POLICE EMPLOYMENT

The Five Worst Things About Being a Cop

Every job has its downside, and police work is no exception. Shootouts aside, here are the five things that bug cops the most.

1. Midnight Tan of the Mole People

Cops working the swing and graveyard shifts don't see a lot of sun. Daylight activates melanin that tans the skin -- so Rookie Officer Dracula is likely to retain that pasty glow. Night work means no vitamin D, either. When a night patrolman stops a motorist and sticks his head in the driver's side window, he may resemble a chicken breast in a jaunty blue hat. And when he finally earns vacation time and strips down to a swim suit in Maui, the population of tanned locals groans and gags.

2. Paperwork

Officers should ask the local blood-bank to stock up on plasma. After a year of non-stop paper cuts, they sometimes look as if they slept with Freddy Krueger. In the academy, they once dreamt of wild car chases, interrogating perps, and racing their new speedboat at the lake. It's a nice image to hold onto while writing, filing, and sifting through a four-foot-tall stack of reports at all hours of the night.

3. Polyester Uniform Shirts and Slacks

Locked up in the air-conditioned cruiser in the middle of a sweltering summer day, many officers find themselves asking their partners, "What's that smell?" A diet rich with caffeine, doughnut icing, and bean burritos eventually channels intense chemicals into the human body's 4,000-plus sweat glands. While it holds permanent pressing, a polyester uniform cannot absorb sweat. To innocent bystanders, it smells like two-year-old Roquefort.

4. Sobbing, Moaning, Wailing Motorists

After a week on the street, most officers have heard a year's worth of excuses. "I had to burn the carbon off my sparkplugs to increase engine performance," some guy wails before letting the officer know that "cops just seem to have it in for me." Other tired lines include, "I sent my speedometer out for adjustment" or "My wife was going to get pregnant and I just had to be there." It all sounds like a bad country western CD after a few weeks. "My car knows the way home," rings a little untrue from the drunk who has wrapped his fender around a tree.

5. Motorcycle Duty

Sure, it was fun cruising up the coast highway on a bad hog during college. But now cell-phone-yammering motorists are piloting SUVs the size of aircraft carriers across three or four lanes at a time. Used to be, an officer could light it up, hit the siren, and get anyone to pull over. Today, warning lights just barely pop a glow on an SUV's rear bumper. Besides, the driver is busy watching Oprah on the overhead and the kids in the rear seat are buried in multi-player police-shooter games. And of course, for every citation, there's the paperwork.

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