To The Woman Who Wrote A Letter To My Chief Complaining About My Tattoos:
I’m sure you remember me. I was the off-duty officer who pulled you out of that burning car. You know, the car that was about to explode.
I’m the cop who you wrote the complaint about. My chief shared it with me.
Only now, several years later, can I laugh out loud about it. I actually have a copy of it. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, I read your words:
“Perhaps if you didn’t hire tattoo covered thugs, people like me could be a little more trusting of police officers,” you wrote. “Obviously you have a bunch of poorly trained goons. That’s why I ended up needing treatment for the cuts from the glass and the gravel that was pulled out of my skin. I’m also going to have to go to see someone regularly now, because I can’t escape the fear of that monster looking in at me.”
I thought you might want to know a little more about this monster.
While I was diving into that burning car with you, my wife was with my little kids in the car about 150 away. We could have driven past you. But we didn’t.
When I smelled that gasoline and saw those flames, I could have just waited for the fire department to arrive. But I didn’t.
In case you forgot, I saved your life. You’re welcome.
I also thought you should know about those tattoos. Perhaps it’ll help alleviate those nightmares of the “monster”. Or perhaps not.
I got my first tattoo at 18-years-old when I joined the Marines. It was my second big act of defiance. My mother didn’t want me to enlist and she hated tattoos.
My second and third tattoos were in memory of my two best friends I lost in service to our country. And by then, this “poorly trained goon” was addicted to ink. Because it was a pain that I could control. It was a pain that I wanted to… needed to…. feel. To forget. To never forget. I don’t know. All I know is it felt good. It felt forever, which was something I felt like I didn’t have.
The next tattoos came when my kids were born. And on either side of those I inked up with some reminders of the God who has blessed me and the archangel who I believe keeps me safe and helps me to keep others safe.
I’m so sorry about the cuts from the glass and the gravel. I know what that feels like. When I was in the Humvee during that IED blast overseas, I got a lot worse than that. I can relate. It sucks. But in the sandbox, I was the only guy left and I had to pull MYSELF out of that wreck.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am a monster. But I’m the monster that evil fears. I’m the monster that protects. And if tattoos are what make me a bad person… then I’ll take that as a compliment.
The Officer Who Saved You
This is the story about how my tattoos almost cost me my job as a police officer.
My granddaddy was a cop. My father was a cop. If I didn’t become one, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to keep the family name.
Not like it was ever a question. It’s part of my DNA. We are protectors. It’s just who we are. I’m sure many of you can relate.
And so on that hot and rainy Sunday afternoon, when I was driving my family home from the beach and came upon the car wreck, I did what I do. I stopped. I secured my own family. And then I ran over to the crash.
It was bad. The kind of shit you don’t want your kids to see. I was glad my wife knew enough to keep them out of sight.
Two cars. Head on, but the impact hit one of the cars in a way that it ended up flipping. If I were to guess… I’d say probably close to 40 mph when they collided.
The people were out of the first car, but I could see the woman in the second car. I smelled gas – a lot of gas. There were flames coming out of the hood. Not good.
I was wearing a tank top. I got down in the glass and started talking to the woman. She had it together, but she was terrified.
“Listen – I’ve gotta get you the hell out of here,” I said.
“I want to wait for the firefighters,” she said.
You’ve gotta be kidding me.
“Listen, lady – I’m a cop. Let me help you out. We don’t have a lot of time.”
I did what I do. I got her out. The story doesn’t end with a bang. No explosion. Her fancy firefighters arrived. Everything was great, right?
Until the letter came into my chief about a month later.
When he called me into his office and told me he got a letter from her, I figured it was a nice note of appreciation. Boy, was I wrong.
She got cut up when I was pulling her out. So she got some scratches – but she didn’t blow up. But of course she wanted compensation for her medical bills. I would have laughed if it weren’t for the next part.
“Perhaps if you didn’t hire tattoo covered thugs, people like me could be a little more trusting of police officers,” she said. “Obviously you have a bunch of poorly trained goons. That’s why I ended up needing treatment for the cuts from the glass and the gravel that was pulled out of my skin. I’m also going to have to go to see someone regularly now, because I can’t escape the fear of that monster looking in at me.”
Someone had to be playing a joke on me. After all, that’s what cops do… we break balls.
But it wasn’t a joke.
I lost my shit.
“I saved her freaking life, Chief. THIS is the thanks I get?”
Now I wish I could say this was the kind of chief that had your back. It wasn’t. He was the mayor’s boy and shouldn’t have been a cop, much less a chief.
“I’ll bet if you just write her a letter of apology, this whole thing will go away and we won’t have to deal with a lawsuit,” he told me. “We don’t want to deal with that… and neither do you.”
I was dumbfounded. I saved a woman on my day off. Now I had to write an apology note to her because I have tattoos?
I’m not going to go into the choice words I dropped for the chief before I stormed out of his office.
Two days later, I got to go on a little “unpaid vacation”. Yeah, that’s right – our union at that department was as useful as tits on a bull.
The letter above was the letter I wanted to send her… but never did. Because sometimes providing for your family comes first.
And sometimes we just have to swallow our pride long enough to get the hell out of a lousy department.