I realize that most open letters usually have a specific target.
Maybe the target of this is you, the civilian population of the United States.
Maybe the target of this is you, the American police officer, both active and retired.
Maybe the target of this is you, the elected officials entrusted with actually caring about the well being of those they represent.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, the target of this is all of the above or none of the above.
To be quite honest, I don’t really care anymore; and perhaps that’s the problem. I just know that carrying the weight of the shield I wear and the oath that I swore has become virtually unsustainable as a result of the strategic, intentional and plotted false narratives and devaluing of the sacrifices made by those who came before me, those I work with today, those who will follow and the countless (and exponentially stronger) family members who have walked beside us.
While this story is mine and mine alone, it is eerily similar to hundreds of thousands belonging to police officers that I never met. We often joke that, no matter what the scenario is, good OR bad, personal or professional, you can swap out the names and inevitably there is a police officer that has walked the exact same “road”. It’s that concept that is at the core of the age-old saying, “I didn’t know him. But I knew him well.” That said, for what it’s worth, this is mine.
I always wanted to be a police officer. I know, I know. We ALL seem to say that. It may seem that way because, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s TRUE. This way of life, and the way of life of all civil servants, is truly a calling. Similar to the commitment made by our military, being willing to ‘sign up’ to potentially die on behalf of someone else’s benefit…someone you’ve never met and may never even know your name or the impact you indirectly had on the course of their life…takes a special kind of bravery…or stupidity…or both. Nowadays, I flip flop between which is more accurate and always seem to land on the latter. While most of us behind the shield have always dreamed of being here, of course that’s not always the case. It’s not too long in our past that police officers were getting hired right out of high school and simply stumbled into this line of work as a result of lack of any other option; also much like the military where not everyone became a soldier because they believed in the cause. Still today, some people end up serving over seas as an alternative to a life of crime or as the result of an ultimatum given from a guardian. Make no mistake, the sacrifice in either case is not diminished at all. It’s just important to know that there is not a gung-ho buff underneath every uniform.
From the earliest days, the pay and the benefits associated with being a police officer were horrible, only eclipsed by the horrendous schedule demands. As time went on and largely off the backs of strong union leadership and work, the pay, benefits and job security/pensions for police officers improved. At the same time, public sector employees saw their stability decrease and, all of a sudden, being a police officer didn’t seem so bad after all. As a result, the ranks began filling with men and women who generally didn’t have an interest in the job or the fraternity that went along with it. They were simply there for the secure pay, benefits and retirement. If you were asking me, which no one really ever does and likely for good reason, this is where the fraternity began to die.
I got into this field in the late 90’s and on the ground floor: dispatching. First and foremost, ask ANY police officer about the importance of a calm, collected and professional dispatcher and you’ll get a window into just how important this often overlooked part of the law enforcement community is…and, make no mistake, they ARE part of the law enforcement community. No matter where you work…no matter how small or large your department is…your dispatchers are your lifeline should the proverbial shit hit the fan.
On 9/11, I got a front row seat to just how important dispatching can be, and not for the obvious reason you may think. As the towers burned and the people inside of them suffocated, the calls that initially flooded 911 advising of floor and room locations turned into dying declarations…literally, “This is my name. This is my wife/husband/son/daughter’s name. This is their phone number and address. Please make sure someone tells them that I loved them till my last breath.”. Having worked midnight’s, I came in earlier for my scheduled tour that day but well after the towers had fallen. There were stacks of those types of requests taken by dispatchers, some who would eventually retire as a result of the stress associated. My time dispatching, even before that day, gave me a unique perspective and foundation, only made stronger by the fact that I was able to do it on both the local and state level.
From there I went on to work as a Corrections Officer…or ‘jail guard’ when the papers want to shit-talk them. I could spend days dissecting why I feel that being a C/O is the hardest part of the criminal justice system, but I will sum it up like this: The men and women that lock themselves in cages with people whom society has deemed unfit to even be part of society, go to work every day with people they KNOW are guilty…even if it’s not what they are serving time for allegedly doing. As the saying goes, where there is smoke…Every jail/prison varies in their policies, but most housing unit C/O’s…those who deal with convicted criminals face to face every day of their careers…do so with little more ‘protection’ than their heart and their hands. There are no positive interactions in prison. Everyone, including the cops, are in cages. What the fuck else can you expect? Whether you wear a shield or not, if you walk around thinking that a C/O is NOT a cop or you walk around looking down on the men and women doing that doubly thankless function, come see me. I would love to have that conversation. I can put a gun on the hip of the most incompetent person and they will garnish some level of compliance simply based off of the tools at their disposal. Try bending the will of people who have nothing else to lose simply on your word and conviction to see your job through.
