Former Milwaukee Beat Cop Shares Lessons Learned On The Job

Mar 18, 2015

From Ferguson to New York to Milwaukee's Red Arrow Park, a lot has happened during the past year that's caused the relationship between the police and citizens to erode.

"400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman" by Adam Plantinga.

Writer Adam Plantinga doesn't expect his new book to completely change that. But he'd like it if 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman helps people better understand what police officers go through every day. And he hopes that cops might gain something from the exercise of introspection.

"I mean, cop shows – their job is to entertain people. If they showed the way things actually are, there’d be a lot of cops drinking bad coffee and writing police reports, and who wants to watch that? But a little attention to verisimilitude goes a long way," he says.

Plantinga is a sergeant for the San Francisco Police Department, but before that, he was with the Milwaukee Police Department for seven years. And before that, he was an English major at Marquette.

"Police work is a strange, volatile business, there's going to be missteps. You chronicle them and you learn from them," he says. "...I learned the hard way by making mistakes."

Plantinga says that one of the hardest things cops deal with is kids. Police interact with a lot of children who have the deck stacked against them - father in prison, mother on drugs.

"You do what you can with kids. You don't treat them like adults, you try give them room to operate," he says. "That is probably one of the most frustrating things about being a police officer. You see generations upon generations of kids that are trying to muscle themselves out of quicksand."