August 23, 2020
Good morning and happy Sunday my friends. I hope you’re doing well. Please be sure to get outside. Enjoy plenty of outdoor time in nature. Appreciate any opportunity to bask in sunshine, near water, among trees, at the desert, on the grass, at a park or just close to home. Be grateful and thankful for all we have and the freedoms we enjoy. Nothing in life is guaranteed. My advice; work hard to achieve your goals and live your dreams. Live an honest life, where you respect others and show gratitude for all you have. Be happy with yourself. No one is responsible for your success or happiness, other than you. Live with integrity in all you say and do. When you treat others the way you want to be treated, the entire world changes. Don’t miss this opportunity. It’s your chance to shine!
I’m sure we all have a variety of reasons why we chose a particular career. Maybe you didn’t select the type of work, but it or someone selected it for you. For others it may have been the money, benefits or a passion you loved. If you’re one of the lucky people that love your career, I salute you. I wonder how many people actually love their job. I can say with all honesty, there were difficult days during my career, but I truly love what I did and accomplished. It was rarely pretty, often difficult, sometimes fun and it did have glimmers of joy. It gave me the ability to help others and make a difference in the world. If I helped one person, saved one life or stood my ground for good over evil; it was worth every minute.
Many people have asked me over the years, “What’s it like being a cop?” “Why would anyone want to do that?” The answer to this question is simple. Men and women, including myself, who devote their lives to law enforcement do so because they want the world to be a better and safer place. They aren’t doing it for recognition, money or hero status. None of these ideas enter your thought process when you dive into this career. It’s obviously not a job for everyone. It takes a strong personality and a tough willingness to endure sacrifice, negativity, trauma and stress. Each time you leave home for your shift, your family prays you’ll return safely. The rewards aren’t measured in accolades or physical gains, but in moments of relief by extending a helping hand, offering reassurance or saving a life. The tears I shed; after witnessing the suffering, torture and grief of others; were in private. The trauma and horror of so many incidents are forever etched in my mind. You tuck them away so you can continue on with your duties. Often times you are unable to fully process the violence perpetrated by some individuals. There is no logical explanation to their lack of civility or the atrocities they inflict on others. I suppressed my emotions (as an officer), enabling me to stabilize, control, investigate or resolve any situation, no matter how simple or grisly. I shut myself off; heart, mind and spirit; in order to endure the pain created by gruesome incidents.
I learned almost immediately protecting myself, not only meant wearing protective armor, but many times closing my heart to the atrocities I witnessed. Recognition from external sources was few and far between. It was nice when someone thanked you or said, “we appreciate your service.” Those “thanks” were never why I signed up to become a cop. My true sources of praise came from my family and close friends. These are the people who knew me and why this was my calling in life. They are the people that stood by my side and were my support system. The words of encouragement and acclamation that carried significantly more weight and impacted me the most, came from my peers. These are the brave men and women I worked with every day. They are the people that put their lives on the line, always had my back and they always knew I was there to protect them as well. These officers are by your side when you’re doing all you can to save an injured child, assist an abused person or fight off someone attempting to kill you. The comradery and bonds forged from these incidents connect us with lifelong unions. Individuals enter this career knowing elements of danger always exist. Each work detail or encounter has the ability to create uncertainty. The perils never deter you to step into harm’s way to protect others. Hesitation could mean the difference between life and death. Even unexpected off duty encounters can create life threatening situations. You are always on guard or scanning your surroundings. The words, “Off Duty” don’t always fully explain your work status.
I have seen the middle finger, been “mother fucked” and called an assortment of profane names over the years. My life has been threatened multiple times and people have tried to injure and kill me. I quickly realized it wasn’t me (personally) the words, threats and attacks were directed. Their vial actions were all directed at the badge on my chest, the uniform I wore and the authority, law and order these items represented. I was there as the representative of law; to fight evil, preserve good and protect the innocent. Criminals don’t respect the law, those who uphold it or individual rights. They are evil human beings that only seek to benefit from the suffering of others. They encompass a wide spectrum of individuals, races and nationalities. Criminals are: street hoodlums, drug dealers, human traffickers, gang members, organized crime cartels, career criminals, corrupt politicians and many more.
Law enforcement officers preserve law, maintain order and protect our freedom. These men and women work to protect communities and all people living in them. They stand between good and evil for us. Many days, all they seem to encounter is evil. It baffles me how any decent person can even discuss defunding or abolishing law enforcement or removing officers from our communities and cities. The idea is ludicrous. Politicians, subversive groups and radicals who propose this only seek more control, oppression and power. They have no desire to protect or preserve human rights or our freedom. Don’t believe their lies. These greedy individuals prey on the fears they continually instill in us daily. They thrive on pointing fingers of blame on others, creating division and hate.
I can understand why some officers allow their emotions to grab hold of them and create a lapse in judgement. I have felt crushed, defeated, overwhelmed, torn down and more. I turned to alcohol for a while, but realized that only masked the pain. Like any ‘crutch” it never cured or solved anything. I cried, got angry, but always managed to turn myself around (the proverbial “get my head on straight”) before my next shift. I know a bad day, heated exchange or witnessing extreme suffering may cause that momentarily slip of restraint. A person’s mental fortitude can be worn down and exhausted, pushing them to the edge of their limits. That one encounter creates a perfect storm and in an instant you have over stepped your authority. Some encounters are minor, while others have resulted with serious consequences. I do not justify actions committed in these moments. If you say or do something in the “heat of the moment,” these are incidents you immediately regret; especially when you have a conscience or any sense of morality.
