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Law Enforcement Today | July 28, 2016

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The Rise and Fall of a Cop

The Rise and Fall of a Cop
Sean Riley

I was a highly-decorated police officer for almost 20 years. I served in all the coveted assignments;  gang officer, bicycle patrol,  DARE officer, interview and interrogation specialist, homicide detective , and my final assignment, “drug addict.” 

My journey began, as it often does, by being a hard charger and heavy drinker at choir practice with the boys.

I was very well trained on how to always win and not to trust. On the streets, trust will get you killed. So as my addiction progressed, I knew I would fix it myself because I have never lost at anything in life. Hell, I faced death, danger, and all that goes with the job; nothing scared me. I formulated a tactical plan.  I would beat my addiction on my own and win again. Little did I know that my addiction also had a tactical plan that was strategically far superior to my own.

My life started to spiral out of control. I held myself together on the job, or so I thought, always receiving excellent evaluations.  However,  I began isolating and becoming a hypocrite in my private life. How could I help so many but not myself?

As my private life fell apart, the only thing that seemed to ease the pain was narcotic medication. This became my “beat partner” who always had my back and took care of me. My addiction grew so out of control that I did something I never ever thought I would ever do. I committed a crime. I was indicted by the U.S. Federal Government for “doctor shopping.”

For the first time in my life, I was defeated. The killer was not a felon on the street, it was addiction. I pled guilty, because I was guilty. Time to stop being a hypocrite and deal with the real demon: myself and my disease. 

I went to treatment, the greatest gift ever given to me in my life. Without it, I would have committed suicide.   Now, after having almost seven years clean and sober, life is far greater than I ever imagined. I could have never accomplished this on my own.

My new “beat partner” is the tools, education, and awareness given to me in treatment.  Today, I am a husband, a father, a son, and a friend. I am also the Executive Director of Safe Call Now, a crisis line for police, fire, correctional staff, and their family members nationwide. I still get to save lives, just in a different way.

I am blessed


  1. mi gran amigo..he leido tu historia y la vida de un gran hombre.. un gran oficial..un gran ciudadano…..
    todo ser humano que reconoce su enfermedad.. su deja de ser meno.. al contrario deja asentado el coraje y valentia que tiene para si como para su projimo…mi mas sincera felicitaciones y respeto en su nueva tarea.

    In English

    my friend .. I read your story .. and life history of a great man .. a great officer .. a great citizen …..
    every human being who recognizes his problem .. his illness .. their addiction .. it is still meno .. seated left unlike the courage and bravery that has for himself and for his neighbor … my most sincere congratulations and respect in his new job.

    Juan Fritz..

  2. Thank you for sharing this, and for organizing Safe Call Now. I can understand how someone can easily become an addict. Someone who lives in chronic pain (whether it be emotional or physical) can build a tolerance to the pain reliever and, before he knows it, needs more to numb the pain. One of my dad’s trainees committed suicide, because he was in chronic pain. It was very difficult, because it was like losing one of “his kids”. Like I mentioned in my article, many people think it is a sign of weakness to talk about their problems. Hopefully this will motivate them to get help, and someone’s life will be saved. Bless you.

  3. I hope you have given your life to Jesus Christ the Lord who loves you very much and so do I. A brother is a brother, if I could have been there to help you I would have done my best to help you. I’m glad to see you did not give up on yourself. Be Blessed and God bless you.

  4. Sean
    Hello: It gave me great comfort to read your story. I applaud your courage and strength for telling your story. You see, I’v lived the same story. I was a 17 year deputy. I had many situations that caused my lower back and neck to fall apart. My painkiller addiction started small, a few to get me through my shift and then to get me through the day. A few became many and then stronger ones. I was trying to save my career and a marriage. Well after becoming so addicted to the meds, I finally started using them just to be able to function.
    I knew I was going down a bad road but I didn’t care anymore. I started doctor shopping and using way more then the therapeutic dosage. It all caught up with me in one night. I knew I was caught. It took my Captian and my Assistant Chief Deputy to talk me down. I admitted myself for treatment. By this time, it was to late. My career was over. I took a disability and after 13 surgeries, I now have my life back. God, family and friends helped me rebuild my life. I know own a consulting business and have put everything behind me. I think getting caught was the best thing that could have happened to me. I would be dead or in jail if it hadn’t.
    The one thing I would tell anyone going through this is, admit your addiction and get help before you lose everything. The only bad part of my expereince was, the people who I thought where my friends (on the department) ran like roaches when this happened. I was so hurt by this betrayal. It was a hard lesson to learn.
    Thanks for giving everyone an insite to addiction and law enforcement.

  5. This is great stort filled with all the ups and down. It is a shame you had to experience the things you mentioned, but it appears the low point of your life has you now functioning as you are.

    Not only have you won the battle; you are winning the war.

  6. Wow. I thought that I was reading about myself. Except for the arrest part. I am a 16 yr veteran of a Chicago suburban department. I am now 9 months clean and sober. With the great support of my family (both at home and at the department) I am in better health and much happier. And my carrier has a second life. Thank you for your courage.

  7. Thank you all for sharing. You kind comments have led others to reach out for help before it’s too late. I can’t thank each of you enough. Sean

  8. Sharing this story among your peers took a tremendous amount of courage. Thank you. I hope “it” will help the many others who are in denial, distress, the throes of addiction, etc…..

    The “job” is tough. After all, police officers aren’t ’10 feet tall and bullet proof’, as we’d all like to believe. My wonderful spouse wasn’t. STRESS took him out at 41, after 21 years of policing. God bless you Sean.

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