Evaluate Time

Although I retired several years ago I spend a great deal of time online and meeting with active duty and retired police officers for coffee or at the gym. Being the police, we do what we’ve always done, bitch about the job. For many of us retired guys and gals, the consensus is we’re very glad to be retired. We wonder how the working coppers can put up with the way they’re treated by the public, the politicians, and the department.

There’s nothing new with this. Police have always complained about these things. I’d worry if a group of police sat down for an hour and the discussion didn’t get around to these topics. It wouldn’t be natural. Problem is, I’m sensing an anger growing inside the working officers and the retired.

These men and women I speak with knew they would be treated as second-class citizens in the courts and in the eyes of many when they took the oath. They knew that they would miss family gatherings and work odd hours. They knew they would have to deal with blood and vomit and violence day in and out. They knew there was always a great chance they might be injured or killed in the line of duty. They were willing to tolerate this because they knew someone had to protect these people. They understood the importance of being there for the innocent. They understood the importance of arresting the bad guy. They understood the meaning of duty and honor. For most it is more than a mere job, it is a calling.

These officers have trained and studied. They’ve spent countless hours in court and in a squad car studying and learning their trade. Now the departments they work for tell them they need to de-escalate while citizens demand disarming the police.

They took an oath to serve and now are told in court and in social media that they can’t be trusted. They fight for their lives with a resisting offender who is trying to get their weapon away while the good citizens stand around and live-stream the fight.

The professional athletes and Hollywood movie stars these officers grew up respecting now hurl insults at them. They shout police brutality even when statistics from universities and the government prove they’re wrong. Never let the facts get in the way. Never pass a TV camera without leaving a sound bite.

This influences the officers working the street and the retired guys in the coffee shop. It makes them mad. It starts slow but grows until it’s a rage.

What happens then? An officer finally fed up with a traffic violator recording the traffic stop and insulting him while he tries to remain professional snaps and says or does something he’ll later regret. He’s human and he will react like a human eventually, no matter how much training he’s been given.

The good citizens of this country must stop and realize the police officers who patrol their streets are from their community, not produced in some factory. You can’t expect them to behave without emotion in a job that is filled with heated emotion. The police officer is just like them and yet they expect the officers to react in a superhuman manner.

The good citizens say the police officer is held to a higher standard and isn’t allowed emotion. I don’t see how any of them could cope with the pressures of being a police officer without emotions.

Sadly no one is concerned about this. Once again, the dirty work falls upon the shoulders of the rank and file to keep cool and collected always, and perform their job, making life and death decisions in microseconds that the experts take months to study.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster . . . for when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

If you don’t step back from the rhetoric and evaluate yourself, you risk becoming no better than the evil you’ve fought for so long.

Most every police officer joined because they were the good person who wanted to help. Time and the job tend to harden that outlook on life but hopefully it should never eliminate it. You can’t let it. To do your job you still need compassion and care. To keep your family life from suffering you can’t harden.

How do you keep from becoming the monster? Everyone is different. Some people need counseling, while others need religion. Some need to stop what they are doing and evaluate their actions and feelings. Some need to sit with a bunch of their buddies and have a hot cup of coffee or a cold bottle of beer.

You need to become aware you’ve been looking into the abyss too long and step back from the edge while you can. Don’t let rage spill over and ruin your career or worse your life.