I don’t get my news from Facebook but you have to admit that it is at least as good a source as the network propaganda that we are subjected to these days. While perusing a Facebook page dedicated to the opinions and observations of police officers, past and present, I came across a post suggesting that flat top haircuts and other ultra short styles belonged on State Troopers who would ignore serious crime to write a summons on some innocuous traffic code offense. The writer opined that if stopped by an officer with a flat top, hang on as a citation was sure to follow. I bristled, then reflected for a bit and laughed at the notion. There was, however, an element of sincerity in the writers commentary which has prompted this discourse. I should also note that I would welcome enough hair today to enjoy a flat top!
From time to time, I sported a flat top haircut. I was an Army officer’s son and really had no idea that you could wear your hair much longer than was necessary to manage a part. It was convenient and required only the short stroll from the shower to the locker in gym class to “blow” dry. I was never inconvenienced by the Army’s insistence on a nearly shaved head nor was I remotely concerned when I reported to the Patrol Academy with a buzz cut. In my day, a trip to the office resulted in a head to toe inspection by every senior officer you encountered, often without your knowing about it, and I was careful to project the “image” that was expected. I note that in today’s environment, Patrol officers still tend to be very image conscious. An added advantage to a short hair style was that you had no time to arrange and perfect a long hair style when the phone rang at 3AM summoning you to an accident somewhere. The folks in a wreck are traumatized enough with out facing a trooper with a five o’clock shadow and hair bristling from under his hat! I supervised officers that occasionally had to be reminded to get a haircut or tend to some other lapse in the expected grooming standard. I am unapologetic about this tendency.
I enjoyed criminal work, and at one point in my career was responsible for the criminal investigation bureau within the Patrol. Good criminal investigators are special folks who are intuitive, smart, detail oriented, focused and tenacious. We need these folks, however; they too, developed these attributes on the road, working traffic. Occasionally, the job required these folks to appear as shaggy beasts, capable of assimilating into the underworld with ease. Certainly, plain clothes investigators needed to reflect the appearance of the community they work in, but still can maintain some degree of decorum in their dress and grooming. Now to the heart of this issue.
Good traffic cops put a lot of criminals in jail. Every miscreant in our society drives or rides in a car nearly every day of their lives. Sure, there are traffic cops who simply write the summons and move on, ignoring one or more tells that would suggest the violator should be subjected to additional scrutiny. On the other hand, there are traffic cops who will astound you with the number of good criminal arrests they make, all emanating from a simple violation of traffic law. A good number of these successful officers wear their hair short, very short in some cases. As an administrator, I loved these guys. It is unfortunate that today’s crime shows tend to ignore the uniformed officer in deference to the detectives who solve cases with technology that may or may not exist. I enjoy the live action shows that highlight the talents of uniformed officers on the street who make criminal cases out of the simple act of stopping a traffic violator.
I would ask my police brothers and sisters who see traffic enforcement as a necessary evil to reconsider their position on the issue. A clean cut officer, perhaps even with a flat top, who chooses to do so, will be as formidable a crime fighter as any detective anywhere. He or she must remain focused on everything around them as opposed to a case they are actively working on. My hat is off to effective traffic officers, everywhere, and never, never should they be underestimated!