My first homicide was a decapitated four-year old boy.
A month later I had the black plastic body bag lying on the concrete floor as I reassembled a drug dealer who was in a dumpster in seven pieces.
I was in the backyard covered in snow when a young Chicago Police Officer was shot and killed responding to a simple burglary.
I was in the garbage strewn alley when the biker/gang member was shot and killed in a shootout with police officers.
I don’t mention these incidents to portray myself as some sort of super cop. These incidents involved numerous police officers doing what police officers do on a regular basis. It piles up. Stress kills in many forms.
Stress: the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
My definition of police work: Men and women of law enforcement responding to adverse conditions or very demanding circumstances, on a daily basis without any thoughts of self.
I personally was never afraid of being injured or killed in the vast amount of serious situations I was involved in within my 30+ years of the CPD. I was usually afraid and took caution, but I always knew my training and common sense would guide me. One thing that scared the hell out of me was have a stroke because of the stress of the daily ups and downs of the job. Responding to a Shots Fired call or a Man Shot call, the heart raises and the blood pressure rises. The calls are bogus, and the adrenaline diminishes. Then the Robbery in Progress call is broadcast and it starts all over again.
Stress affects people differently. Some people drink too much, and others turn to drugs. Still others use food as a crutch and others, sex.
I recently looked a photo from my wedding in 1985. Three of the five police officers in a particular photo are dead.
They drank themselves to death.
One friend failed a urine test and was found to have cocaine in his system. He was offered a suspension and a 30-day stay in rehab. He refused and resigned in order to continue his cocaine use.
I can’t even count the overweight officers I know: overweight to the extent of heart attack waiting to happen. Sex is also a stress reliever. I am thinking of two individuals who have major issues with sex: often and anywhere.
When a person joins a police department, he or she usually starts at the lowest point on the totem pole, the midnight shift. Being sleep deprived and eating fast food is a cause for anxiety and stress. Missing family functions like birthdays, holidays and anniversaries are a divider in relationships. Sports event for the kids and the rehearsals missed cause difficulties in the family unit. Often this stress becomes major issues and the arguments start over the most minor things. Relationships are broken and often lead to outside activities, affairs, drinking, drugs etc.
Stress is also found in other occupations like doctors, lawyers, bankers etc. The primary difference is they can walk away, a police officer can’t. A doctor can refuse an operation. An attorney can turn over a client to another attorney. A banker can simply say ‘no’ to any customer.
But a police officer must respond to that call from the dispatcher. A call for help or distress. The unknown awaiting at the other end of the situation. The stress level rises and with help from your god, will lower again without any life altering event. Do this for 30 years. Keep the family together for 30 years. Survive and accept your retirement. Hopefully you will have learned to eat and sleep right. You will have grown the patience needed to raise children in such a hectic world of your choosing. Drink moderately and bypass the quick fix of drugs. Excercise and stay physically fit as best as you can.
If you do these things, you may beat that killer called stress.
To all my brothers and sisters in blue, lock and load and protect each other. And as always, stay safe.
View Larry Casey’s website at www.StoriesofaChicagoPoliceOfficer.com and review his book by the same name.