The sheepdog theory. It is EVERWHERE in the law enforcement world. Essentially: “There’s three types of people in this world: sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves.” You see it on evetry Blue Pride t-shirt and Blue Power blog. I get it, it’s a powerful metaphor. The sheep don’t like the sheepdog because he is an asshole. However, the sheepdog has a higher function in protecting the sheep from the wolf.
I have a serious problem with this metaphor. Having spent a lot of time around Marines and cops, I have to say: Cops are more like cats.
Now drop the rage and hear me out. We are talking metaphors here, I’m just trying to find the most accurate one! Think about the cops you know. Now think about a sheepdog in your mind.
The sheepdog is dying for an order to drive the sheep and he cannot wait to get in there and nip it up. Those sheep are going to be circled, driven, and protected or the sheepdog’s heart may very well burst.
They thrive on order and lose their minds in fury if a sheep were to step out of line. Like, foaming at the mouth fury. Sounds to me like any Marine Corps Corporal. Doesn’t sound like a lot of cops.
Here’s 5 characteristics cops and cats unfailingly exhibit:
Territorial: Cops OWN their beat. They. HATE others coming into their area. It’s an admission that they cannot handle their own calls and a slight on their pride. Sure there are exceptions such as crowd control, they are already legitimately tied up with an arrest, or other some such. Cops and cats love claiming their territory, whether physical (Stay out of my division, bruh) to the job specialization (the DUI guy, the Transient guy, the Proto-Detective). They will also happily use these territories to lessen their own work too (Oops, looks like that crime happened in YOUR area, have a nice day!). The baseline point is territories matter deeply to cops.
Independence: Cats are extremely independent. Even when they are completely dependent, they pretend it is not the case. Cops are the same. My theory as to why cops hate testifying in court so much? Their actions are intensively parsed and equivocated, ruining the carefully constructed image of independent authority. It’s even ingrained into the system! The military will happily sacrifice leaders for the screw ups of those beneath them. Each Law Enforcement officer is independently responsible for their own actions. Heck, each shop (police car) is equally outfitted to be a mobile independent Office of Justice.
Predatorial: Cats love to hunt, investigate, be curious, and generally mess with things. That’s why they make viral videos. So do cops. They follow up on leading statements, ask uncomfortable questions, and happily confront people with inaccuracies. Running movements attract their attention as much as a red laser dot for any cat. With the right set of circumstances, they chase people with the same full body commitment of cat after mouse.
Command Presence: Cats have command presence. Appearance is everything to many officers. From freshly pressed clothes to neatly shined boots, a respectable outward appearance is critical to improving the sense of authority imparted by you and understood by the suspect. Ever seen a cat caught looking undignified? They stalk off. Most cops do the same.
Hydrophobia: Cats hate water. Cops hate water (at least California Cops). Going home, eating, and staying dry are three of the most important daily goals in a patrol officer’s life. Failure to do any of these makes for one grumpy cat… I mean cop. Feed them, keep them dry, and it’s amazing how friendly they can be!
The military is all about unit integrity, mass movement, and troop handling. Pack animals. Policing is the precise application of tone, authority, and law to ensure compliance. Generally solo or pair hunters. I get why cops as a culture want to be included in the sheepdog mythos, but I just don’t find it as persuasive. It was designed by a military officer as a paradigm for his minions, not cops.
I truly believe this is more accurate. Disagree? Let me know in the comments below! If you have a better animal metaphor, I’d love to hear it. Also, before you start slinging the prejudice: I don’t have a cat.