I do know we are all just human beings. We all experience the same emotions and have similar reactions, especially in crisis situations. Our frailties and insecurities can make us susceptible and cloud our judgement. The circumstances and factors that drive us to a critical level; we ourselves may or may not know. It’s possible you will never know or fully understand how you’d react until you are in that situation. Continual training is great to build muscle memory, reflexes and your mind. There is still nothing like actual physical encounters to know what you will do. Critical life or death situations allow little time (seconds or milliseconds) for decision making and action. It’s never simple. In any set of circumstances or events, I ask that you examine all the facts to each encounter. Speaking from experience, use of force investigations are thorough and complete before rendering any conclusions. Don’t be quick to judge without knowing the complete story.
The human mind is an amazing creation, but there is so much to learn and know about how the mind works. Experts continue to gain a better understanding our physical and mental body. Like all people on this planet, there are a few bad cops mixed into our world. Law enforcement officials work daily to identify these individuals and remove them from police departments. The few bad that are discovered, like in every profession, tarnish all the good. Just remember, there are nearly one million great law enforcement personnel spread across the United States. They are in our communities 24 hours a day, seven days, working hard to keep US safe. Police work places officers lives in jeopardy daily. Their integrity and hard work to serve to protect ALL people.
During my career I worked with some of the best humans on this planet. Incredible men and women; from all races, cultures and nationalities; who share common ideals, values and goals for their community and the globe. I have shared stories, interactions and thoughts on the subject of police work with officers from across our nation and around our world. The reasoning, answers and passions are all closely related, similar or the same. We all want peace and order in a civil society. Officers want to ensure civil liberties, freedom and equality are protected under the law. In the United States, our “inalienable rights” are guaranteed in our constitution. Among these rights are “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Law Enforcement stands united to protect and defend are rights. Without laws and those who enforce them our freedom would be doomed to destruction.
Being a Police Officer or working in Law Enforcement isn’t something we do. It’s who we are. It’s a calling, which becomes a career, we devote our lives to. I never fully understood what it meant until I was working in the streets of Los Angeles. Keeping communities safe, takes on many connotations. Maintaining a criminal free society is only a portion of our duties. We handle a vast array of calls for service and contact millions of people across the country yearly.
Officers respond to a vast array of calls for service daily; ranging from simple to life threatening. Thefts, assaults, robberies, murders are only a few of the many criminal activities that are occurring daily. The first time I responded to a teen who committed suicide was horrific, tragic and sad. How do you tell parents their child took their own life? It’s impossible to fathom the emotions and sorrow. Later in my career, I’m holding a little girl in my arms, I watch as paramedics declare her mother dead after a car accident. All I could think about was my own daughter. These are just two of so many life altering events I witnessed. Life is precious, fragile and limited. Too often we take for granted what we have and life itself.
A career in law enforcement is not an easy life. It has the capacity to fill your heart with satisfaction every time you put on the uniform and pin the badge to your chest. There are many events that numb your senses with pain from the suffering experienced by others. There were times I felt powerless, only offering my condolences for the sorrow they felt. Each time you respond to an incident, or have a situation unfold in front of you, you only desire is to make life better. I spent nearly 34 years (over half my life) in law enforcement. My intention was to do something that made a difference. I wanted to take criminals and evil people off the streets; allowing good people the freedom to live without fear. I was grateful to people that were not able to help themselves. During my career I worked a variety of assignments. Each was more energizing and satisfying. The best part were all the amazing people. I will forever remember their devotion, loyalty and integrity. There are so many great officers doing incredible work. I could write a book with all the things I’ve seen and done. I’ve dealt with my personal trauma and am thrilled to be writing that book. I continue following my path to complete my journey. There is so much more I want to share.
Our nation was built on the principles of independence, equality and freedom. It requires discipline and hard work to maintain these values. Don’t whine about what you don’t have. We are very lucky to be members of this great country. Don’t be a “victim” because you think this nation owns you something. Our land was forged by individuals seeking rights and laws protecting all people. Don’t dislike the police because you were issued a traffic violation, were arrested, saw something on social media or the news they say is unjust. Examine all the fact before rendering any judgement. Remember, cops are human just like the rest of us on this planet. They are continually improving tactics and weeding out undesirables. As our country has grown and changed over the years, so have we. America, police and the people we protect are stronger and better. We must maintain our rights and freedoms. In order to accomplish that, we must protect law enforcement, so they can protect US. They are the defenders that keep us all safe.
Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation. Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!
Thanks for your love and support! Embrace Life! Be sure to get o
6 thoughts on “A Cops Life”
Always enjoy your commentary John. Spent 30 years sworn, worked before that as Civilian at DEA and the last 10 mixed with some Fed CT work and supporting public safety in my UASI PMO. We just launched a peer support podcast. If you were inclined, would appreciate feedback. The link takes you to our first 7, doing a few more. 1 & 6 speak to some of the ideas you mention in this essay
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Thanks Jim! I always appreciate your comments and insight! I’ll definitely check out the podcasts. Whatever we can do to support law enforcement and each other is welcomed!
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Thanks Cindy! Love You!
Great article, John. You are so right about law enforcement being a calling. I know it has become fashionable to try to “defund” the police – do they have a clue what the result will be? Imagine politicians without police protective details? And schools without police protection? That’s the height of stupidity. In truth, these politicians can’t judge us until they’ve walked a mile or two in our “moccasins”….be well and stay safe.
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Thanks Mike! I totally agree! What they are proposing is both dangerous and ludicrous! They do not realize the consequences of what defunding law enforcement would do! It’s all a political game for the rich and powerful. Sad!