Watching Kids Become Cops

Your son or daughter is the light of your life. You welcomed them into this world twenty some years ago. As much as you complained, you loved when they crawled into bed with you at night. You waved as they walked into school the first time without you and fought not to shed the tears that wanted to come out. You fought with them to clean their room or get their homework done. You worried when they came home late from a party.

Now they have finished college and have begun on their career path. It’s one that will change them and endanger them and you get to sit back and pray they come home safe. They’re filled with excitement and nervous energy. All you can think of is, Dear Lord please keep my baby safe. Today they begin the police academy. If you were the officer you now realize what you put your parents through.

If you do not have a law enforcement background, here are a few things you can look forward to.

First, your child will change. It’ll happen. They’ll become more confident and willing to take a stand for what they feel is right. They will become more conservative in their beliefs. They develop character and personality they never showed before.

Second, they will begin to tell war stories. At first, they won’t be their own. They will tell stories from their instructors. Soon enough they’ll tell their own war stories. Then, one day, they’ll stop telling stories altogether. Unless you are the police you won’t understand why.

Third, they will be tired. Try working a ten-hour shift followed by six hours in court. Toss in some driving time and doing laundry or chores and that leaves little time for sleep. If your kid works midnights you should keep in mind that even if they get eight hours sleep during the day it isn’t the same. The world is noisier. There is traffic outside making noise with trucks rumbling down the road. Lawn mowers and leaf blowers disturbing your sleep.

Fourth, they will see things and do things that they weren’t prepared for. There is nothing that prepares you for the smell of a body rotting for a week in a hot apartment. Nothing prepares you for a dead baby, thrown down a flight of stairs by a drunken boyfriend. Your child, your baby, picks up this broken ragdoll and carries it to the ambulance only to find out it’s too late. Then your baby uses superhuman self-control and takes the offender into custody without beating him senseless. Later when their report gets kicked back because they called him an offender rather than a community member they make the correction and put their feelings deep inside.

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Fifth, your child will get injured. There is no getting around it. If they spend any time working on the street they will get hurt. I don’t mean shot or stabbed. That happens, but they train for it, and it doesn’t happen to everyone. What does happen is they slip on ice in the winter and go down a flight of stairs. They wrestle with a resistor and strain their back. They blow out their knee going over a fence while chasing a burglar. They get in car accidents. It is a physical job, injuries happen, to everyone.

You gave the department your little baby. Thirty years or so later you get back one of the finest human beings you could imagine. Sure, they have scars and aches, both external and internal but they are often the better for it. If you’re lucky you get to see it. Your baby grew up into the responsible mature person you can always be proud of.

Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union. He served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.