Ask a Cop: DMV Cop


Dear sir,

Is the guard at the D.M.V. a police officer?

If so, is he being punished by having to work at the D.M.V.?


Nothing else to think about at the D.M.V.

Dear bored DMVer,

My mind’s eye has you sitting in a plastic chair because you’re tired, ticket in your hand and 97th in line. The only chair is next to the stinky guy. You’re pissed and bored, and the uniform gets your attention. Now we’re having this discussion. The guard at the DMV is just that: a security guard. However, there are times when the DMV contracts with the local law enforcement agency to provide an extra layer of security—security that comes with police powers.

The cop is not being punished. They’re trying to earn some extra money. The guard is employed full time by the DMV, and his presence keeps people from being mean to the DMV workers. The cop is there in case people exhibit aggressive behavior toward the DMV staff. And what might incense people at the DMV? When you’re 97th in line and the place smells, you may see a couple of the gov’t workers (whose salary you pay) on their cell phone, or texting at the copier, not helping you, and people just freak out. You’ve seen it. That’s why cops are there sometimes.

What does happen to cops in trouble? Depending on the severity of the offense, it can range from desk duty and losing their car, to suspension or termination. The governing body for cop misconduct—in addition to whatever punishment a department metes out—is Police Officer Standards and Training (POST). Even if a cop survives their own administration’s action, they still have to go through a POST hearing where the cop is cautioned, or their certification is suspended or revoked. Cops who receive a letter of caution serve their penance and go back to work. Cops whose certification is suspended are normally fired, but can become cops again once they get it back. Cops who are revoked are pretty much done. There’s a way they can repeat the police academy and become certified again, but their chance of getting another cop job is slim to none.

Since cops are so highly paid, there’s not much need for them to work extra jobs. But, for those who desire to have the chance at maybe a second car in their family, own their own home, or be able to take the kids to Disneyland once, additional employment is mandatory. The cop you see standing around at the liquor store is doing just that, earning an extra dime. Also, businesses that need a uniformed and marked-car presence can contract with their local law enforcement agencies to provide that benefit. Most of these jobs pay better than the cops’ regular pay. Cops also work overtime gigs at construction sites or car dealerships in an effort to prevent theft.

The cop at the DMV is not in trouble. They’re just trying to earn an extra buck, probably trying to pay for braces for their kid, or maybe, pay for their own chemo trying to beat cancer.