The Cops and Fireworks

Your first memory of Independence Day is probably that of fireworks. The beautiful, loud burst of lights and colors resonates with most people. And of course everyone’s got that pyromaniac family member—mine was my uncle who just absolutely loved setting off his own.

In my podcast this week on The Steve Warneke Show, I told the story about how my father would hand me and my sister his cigarette to hold and light the fireworks! Probably wouldn’t go over as well today. Nevertheless, we always had fun lighting off those fireworks.

Once I became a cop, however, I couldn’t stand the holidays, especially the Fourth of July. In Denver, fireworks are illegal but we were always so busy with more serious crime, we never had much time for fireworks. I remember one time I got a call of a double shooting … two neighbors had argued over fireworks until it got so heated, they both pulled out guns and shot each other. One was shot in the testicles, and the other died right there in front of his family and his home. It was a tragic end to a family celebration.

Even though I’ve been retired a couple years now, I am still trying to re-learn how to relax on days like New Years and the Fourth of July. I love my country, but trying to enjoy these celebrations is a struggle. I still find myself not wanting to go out and face all the chaos, drunks, and everyone else who feels it necessary to cause problems on holidays.

I’m alert. I’m on guard. I’m protective. I can’t relax. It’s not a fun way to spend the day. So I’d rather stay inside and avoid it all. And there are plenty of other officers who can relate according to my ongoing research—around 66% of current and retired officers feel they are unable to relax in public even when off-duty. How about some other examples?

Consider a veteran police officer who:

  • Only feels comfortable with his back to a corner while at a bar or nightclub.
  • Doesn’t want to go to the beach because there are too many people and it will cause anxiety.
  • While on vacation believes every tour guide is going to rip him off and will not look at the sights as he is busy studying the guide for any signs of foul play.


It’s a tough way to live and can affect our relationships with loved ones. An average of about roughly 40 percent of officers say that they’ve been told repeatedly by family and friends they appear distracted when out in public. Over 22 percent of cops feel their chances of being victimized are high, even at home. One officer said this week that he can’t even sleep for anything longer than 2-3 hour shifts when he’s home alone, in case something happens.

I am still conducting an on-going, independent research study to help raise awareness about ways to identify, cope with, and manage these symptoms, so that police officers everywhere may receive proper treatment and support to improve their health, happiness, and overall quality of life.

I want to hear from YOU. Your experiences, your story, your opinion about these symptoms and how you’ve dealt with the stresses and difficulties of the job. You can participate in my survey below, email me at [email protected], or contact me through my website.

And if you’re a citizen and want to get involved and help our cause, you can get in touch and sign up for a ride-along with your local law enforcement, read my book From Boy To Blue, follow Law Enforcement Today online, or listen to this week’s podcast: The Cops & Fireworks!

Been on a ride-along? I would LOVE to hear about your experience! Did it change anything? What did you learn? Message me on Facebook or through my website and tell me your stories! I look forward to hearing from you too.

I hope you all had a SAFE and happy Independence Day!

Current and Former Law Enforcement Please Participate in 15 minute Research Study HERE: 

For more details and information on LEDS, symptoms, treatments, and management, read the release—Choose PDF Format or Mobile Friendly view.


Steve Warneke is a speaker, broadcaster, police expert, and author. Find his book From Boy To Blue and more from Steve at