You are an officer on patrol. Radio calls in home burglary. You arrive and see front door open.
Unknown if anyone is home, you rush in. A ten foot bear greets you at the bottom of the stairs.
What Would You Do?
FIT@50 / week 22
This week I made it official that after more than 25 years in the business it was time to heed God’s calling and retire from policing. Not an easy decision, it was all I’ve done my entire life. It’s all I knew and knew I was good at it.
Most friends, and even family have never known much about my career other than I always seemed to be working at it. They don’t know about the effects of working SWAT for 16 years.
The constant training and obsession with tactics to rescue victims or apprehend violent offenders. The thousands of rounds of ammo fired to become perfect at taking someone else’s life to protect another. The cold detachment of looking at a human being through the scope of your submachine gun, and then the expectation of going home and pretending like nothing special or horrific happened.
The 12 years spent working undercover narcotics and the dangers of a DEA assignment throughout the 1990s when New Orleans was more violent then than it is now. When federal undercover agents had to protect themselves from some of the local cops who were themselves more violent criminals than the criminals.
Sitting through family celebrations and holidays setting up drug buys under the facade of your undercover identity, while trying to pretend you were interested in what you got or gave your family for Christmas gift openings.
Bathrooms and back alleys exchanging marked money for illegal drugs, while sketchy technology seldom worked to alert your cover team to what was going down. Living the life of someone else, but going home to pretend a double-existence hadn’t affected your world view.
Oddly enough, those were some of my most treasured years in law enforcement. Existence within society’s very fringe, where you step back and forth between the life of service you swore to protect and the life you grieved in loss.
Most folks won’t know, or really have no interest in understanding how someone would thrive in an environment of constant risk. But it’s the risk, with life as it’s reward that pushes you to continue the service and sacrifice. It’s giving society everything you have in hopes of making it better – no matter the personal toll.
It doesn’t make us more important, just different. I’ve been blessed to have survived that life for many years. Carrying more scars on the inside than I do on the outside, and I promise my wife, Liliana Hart, one day soon, I’ll let those scars heal.
This is what retirement means to me – it’s my first chance in 25 years to take off that mask. The one that has hidden the hurt and the pain and the fear of what years in the service has done to the naively idealistic rookie who set out to not change the world, but to help everyone he could – one person at a time.
If the service is genuine, then the sacrifices are noble. There are thousands of good guys and girls out there that like me, only want to help everyone they can. They too accept the burden of wearing a mask, but hope one day soon that their retirement will allow them to unmask the cop, and return to being the son, daughter, brother, sister, father or mother and friend that society used to know.
You’re an officer issued a new body camera. Your spouse, partner, mate, etc says, “WOW, that’s exciting, lets use it to record during our lovemaking.”
What Would You Do?
FIT@50 \ week 18
Broken: Don’t Do It
“They broke me.”
Those words were hard to hear.
“I know. It’s what they do,” was all I could say.
The somber, wooden expression in my friend’s face showed what two decades of service could do to even the most dedicated.
Some professions require a certain adherence to its culture, although not part of the official policy. Mavericks, self-starters and long-haired freaky people need not apply.
Unfortunately, the conflict between old school tradition and today’s demand for change has proactive employees caught in a clutch.
To lose the fire of passion that first drew you into your profession is the greatest loss of all. To suffer the darkening of vision for serving the greater good because a handful of naysayers fear change is a disservice to all, but mostly the fearful.
“Stay faithful,” were the words that came to mind. Don’t grant others the power over your life’s passions. Just don’t break.
FIT@50 \ week 9
Signs and wonders:
As I’ve matured, leaning on faith has become something on which I focus. Wishing I could say it came easy wouldn’t be the truth. I think it’s a by-product of occupational conditioning. Cops assume everything someone says is naturally not the truth until proven otherwise.
Skepticism requires a difficult deprogramming process, but is necessary for learning to trust others. The bible talks about reliance upon signs and wonders versus leaning on faith.
As I’ve learned in my FIT@50, some signs are good, even amazing. I had my post thought out earlier this week until I received a sign (actually it was an e-mail.) It changed everything. The simple words have given me joy all day.
I replied to the sender and said her e-mail was possibly one of the all-time favorite messages I’ve ever received. Why? Because it was a simple, selfless message sent out of sincere gratitude over a minimal gesture.
Sometimes signs are good.