Which brings me to present day and 14 years into my current ‘street-side’ police job.
I’m not going to lie, like any other profession, you inevitably will work with some people who seemingly live to make your life miserable. Coming from the climate of a prison, that shit never really bothered me all that much. I drove to work smiling and grateful, every day. Not only was I out of the cage, but I had achieved my goal and became exactly what I always wanted to be.
To see that person and compare him to who I am today is…deflating… for lack of a better word. I don’t know what happened to this thing I love, or maybe I do. Nonetheless, knowing the what doesn’t change how depressing the current state of law enforcement is; and it’s not US that changed. In fact, if anything, the American police officer is as trained, professional and diverse than they’ve ever been before…and the statistical data from every aspect proves that no matter how many angles you want to look at it from.
Nah. We haven’t changed. YOU’VE changed. So much time and energy is spent resenting the American police officer for being human that it begs the question: when did we ever claim to be otherwise? You act as though flaws in humans are unbelievable or, worse yet, unacceptable. There is no other profession in this country that is more unfairly scrutinized and demonized than police officer. The level of expected perfection rivals mythical gods; forgetting all the while that these are men and women, just like everyone else, with the same stresses…the same struggles…the same insecurities…the same fears and doubts…as everyone else in every other line of work. There are, ON AVERAGE, 250,000 medical malpractice deaths in the United States per year. Yet police officers are being fired for things an mundane as their social media posts, which often make headlines.
I can’t quite pinpoint what the end game for the ‘defund’ advocate is. However, I know this: if you think it has ANYTHING to do with race equity, you are a cat chasing a laser dot. Spend a little time trolling the social media pages and posts of many of these mutants. You don’t have to look that hard. They don’t really hide anymore. They are anarchists who, ironically, are very pro Second Amendment. They believe that their guns…and the guns owned by everyone else…should serve as protection enough. So, in essence, they want a society that operates basically on the paradoxical fear of being shot and killed and the hopeful good will of man; which they are subsequently forcing on you by burning cities down and terrorizing otherwise uninvolved and law abiding citizens of all races, genders, religions AND ages. What’s worse? Otherwise logical and seemingly educated leaders…even some IN uniform…are bending to the will of this largely 18-25 year old, white, middle to upper class spoiled mob out of some shortsighted political survival move. I mean, what else could it possibly be?
And this ‘defund’ movement is the minority of this great nation. Yet, somehow, the media has successfully and intentionally convinced our eyes to ignore what our brain knows; somehow we’ve been convinced that the majority of America wants LESS police when, if you talk to REAL people and not screen names…especially those trying to simply exist in these cities that are on fire…you’ll get quite the opposite sentiment. As Egard Watch Company CEO Ilan Srulovicz accurately says: the leftist media has effectively figured out how to effect culture, creating a blind and unquestioning following.
So why the rant? Why are we even here discussing this nonsense? Why did you just potentially waste ten minutes of your life?
It’s like I said in the very beginning, this story is mine. And while it is mine, there are hundreds of thousands more like it. I accept the fact that not everyone thinks about this profession in the same way or as often as I do. However, I also accept the fact that many do.
If you love someone who wears a shield and is in that group with me…trying to make sense of what is becoming of this thing they love…so much so that they’ve inevitably lost pieces of themselves, relationships and life opportunities at the expense of that love…it’s important for you to know that we’re not OK.
Real or media generated, when you demonize and devalue all who I am for things that I’ve had nothing to do with and, more often than not, aren’t even real, there is no way to NOT be depressed.
Since 2001, there have been 3759 line of duty deaths, including the 137 so far in 2021. If you’re not related to one of them or you didn’t serve with them, it’s likely you probably don’t even know ONE of their names…3759. I was always told that this profession was thankless and maybe I don’t NEED you to know their names. But what I never anticipated was you attempting to convince me 3759 losses were for nothing; or worse yet, on behalf of something impure and evil.
If you asked me back in the late 90’s if dying on behalf of this thing was worth it, you would have gotten a resounding and unwavering ‘Yes’…without question.