In an interview with Sugarscape, Paul talks about finding the right role for his hiatus, replacing fangs with a badge and that one time the crew members thought he was an actual cop.
According to Paul, his role as a policeman in Baytown Outlaws is the “antithesis” of Stefan in Vampire Diaries. He went from “super noble” Stefan to “wiseass” cop, which he claims was a welcome change. To help him get into character, perhaps Paul also drew from some of his old bad boy ways — he was expelled out of an all-boys high school back in the day!
But what did Paul learn from his time away from Mystic Falls? It turns out that Paul really likes flaws (not that Stefan doesn’t have any). Oh, and there's a little something Sheriff Forbes probably could’ve told him — a gun and a badge will change you. And for Paul, meeting a new crew with those items meant earning immediate respect, even if they didn’t realize he was an actor.