A Rookie's Badge of Acceptance

Rookie Cop Ben Flores Faces San Antonio's Rough Streets

Ben Flores, new dad, is also Ben Flores, new cop.

A 21-year-old San Antonio police cadet, Flores became a father for the second time just a few days before this exceptionally nice officer hit some exceptionally mean streets.

“I’m confident. I’m not cocky, but I’m confident,” Flores says with a nervous laugh.

As if being a rookie isn’t tough enough, Flores has drawn the shift called dogwatch – 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., San Antonio’s eight wildest hours.

His guide during his first weeks on the force is Al Byrom, a part-time preacher and full-time cop.

“He’s going to see things and handle things that he never dreamed were even happening in this world today,” Byrom says.

Even a routine traffic stop isn’t routine for Flores, who gets a lecture from Byrom about watching a motorist’s hands: “The hands is what’s going to kill you. He could have the biggest smile on his face and pull out the biggest gun and blow your head off’.

Every call, every crisis is an opportunity for Byrom to toughen Flores up.

When a man wanted on warrants ranging from drunk driving to credit card fraud is believed somewhere inside a dark house, Byrom sends Flores ahead to make the arrest: “I’m gonna let you lead, brother. I’ll be right behind you.”

Flores gets his man, but as always, Bryom has advice: “You can not cut them any slack; show them that you’re in control.”

The time for rookie mistakes is over when a 911 call comes in for two people shot, one in the head, in a drive-by shooting. Twenty two officers are at the scene and rookie Ben Flores is in charge. Suddenly, the rookie needs to act like a vet. How he handles the crime scene investigation may make or break the case.

He does so well that he gets the cop’s ultimate compliment: another officer addresses him by his first name.

“When you get other officers calling you by your first name, not ‘probie’ or ‘rookie’ or anything like that,” Flores says, “Now they see me as an officer finally. As soon as I heard ‘Ben,’ I thought to myself, you know, I think I’m actually an officer now, you know, all of a sudden!”

Not so fast, says Byrom: “As far as I’m concerned, they’re rookies for a couple of years.”

Described as too nice to be a policeman, Flores bristles. “Every officer needs a streak of niceness,” he says. “And the reason for that is because if you become accustomed to the ways of the street, you become like the ways of the street, and that’s not what officers are here for.”

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