This post is written in the first person. It was not written by a police officer, but rather by the wife of police officer, who knows his heart and shares his struggles. Read it with an open mind and an open heart. Be Blessed!
I woke up this morning at 5am and kissed my wife goodbye while she slept. It’s cliche, but I wonder each time if it will be our last kiss.
Uniform, utility belt, bullet-proof vest…
Layers of wool and weight, even if it’s hot-as-an-oven outside.
I go to our morning meeting, then tackle a mountain of paperwork before the first call comes in. No one on the “outside” knows we do so much paperwork.
Stacks and stacks of paperwork…
We don’t have administrators, or secretaries. We don’t have support staff to do all the work in the background. We do it. This isn’t “Rookie Blue”, this is the real deal. The unglamorous, hard-working day of a police officer.
I get into my police cruiser alone.
We don’t have partners…there’s not enough resources.
Hyper vigilance kicks in. I am aware of every pedestrian, every vehicle, I repeat license plate numbers in my head, I listen to the radio, I check the computer, check an address, have to remember every side street and back alley in this city…can’t miss anything. I am afraid. For my life, for someone else’s life that might be waiting for me to save. But I am also afraid that I might do something wrong.
I am a rookie.
I am human.
I have been trained like a soldier, but I don’t feel like one. Someone spits in my direction as I drive by. All eyes are on me. Waiting for me to make a mistake. The pressure from all sides is intense. I go to a call. Bad things happen in broad daylight, behind closed doors in every town and city in this country. It is because of first responders that the rest of the world doesn’t see it…
We think our cities are safe, our town is “sleepy”. The ugly stuff doesn’t pour out into the streets because we are keeping it contained.
Call after call comes in.
A “watch” of so few police officers manage a city of so many. Lunch passes without a break. I go to the coffee shop to get a cup of coffee and to take 3 minutes to gather myself after that last call. I just arrested a Mother, her child was taken away from her, I watched a family get torn apart.
Now I just need a minute, because my heart is breaking. Just a coffee.
A man walks up to me, about my age, looks at me sitting with my coffee, makes an assumption, shakes his head at me…and walks away. I’m not supposed to take breaks. I’m not allowed to go to a restaurant on my lunch break. I don’t get a lunch break. People don’t stop speeding through school zones because it’s lunchtime. They don’t schedule beating their spouse up around my breaks. So I don’t take a break.
That man in the coffee shop “pays my salary” so he is concerned about where his “hard earned” tax dollars are going. And he’ll tell me so.
I pull over on the side of the road to work on a file. More paperwork, more forms. No time to go back to the office to do work there. My intestines are twisted to the side all day, a desk job done in a car. I love my job. I really do. I am proud of what I do.
I just wish people knew. Knew that we really DO see scary, terrible, horrifying things. You just don’t hear about it. We really DO protect the public. We really Do care. Most of us do.
But most people only notice the ones that don’t. The ones that mess up, that give up, that fall down. Maybe they were always fallen, or maybe this job broke their spirit. But before you judge, before you hold any one of us up to a “higher standard’ because we are police officers, come into our world.
This is not like a TV show.
We don’t meet for drinks after we arrest someone. We don’t crack a case or catch a bad guy in one day and get to celebrate at the local pub. We work long, dynamic shifts. We have to go to court on our days off. We get called into work while we are tucking our kids into bed, or leaving for a family camping trip. Our days and nights are all messed up. We have to be flexible with ever-changing laws and policies created by the “brass” and bureaucrats. People talk about “cops having all the power”, but we don’t. We need to be so careful about every step we take. We carry guns, but dread ever having to use them. Messing up is not an option. But it’s a messy job. Criminals don’t commit crimes out of a manual.
Each call could be ANYTHING.
And there is always someone with a phone or camera ready to catch us making a mistake, saying something wrong. Each day on the watch my heart sinks, and speeds away on me, then feels like it might stop. You probably don’t know this, but I don’t sit waiting on the side of the road to give you a ticket (while eating donuts). I don’t have time for that. If you see me there, I am probably taking information down for my next call, or filling out forms for court documents. But I am watching for speeders too…and anything else that might happen.
After twelve hours, I go home to my family, with nothing left to give.
I snap at my little boy because he spills his milk. My wife reminds me he is a little kid, not a client. The milk can be cleaned up. Accidents happen.
Later my wife tells me she is worried about me. I am changing. I need to leave work at the “office”, she says.
But how can I when I know there is a little girl the same age as my kids watching her parents shoot heroine tonight?
How can I tuck my kids in and tell them they are safe, when I’m not sure if I believe it after everything I have seen? Some people would say, “then find another job”. But this is what I am trained for. I’ve had other jobs. I have an education. I have other choices. But I am here. I am an officer.
I’m not on a power trip. I don’t collect guns. I am just doing my job. I don’t get paid a lot, and I don’t get much thanks.
The other day, my son came home from kindergarten crying because a boy in his class told him that “cops are terrible people” and that his schoolmate thought it was “lame” that his Dad was a cop.
So, next time you see me drinking a coffee, please don’t shake your head at me. I am here for you, and I am here for the junkie, and the prostitute, and the abused, the homeless, the taggers and the dealers.
We are all just human beings, and my job is to try to keep everyone safe. When you look at me, remember I am a human being. I am a Dad. I love a wife. I respect human life – more than you will ever understand. Because I see it wasted so often.