Surviving Your 15 Minutes of Fame

Working in law enforcement means being in the public eye both on and off duty, 24 hours a day. With the advances in technology and the fact that almost everyone has their own personal camera within arm’s reach and instant access to the internet, that public no longer means simply your local community. Today being in the public eye means your actions could literally be viewed by the entire world within minutes of happening. Today’s law enforcement officer needs to know how to survive their own 15 minutes of fame.

When I first started my career in law enforcement, I had few long term goals. For the most part my personal goals were simple – do an honest day’s work, do what I believed was best under the circumstances and stay off of the evening news. I know other officers who never skipped the opportunity to be interviewed, photographed or just seen in the background on the 6 o’clock news. But I and a veteran officer, a mentor of sorts, who very early told me “Nothing good comes of being famous, even for a little bit,” stayed away. In his experience, a few minutes in the limelight often meant actions being second guessed, statements being over examined and even simple uniform infractions becoming a day on the street. All reasons to avoid the camera.

Of course my friend could have never imagined the possibility of the world we live in today. Honestly, if he could have, he probably would have retired, sold everything and moved into a cave deep in the woods. But, today’s officers have no choice but to live with the fact that they will be videoed, photographed and even streamed live on the internet – it’s no longer a matter of IF, but when. With this in mind, I would not offer the same advice as my mentor. Instead I would advise today’s rookie to be prepared.

PressAccept that cameras are everywhere – it is pointless to try to figure out if you are being filmed. This might have been possible when video cameras were the size of a small briefcase and about as easy to hide, but not anymore. Cameras are everywhere and in almost every electronic device imaginable. It’s impossible to tell when you are being recorded, so the best course of action is to assume you are always being watched and recorded.

Never do anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see – it’s an age old piece of advice, but it still holds true. If you find yourself conducting business in a manner you believe your mother might be embarrassed by, it is probably time to reevaluate your actions.

Do not allow the public to bait you – many of those looking to film law enforcement are simply hoping to catch a little bit of excitement to liven up their otherwise routine day, others are hoping to catch you doing something they can portray in the poorest light possible. If this second group cannot capture actual wrongdoing, it is likely they will attempt to provoke you, bait you into a fight or simply make you look like an idiot. The only thing you can do is not allow them to get what they want, do not let them win by baiting you into the trap they have set.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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