.
My romantic relationships are not something I normally put out on the internet for all to read. In fact, only my sisters and some close friends know what goes on in that department. But I’m working on being more vulnerable and putting myself out there in 2020. (I do whatever Brene Brown says.)
So here goes…
I used to date a police officer. We dated for two years, and I even lived with him for a while. He’s actually one of the reasons I moved to Maui nearly 3 years ago. We are no longer together, but we ended our relationship on good terms, and when I asked him if I could write this post about him and our relationship, he said yes. (Disclaimer: I bribed him with dark chocolate and ice cream.)
I’m sharing my experience of dating a police officer because the purpose of this blog is to help you write great (and accurate) crime fiction novels. The protagonist in mysteries is often a cop/detective or is romantically entangled with a member of law enforcement in some way. I thought it would be helpful for you to know how members of law enforcement act in their day-to-day lives and in romantic relationships.
I hope that you use the information I share with you here to make your law enforcement characters more authentic and maybe give them some fun personality quirks.
In this post, I talk about how I met this man, what it was like to date him, and certain characteristics I noticed about him as a cop (and his co-workers). To protect his identity, I’m not using his real name. I refer to him as John, after John McLane in Die Hard.
How we met isn’t super exciting. We met on a dating website. I had been living in the Marshall Islands teaching science at the college for about a year and was planning on moving to Hawaii when my 2-year teaching contract was up. So, I decided to test the dating waters in the Aloha State.
He made the first move. He sent me an email with a short intro and a detailed list of why I should date him. I like a man who makes lists. (I love lists.) We had a lot in common. He was sarcastic and witty and easy on the eyes. I’m an editor, but I don’t judge a person on his or her writing ability or spelling skills. However, a person does get bonus points if they’re good with words. His grammar and punctuation were stellar.
I wrote back, and we started chatting via email/phone/video chat, and on my summer break, we decided to meet in person. That went well, and we officially began a long-distance relationship. After another visit during the following winter break (which got completely rearranged after the death of his father) and lots of video and phone chats, I decided to move to Maui and move in with him so we could be together. This was (and still is) the biggest romantic risk I have ever taken. I always said I would never move anywhere for a guy. Who knew?
Below you will find a list of behaviors and characteristics I observed and experienced when I dated John, in no particular order. While I believe some of these apply to all police officers, every cop is different. I had him read these over, and he approved all of them (okay, most of them).
- John has been with his agency for a long time. He enforces traffic laws and investigates crimes.
- John really, really likes guns. He has a whole bunch and is super excited about them. (Most of his cop buddies have them too.) He has about 10 and keeps them in his house. The way he feels about guns is the way I feel about books, office supplies, and crafting. They spark joy. However… I hate guns. Like, really hate them. (No hate mail please.) Having them in the house did not sit well with me, but I was comforted by the fact that he had extensive tactical training and knew how to use them in high-pressure situations.
- He let me organize his house after I moved in. He’s a little messy, and I’m not. (He might disagree with this.)
- He thinks driving fast is pretty fun, and he’s good at it. I felt very safe with him at the wheel.
- He calls criminals “crums.”
- He sometimes talked to me like I was a criminal. I did not enjoy this (and told him so).
- In any sort of public place, such as a restaurant, he must sit with his back to the wall facing the point of entry (preferably in a corner).
- He always wore a concealed weapon off duty when we would leave the house, even if it was just a quick run to the store.
- A fond memory I have is watching him set up his uniform before he went back to work. He would bring it home and wash it, and then he would hang it on a hook in the doorway. I watched him put all the pins, badges, chains, etc., back on it. Everything has a specific place. The agency has rules about it, and sometimes there are uniform inspections. (Cop Fashion Secret: They have stirrup things called shirt stays that prevent their shirts from becoming untucked. Not everyone wears these, but it’s an option.)
- Hugging him in full uniform with his vest on was like hugging a strong, long-limbed turtle.
- The above-mentioned uniform is very hot and uncomfortable, especially here on Maui in the summer. It’s dark, unbreathable fabric, with long pants, socks, and boots. I’ve lived on tropical islands for the past 5 years, and I always wear shorts, tank tops, and loose-fitting clothing whenever possible. I can count on one hand the times I’ve worn closed-toed shoes. They’re like prisons for my feet. And I hate socks now. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that uniform is and having to wear it for long stretches of time.
- His schedule was one of my least favorite things about his job. He often worked holidays and weekends, which is when I wasn’t working. He also got held over a lot if they were shorthanded. (“Held over” means he worked a double shift.) On my first birthday after I moved to Maui, he worked nearly 18 hours straight. I ate takeout sushi and watched the sunset by myself.
