Power Trip

I Was a Cop for 18 Years. I Witnessed and Participated in Abuses of Power.

The corruption, violence, and petty cruelty on display left me with PTSD

Larry Smith
Published in
7 min readOct 18, 2018


Credit: Images by Steve Skinner Photography/Moment/Getty

II am frequently asked why I became a cop, but I never seem to have a satisfactory answer. I was an only child in a single-parent home and was relatively quiet and introverted growing up. I wasn’t following in anyone’s footsteps — there were no other cops in my family. I wasn’t the best student in high school, and even if I had been, I didn’t have the money for college. Being a police officer seemed like a job that paid relatively well, and most departments didn’t require anything more than a GED. After learning that Baltimore was hiring officers and that their process moved fast, I applied in mid-March of 1999 and was hired on June 21, 1999. I resigned in July 2017, a little more than a year after being diagnosed with PTSD and spending 10 days in a mental health facility, the cumulative result of 18 years of experiences.

Making the transition from civilian to cop was overwhelming. I wasn’t accustomed to exerting any type of authority, and now, after six short months, I was given the power to take away someone’s freedom and the instruments to take someone’s life. At the police academy, we were taught the basics of the job: driving…