How many of us have read great crime novels (or seen TV shows or movies) featuring the romantic exploits of law enforcement officers? Invariably gorgeous, they run from one passionate entanglement to another.
I often chuckle when I see these depictions. As I discovered when I first put on a gun and badge as a wide-eyed 22-year-old fresh out of college, the reality of finding love on the job is quite different. Many of my friends were already engaged or married, but I was single and unattached. I considered myself worldly. Seasoned.
I had no clue.
More importantly, I had no clue about my cluelessness.
Dating was a problem. My friends stopped inviting me to social gatherings. Turns out a cop at a party is as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. When I met men on my own, they had one of two reactions: Run the other way or complete fascination.
I’m not sure which was worse.
I assumed the ones who beat a hasty retreat were involved in illegal activity, had lengthy rap sheets, or hung around with those who did. The other explanation was that they found the idea of a woman with a gun and defensive tactics training off-putting.
The ones who became fascinated presented a different sort of problem. They seemed drawn to the idea of being with a cop (hence the nickname, “holster sniffers”). They would ask me if they could shoot my gun (No), or if I could handcuff them (Not just no, but hell no). Some of them admitted they had wanted to be cops but hadn’t managed to pass the entrance requirements (causing me to give them a suspicious side-eye).
My schedule presented another hurdle. In my rookie years, I worked a rotating shift. And yes, that’s as horrible as it sounds. Four days on day shift, then three days on evening shift, followed by three midnight shifts. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was like having the flu for five years straight.
I couldn’t have a relationship with anyone on a normal schedule. Back in those days, there was no such thing as telecommuting, so my prospects dwindled to men who were “between jobs.”
And liked guns.
And fantasized about handcuffs.
Although some of my fellow female officers found romance with men in other professions, I realized that most of us ended up dating other cops. With mixed results. Which is why I imagine it’s become such a trope. The tricky part (that Hollywood never seems to address) is the regulations.
In any law enforcement agency, you’re not allowed to date or marry someone you work directly with, or who is in your chain-of-command. The conflict is self-evident and must be avoided. Therefore, when you start a relationship, you must make a choice: hide it, transfer to a different assignment, or find a new profession. None of these is a great option when you’ve only had two measly dates and have no idea where any of this is going.
Which is the situation I found myself in during my second year on the job. I was called into the conference room at the precinct. I walked in to find my entire chain-of-command: my sergeant, second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain.
I almost had a coronary. What the hell had I done? I must be getting fired, but for what?
After rubbing the back of his neck and clearing his throat, my sergeant finally asked me about the exact nature of my relationship with someone on my squad.
Yes, they needed to know my intentions with this young man.
Unfortunately, the floor refused to open and swallow me, so I was forced to answer all their excruciatingly embarrassing questions about TWO frigging dates with the guy in question (who apparently had a big mouth).
They decided one of us would need to be transferred to a different squad. He had seniority, so I had to go.
I reflect on these experiences as I write potential love interests for characters in my crime novels. I write two series, one about FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera, whose traumatic past keeps her mostly away from romance, and the other featuring Detective Veranda Cruz, who attracts a lot of male attention.
Veranda has her hands full with a large, loving, family that constantly interferes in her personal life. Her mother is becoming increasingly desperate as Veranda suffers the trials and tribulations of cop love.
Many fans of the Cruz series have written to tell me they’re anxious to see how things turn out for Veranda as she battles a powerful crime family while dealing with her would-be suitors and her supervisors.
Do you have a favorite fictional cop couple?