Cops are, hands down, some of the toughest people on the planet. They witness things the mind should not see, nor have to comprehend. They are expected to deal with tragedy, but it remains those calls involving innocent children, which can bring even the toughest of them to their knees.
We understand that death is a part of life, but it is not supposed to happen to the young and innocent. Victimization and death of a young person is difficult for many to process. Children are the future and our hope for a better tomorrow. We see the promise they hold and the naivety, which keeps them open to possibility. Children depend on adults to protect them. Children are usually too trusting for their own good, because they lack experience to see the evil or to expect the senseless. They trust too much, they love too much, and they are not yet enlightened to the evils of the world. It is because children are to be protected, that losing them hurts so much.
Cases involving victimized children are some of the most traumatic and stressful events officers will ever face. In part, because children are innocent and seeing a child hurt or killed can leave first responders feeling helpless. No matter how strong we believe our first responders are or should be, they are human and these cases can have lasting and detrimental effects on their lives.
The emotion attached to the victimization or death of a child is often relived once the officer goes home. The realization that even their children are not safe from victimization is tough, but the realizations hit even closer to home during times of terror and uncertainty, as was seen in two recent events (e.g., Sandy Hook Elementary and the Boston Marathon). Both of these incidents claimed the lives of innocent children. Children doing nothing more than what children are supposed to do. This is what makes these tragedies so senseless.
During times of terror and uncertainty, we must remember all the victims. Remember, it is not just the loss of innocent life that can leave a wave of devastation. Once the incident occurs, it will be followed by death notifications, inquiries regarding the incident, funerals, and the ever-present images that seem to be permanently etched in the minds of those involved. If you know a first responder or you are that first responder who has gone through this, seek assistance if necessary. Help is available. And remember, we are all human and there are circumstances, which can bring even the toughest of you to your knees. If that happens, know individuals and resources exist to help get you back on your feet.
Cnn.com. Remembering the Sandy Hook Elementary victims. Retrieved April 17, 2013, from: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/12/us/sandy-hook-victims/index.html
Dedicated to the young lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary and to 8-year old Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Dr. Olivia Johnson holds a master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri, St. Louis and a doctorate in Organizational Leadership Management from the University of Phoenix – School of Advanced Studies. Perseverance in raising awareness to officer wellness resulted in her being named the Illinois State Representative for the National P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation. This role led to her being invited to speak at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit’s 2010 – Beyond Survival Toward Officer Wellness (BeSTOW) Symposium. Dr. Johnson is a veteran of the United States Air Force and a former police officer and collaborates with several journals regarding law enforcement issues. Her services are contracted out by Crisis Systems Management to train military personnel worldwide on Critical Incident Peer Support (CIPS).