- When bad things happen (or are about to happen), everyone else is told to stay home, and cops (and other emergency services and health care professionals) have to go out. When Hurricane Lane was headed our way, John had to go out and help. When there were a lot of brush fires last summer, the police had to go stand out in the smoke and enforce road closures. As I sit and edit this post, the whole island (and the world) is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re isolated at home. John has to go issue citations for tourists/residents who violate the new stay-at-home order.
- When we were dating, John had rotating shifts. They switched every six weeks. The transition week was always hard. When he worked nights, he got a little cranky. I called him “Vampire John.” His agency is now in a trial period for permanent shifts (COVID-19 schedule changes notwithstanding).
- Police officers attend a lot of trainings. Some trainings are required for all police officers, but there are also additional trainings for cops on specific boards or task forces. A few trainings I remember off the top of my head are the dark web, drownings, and dojo training (use of force moves).
- As a forensic scientist in a crime lab for 7 years, I gave many presentations to law enforcement, attorneys, and nurses. Sometimes the police officers would fall asleep. I was slightly insulted at the time, but now I know that it’s highly likely they were coming off a night shift or had been working a double. John was tired a lot because of his schedule.
- He’s never been shot.
- He’s never shot anyone, although he has drawn his weapon on someone before. (He referred to it as “drawing down.”)
- It bothers him when criminals get slaps on the wrist, especially when they have a long record of run-ins with the law.
- He’s a fountain of information about the penal code.
- He didn’t share specific details about cases with me, but he did sometimes talk about cases in general terms. He really enjoyed telling stories about how he chased criminals during foot pursuits who were evading arrest. (In his version, he always caught the guy.) He would sometimes share more after the case had been closed.
- John was never really off duty. Physically, he wasn’t at work, but he was always mentally on duty. Always. He was very hypervigilant when in public, always watching people and assessing his environment. It made me feel sorry for him sometimes. He could never really relax.
- I came across him once when he was on duty after we had stopped dating. I was getting dinner at a restaurant at the mall and saw him in the parking lot after he had stopped to get coffee. He talked to me, but he was definitely in the “cop zone” and was constantly looking around and hyperalert.
- He’s not very trusting. (After working in law enforcement, neither am I.)
- In our relationship, he thought he was in charge [insert eye roll here]. I was actually in charge [insert smug grin here].
- He and his co-workers gossiped about work a lot.
- Police officers often get discounts for food. He ate out at restaurants while on duty all the time, and the servers/proprietors recognize him when he comes in without his uniform. One woman at a specific store always called him “officer.” It made me smile. I would then call him “officer” all the way home.
- I did fear for his safety, but it didn’t worry me as much as it would have in a bigger city.
- I rarely heed his advice, but I do avoid areas of Maui where he says not to go.
- He’s left-handed but shoots right-handed.
- He’s very strong. He works out a lot in the gym facilities at the station. They even have a dojo.
- He has a couple special spots that he likes to hide in when he’s on traffic patrol.
- He sees the worst side of humanity, which can skew a person’s view of the world (and results in a dark sense of humor).
- He thinks that people who leave their doors unlocked are ridiculous (as do I). Lock your doors, people!
- He’s a pretty decent cook. He made me bacon and eggs quite often. He also likes to make soups, pork chops, and other meat. His ultimate favorite food is cheese.
- My first cop-like encounter with John was on my first visit to Maui where I met him in person for the first time. He had his annual police officer physical, and I went to the beach across from the doctor’s office to wait. About 30 seconds after I crossed the street, I got a text from him saying, “You didn’t use the crosswalk.” Uhhh… My first thought was, “Is this guy for real”? The Marshall Islands didn’t have crosswalks, and they were mere suggestions when I lived in China (as are most traffic laws), so I was pretty relaxed about crosswalk rules by then. However, after nearly hitting jaywalking visitors with my car at least a half a dozen times since I moved here, I use the crosswalks regularly now.
- I only know his co-workers by their last names.
- There is a strong camaraderie between police officers. As his significant other, I sometimes found it hard to compete.
- He and his co-workers have a lot of catchphrases.
- I did have a pet name for him, which I will not share here. (It’s a little embarrassing.) He just called me Melissa.
- He’s very good at arguing. I think it’s because he has to enforce laws and think about how they would be applied to different situations.
- He really does like donuts. Not because he’s a cop, but because, in his words, “Everybody likes donuts.” (I actually don’t.)
I won’t go into specifics as to why the relationship ended. That’s between him and me, but ultimately, we wanted different things.
Even though it didn’t work out, John had a major impact on my life.
Once I knew that I was moving to Maui, I realized I needed a part-time job to save up for a car, deposits, and other moving necessities. I went to a side hustle website, saw a post about proofreading, and voila! My journey into editing began and is still going strong nearly 3 years later.
I never would have switched careers or started this website if I hadn’t met John, and I am very glad I met him.
Do you have any other questions about what it was like to date a police officer? Ask in the comments below!