Am I alone in believing I can pick off-duty police by sight alone?

It’s not as if this is a super-power that I’ve developed as a result of exposure to cosmic rays or nuclear radiation, or anything like that.

I’ve just noticed that there are a bunch of guys who are regular users of my local sauna, as I have become myself over the last few weeks, and as soon as I set eyes on them, my instincts said Those guys are totally police.

Also, it’s hot in here.

These guys have a certain build and a certain walk. Heavy across the shoulders, arms, and chest, close-cropped hair, and a solid, self-possessed way of holding themselves. They’re basically variations on a theme of this guy right here, the state’s Police Commissioner.

A bit younger and broader, maybe, but about the same. His name is Simon too. He occasionally goes to a cafe I also go to, and believe me, I don’t think I’d want to bump into him walking down a darkened alley. He’s a big dude.

It’s not that I think all police have a certain look, I just think that all people with this certain look are likely police. I could be wrong.

But I’m going to be very careful not to accidentally clip any of their cars in the parking lot.


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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

29 responses to “It’s A Fair Cop”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,
    take a gander at that guy’s pronounced eyebrow ridges.
    That guy’d shoot you between the eyes for sport, were he sure he wouldn’t get fingered for it.
    Stay away from guys like this!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      My buddy Rich, who works at the cafe he frequents, once enquired about the possibility of regular citizens being tased under controlled circumstances, just to see what it felt like.

      Simon Overland was less than impressed.

  2. Matt says:

    Nah.

    I worked with cops for three years, and once you’ve learned the tells–which it seems you’ve done–they give themselves away real quick. Good thing to do if you’re getting up to any nefariousness.

    Er, not that I’D know anythig about that!

    Little bit more practice and you’ll have learned to spot where they’re keeping a concealed weapon. And which cars are off-duty or plainclothes.

  3. Greg Olear says:

    Don’t all the cops in Australia wear red coats and beefeeder hats and carry muskets? I thought for sure they still did that.

  4. James D. Irwin says:

    My best friend is a cop in Australia— Perth to be more precise.

    It scares me that that the guy I used to sing Beatles songs with in the back of class and occasionally drink beer with in an alleyway now walks around with a fucking gun AND the authority to use it…

    He’s totally not like a typical cop…

    • Anon says:

      Then cherish him and watch him closely for any future intervention needs. I was quite good friends with a precinct captain for, oh, almost twenty years. He’d always been pretty open-minded and not at all lock-step with policy but we got into a rather pissy email exchange over the validity of “Terry stops” a few weeks ago and I haven’t heard from him since. I apparently hurt his widdow feewings.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Ah, the police officer lock-step dance…

        • Anon says:

          It’s especially sassy when they’re all wearing motorcycle cop boots….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Duke took us to the LA police academy diner when we were in LA – for those unaware (as I most certainly was), the diner inside the academy is open to the public. There’s some great old memorabilia and photos in there – my favourite was a panoramic shot of thirty or so motorcycle cops on their bikes in a loose, formation-style semicircle.

          It just looked so… badass!

  5. Richard Cox says:

    Not all cops have that look, but most of the people who have that look are cops. Or military dudes on leave.

    My good friend who’s a cop wore his hair like that until he shaved it. He has the same heavy shoulders. His name isn’t Simon, however.

  6. Simon Smithson says:

    Damn it! I can’t believe I missed the opportunity to title this post ‘Hot Cops’.

    FUUUUUUUU-

  7. Slade Ham says:

    In the off chance it ever appears that I’m ignoring you, it’s because posts like these only show up in The Feed, and I never see those.

    Carry on, cop stalker 🙂

  8. D.R. Haney says:

    All criminals can quickly spot a cop, or so I gathered from a scene in Sea of Love with Al Pacino.

    Of course, I’ve often been mistaken for a cop myself. That happened once even at the Police Academy diner — by cops! I took some friends from NYC to the diner, and as we were walking up the stairs, a few cops passed us and said “Good afternoon, sir!” to me. But that was back in the days when I wore cowboy boots and a bomber jacket, which may have had something to do with it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      My friend Julian is a big fan of Michael Mann – I like a lot of Mann’s work, but, for my money, he’s never going to top Heat.

      Anyhow, Julian tells me that while filming Miami Vice, Colin Farrell was getting advice from undercover cops, and they planned to play a gag on him. The idea was that they would bring Colin Farrell along with them on an ‘actual’ bust, and that everything would go wrong, Farrell would be terrified, and then it would be revealed that it was all a setup.

      I’m wondering, at what point would Colin Farrell wonder if one of the ‘dealers’ would look up and say ‘Hey, shit! That’s Colin Farrell! It’s a bust!’?

      I tell everyone about that diner. It made a real (and good) impression on me.

  9. Judy Prince says:

    I thought all men in Australia looked like that, and that you were the odd man out, Simon.

    ok, seriously: It’s the clean-cut and bulked-up look. Same with the military of which we have lots here in Norfolk, VA, the largest military naval base in the world. I once asked a military man how I could recognise one of them. He said, “They’ll have close-cut haircuts and be walking fast.” There you are, then!

    And, Duke, maybe cleancut-ness, yes, but you’ve got that sensitive poet-type pose and serious demeanor.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Judy, I’ll stop disgracing my country and bulk up to all hell now.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Simon, the haircut’s the thing. It’s as if natural, reasonable, free hair is A Bad Thing for military folk. Hair must be controlled and the easiest way is to cut it so that it can’t move, no matter how much shakin’s going on. OTOH, a total bald look would be way too serious or way too statement-making. A tough game, being tough.

  10. Judy Prince says:

    Forgot to say, Simon: Do Not Bulk Up! Look what happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger—I mean before all that other stuff. I saw a photo of him once when he was off-guard and relaxed—YOIKS! All the bulky muscles had gone south and flabby.

  11. Yvonne de la Vega says:

    Oscar Grant RIP

  12. I was at the Town Hall meeting on Health Care Reform. Two big dudes sat in the front. I was there with my camera and my attitude. Republicans were calling disabled women communists.

    Suddenly I recognized one of the dudes. “Hi Ted,” I said. “Your shirt sure is bulky.”

    “You should see all this stuff I have to carry,” he said. His shirt was orange checked, lumpy. “I almost fell asleep,” he added.

    It was that exciting.

    He’s my friend on Facebook. He’s a badass undercover cop.

  13. Where I was raised, you can spot ’em by the stache on the upper lip.

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