“Yeah, that new blonde girl? I heard she slept with one of the instructors at the police academy.”
This was the first rumor that spread around my department when I was brand new. It was completely false, I was not fucking an instructor at the academy (or anyone else for that matter) and, even two years after the fact, I am still confused about how or why the rumor started.
I do know that, at the time, it originated and was perpetuated by an officer who I had never spoken to. I was 25, a brand new police recruit, and mortified some of my coworkers thought I had slept my way through the police academy. Plus, I was pissed.
At the academy, I had worked my butt off. I had the highest grades in my class, and I had gone through all the usual bullshit of getting punched in the face, Tased and pepper sprayed. And I would have rather gone through that a second time then figure out how to deal with an untrue rumor that undermined my hard work.
At the time, as tempting as it was to correct the record, and you know, punch that gossipy moron in his face, I ignored it. I went through field training, focused on working hard, and got through it. And eventually, that rumor disappeared.
When I became a cop, I had to learn how to shoot a gun, develop a command presence, and defend myself in a fight. The most the most difficult thing I had to learn, however, was how to deal with rumors.
Police departments have more gossip than a middle school gym locker room. It is a 24/7 operation, which provides a festering breeding ground for around-the-clock rumors. While everyone gets talked about by their coworkers at one point or another, I’ve noticed that women, especially if they are new, younger or attractive, they will be the center of department gossip at one point or another.
I’m not saying my male coworkers don’t have to deal with rumors, because I know they do. The difference, however, is that rumors about female officers seem to revolve around the theme of sex. For some reason, who we are or are not sleeping with becomes everyone’s business.
After a few years of working in this field, as well as collecting advice from some of my female coworkers, here is my advice to women wanting to enter this line of work:
As a female cop, a lot of people (citizens, coworkers, your coworkers’ families, etc.) will assume you’re a lesbian or you’re fsleeping with your married male coworkers. Or both. (Don’t ask me how people jump to both conclusions simultaneously, but believe me, it happens.)
In terms of dealing with those assumptions: It’s 2017, so who gives a shit if someone thinks you’re a lesbian. And who gives a shit if you actually are a lesbian. No one cares, and if they do, that is their problem.
As for sleeping with your coworkers, married or not, — just don’t do it. Unless you’re positive you will marry the guy and live happily ever after, it’s not worth it. That being said, I’ve never done it and I have several coworkers who are happily married to one another. But I’ve also seen first-hand the flaming pile of shit that explodes all over the department when things end poorly.
Another way to avoid rumors is to not go out drinking with your male coworkers, especially if you’re new and the only woman there.
I understand that I will never be “one of the boys.” And I’m okay with that. I don’t need to go to Hooters with them (off duty, of course), or Vegas, or anything else involving alcohol with a group of men I spend more than 40 hours a week with anyway.
I will never fully fit in with a large group of men, and I don’t try to, because I know if I do, someone somewhere in my department will decide I’m trying to ruin a marriage.
The best, and most basic advice I have in dealing with rumors, however, is to try your best to ignore it. The truth is, if a rumor starts about you, by next week, everyone will likely be gossiping about someone else’s mistake or indiscretion.
Ignore the rumors, and focus on working hard. Let the 24/7 gossip cycle of the department to run its course. Focus on your job, and don’t let gossip dictate how you do it.