The tensest moment of any police encounter is the initial approach. You have no idea whether the suspect will fight, run or offer excuses. Although fighting and running place the officer at more risk, it is the endless excuses that often stick with me. Some are funny, some are pathetic and some are downright insulting. At the top of the list in the latter category is “I’m a veteran.”
Let me be clear, I am a veteran and my wife is a retired veteran. I have the utmost respect for military members and, when possible, I will give them a little bit more wiggle room when it comes to deciding what, if any, charges are necessary in a given situation. But, I find it disrespectful to active military, retirees and all who have served to have the first thing I hear from a suspect be “I’m a veteran” or “I was in (insert service branch here).”
The reasons I feel this way are rather simple. First, if you are still serving, it is probably obvious to any officer by your haircut, manner of dress, base access stickers and general demeanor. If the officer does not immediately pick up on your profession, you do not need to announce it; simply hand me your ID when I ask for it. Second, if you are a veteran you should be proud, but do not think that two years in the Army during the mid-seventies is going to get you a free pass 40 years later. Third, more often than not, the suspects who claim to be veterans have never served a day in their life and simply believe that by saying they did, it will gain them some extra consideration.
If you have an encounter and the officer believes you might be military, either through obvious signs or because you announced it, you should expect a few simple questions to follow depending on the reason for the encounter. An officer might ask for your MOS or rating, where you are stationed and how long you’ve served. Some of this is simple chit chat to keep things civil, some is an attempt by the knowledgeable officer to weed out the imposter or those who washed out and are claiming to be more than they really are. Believe it or not, we ask the same questions of those who claim to be “on the job” – i.e. a fellow police officer. Don’t take it personal.
Every officer has a certain amount of discretion when it comes to charges, with some obvious exceptions, and many are veterans themselves. This translates into many officers who are willing to use that discretion to help a service member or veteran when possible. But, you need to remember that discretion is similar to a favor and favors are earned, not guaranteed. In my book, active members have already earned possible discretion for minor violations and most veterans have at least opened the door. However, if you exhibit a sense of entitlement or, even worse, add charges due to being disruptive or combative, you make it hard to grant any type of favor.
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.
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