“I pay your salary”
“You’re a f***ing pig!”
“You’re on a power trip, trying to play God”
“You’re ruining my life”
As an Officer, this is what they hear every day. People beg and plead for them to get there quickly when they are in crisis and then demonize them when they start to do their job.
Officers are beaten, dragged, choked, shot, stabbed, doused with water, set on fire, spit on, and there’s always somebody recording the reaction and screaming about police brutality. The cherry on top? There are always witnesses just sitting by and watching it happen, sometimes even lying about what occurred.
An Officer doesn’t fully realize the job they’re signing up for and the real job description. What they thought it was: Helping people and saving lives. What that actually looks like: Holding dying babies, comforting victims of domestic violence, saving drowning victims, helping people flee from burning buildings, pleading with suicidal subjects, informing family members of fatalities, pulling mangled bodies from vehicles, etc. More specifically, helping a young girl hold her jaw that her boyfriend just broke, while waiting on EMS to arrive. Letting a mother cling to them when she discovered her dead son in his bedroom. Comforting a husband who found his wife hanging from a rope on a tree outside their window. Performing CPR when they know there isn’t a chance. Finding a shoe after a fatality accident with a foot still inside. Picking up shell casings out of a pool of blood from a drive-by shooting. And all this, right before a call about neighbor disputes and noise complaints. It’s impossible for a new Officer to ever fully grasp the amount and extent of trauma they’ll be exposed to.
It’s so easy for people to criticize and claim they could do better, all while propping their feet up and scrolling through Facebook. In the same breath commenting about how triggered they are by certain words and living lives they can barely handle without medication. These are the same types of people who are free from the consequences and damage that their words cause to our society.
Nobody would do this job for a power trip, no one does this job to play God. In reality, Officers are left grappling with the aftermath of these calls, unable to process what they see until later due to having to move on to the next crisis. And even then, are they effectively able to decompress when they have a chance? The LEO suicide rate tells a different story. What the general public fails to realize is that after every incident that makes the 24-hour news cycle, those Officers involved most likely work the next day too. Day after day after day.
A bad apple, or a bad day doesn’t define most any other profession. And yet, one day can define not only someone’s entire career, but their entire lives thereafter; One bad call, one bad decision whether by fear or anger or just bad judgement in general. Can you imagine the fear and dread that comes with a career where 20+ years of dedicated public service can be eliminated, and your name tarnished forever over one YouTube video? Through all this, living in constant fear that the department who should have your back will be the first to throw you to the wolves.
There is minimal respect for cops because there is no longer respect for human kind. You can say and do whatever pops into your head without even considering the damage it causes to others. And in this electronic age, the loudest and most disrespectful people get a majority of the attention. The bad behavior of others perpetuates the problem we are continually seeing in our country.
However, this is the beauty of it all. No matter who you are, what you stand for, or what you’ve done to them, Officers will always answer the call. Even though the burden is great, and the scars remain visible, Officers can and do expect the best from each other and hold one another accountable for mistakes and fatal errors, despite popular opinion. They are heroes, they are not superheroes. They’re still human, they make mistakes, they have regrets, but most take responsibility for their errors and move on and learn from them. The challenge for them is overcoming all the prejudice, surviving the verbal, mental, and physical beatings, and somehow coming out of the job as a functional human being. The challenge is learning how to walk through fire and not get burned, but instead becoming refined. It’s not easy, but that’s why it’s so much more than just a career choice, it’s a calling.