Why So Many Cops Wish They Had Been Killed In The Line Of Duty was an article that hit home for nearly 100,000 readers last month.
One of those men was Charles Lowe, the Founder and President of Project HURT. He’s a police officer who was ambushed and shot in the line of duty around the time of the Ferguson riots. In late April, we’ll be bringing you his story on Law Enforcement Today. His wife runs the National Police Wives Association.
When sharing the article about officers wounded in the line of duty, Charles left a pretty powerful message. If this hits close to home for you, please consider sharing his story with others.
The Gift and Curse of the Sheepdog
I tell this story because in 2015 I was ambushed, shot and later returned to work. Two and a half years later went to court and had to re-live what happened to me over a two week period while both suspects denied knowing that I was in uniform and even being present.
The euphoria of being a new officer was so intoxicating, there was a point in my career I would have done this job for free. Years progress and we all get a little wiser, realizing the errors of our youthful ways often put co-workers and ourselves in danger.
But in all the preparation in doing this job of law enforcement, the long hours at the academy, running on the treadmill, lifting weights, defensive tactics training I somehow missed the class on how to deal with the mental struggles of this career. As I followed the path of the culture laid out by senior officers and the law enforcement forefathers before them, I picked up some of the same coping mechanisms, damaging myself and my family at home that loves me so dearly.
I can’t think of a more self rewarding career then to be in law enforcement. I still remember the look of pride my mom had when I graduated from the academy and later getting promoted to Sergeant. I will always hold my head high when walking because I know how far I’ve come not only in life but within my career.
After being shot, the months following where some of the hardest mental struggles I’ve had in my life. It was like getting in the car to drive home to get back to a familiar place, but you get confronted with roadblocks, detours, construction, rush hour traffic, with no gps or road map to get you back on the road that looks familiar.
We are left feeling alone and with no or very little assistance from the department/agency on how to navigate now that our “new normal,” is in full effect. Like many officers that survive physically from being wounded/injured we are left with loneliness, anxiety, depression, anger, survivors guilt, ptsd, and the burden of how to process these emotions by ourselves.
After struggling and realizing there where little resources I decided to be my own hero. Myself along with fellow officers who had came with different experiences. From being shot in the face, neck, chest, friendly fire, and even being involved in numerous shootings and collecting 5 medal of valors, we all came to the table with our burdens.
Knowing there is a hierarchy in life and on the department in being wounded/injured I found out was the same. Because I got shot in my vest, or because someone does great policing and gets numerous awards and accolades doesn’t mean I have less of an injury than someone else. A wise man once told me that,”The wounds you can’t see are the ones that hurt the most.”
We decided to start Project HURT, a long term peer support group outside the department/agency so officers can talk freely and not be in fear of losing their job or getting reprimanded. Project HURT provides resources for substance abuse, one on one counseling, stress coaches, and retreats that have all been vetted to provide the best service available so the officers can emotionally heal and not be forgotten about.
I appreciate this article acknowledging that wounded/injured officers do get left behind to pick the emotional trauma by themselves. The shift in the law enforcement culture is evolving from how our forefathers processed this job and the mental well-being of officers as we go home to our families.
So here’s to all the wounded/injured officers out there: Heal, Uplift, Restore, and Transition into your new normal.
“It’s okay, not to be okay.”