To start with I'm never going to say I'm against the police any more than I would say I'm against any group of people based on their professions, their beliefs, or how they look. Scrolling through ideas as I explore this world of writing called Vocal, I realized that some of the most interesting opinions or views I might have to offer are from my experiences in Law Enforcement and Corrections. The sentiment on the wall in the photo above, is one that I feel like most the men and women wearing a badge have suffered. The words and sentiment "Fuck the Police" seem to feel more evident today than they ever have in my lifetime, especially with the year behind us.
Yes, some of you reading this will no doubt think fuck him, he was just another cop or badge or even, as it's been used for fifty-plus years, pig. What you don't know, is the sentiment that's carried in the door by ninety-nine percent of the men and women applying for these jobs. Most of them start off wanting to matter, to make a difference, to do something bigger than they thought possible. Very few go in wanting to be heroes and none expect to be vilified for just wearing the badge. Most of them were exposed to the police in some way that they remembered positively. Some admired the officers, their uniforms, the courageous stories of their father's exploits and had a desire to honor their fathers, or mothers as the case may be.
My own personal reasons for wanting to get into Law Enforcement were because of introspection. I was a nineteen-year-old boy. Sure, some call that manhood but let's face facts, at nineteen, few of us are sure of ourselves or what we want to do. Legend says, nineteen-year-olds are prone to flights of fancy and changing their minds. I'm even told that some college kids change their majors several times as they begin to find themselves and realize what they really want to do with their lives. Like many, at that age, I had yet to plan a future and could barely see past tomorrow until one day I got some exciting and startling news. They say, that we never know until we are called upon, what we can do and it's what we do at that moment that defines us.
So, I was at the start of my journey to Law Enforcement, a journey that would take me another six years to complete.
In 1997 I received a call from the Sheriff in my local area. I was very excited and thrilled at the opportunity. At twenty-five, I was working as a security site supervisor and logging enough hours that my take-home was that of a first-year registered nurse in the hospital I was protecting. I also had already been divorced and was raising my little boy without any help from his mother. So the idea of working half as much and making the same money was definitely appealing. I had spent time with the department as a volunteer officer, learning the different divisions and getting to know everybody so I was sure, a foot in the door was all I needed. I was now a member of the biggest boys club in the country and officially, one of the good ole boys.
23 years ago and change, it just doesn't seem like it could have gone by that quickly. In that time I saw a lot, both good and bad. My first assignment as a deputy sheriff was as a correctional deputy in the jail. It's a good chance to learn how to deal with violent people, mentally ill people, and people suffering from chemical dependency. It's a semi-controlled environment when it's all said and done correctly. I learned almost immediately that it wasn't going to be that simple.
My first training officer would go on to be a lieutenant and jail administrator with the agency. He was a good guy back then. My second training officer was an ole boy we affectionately called special. Just an officer, a nice guy, and by all accounts solid. The Sheriff and Administrator at the time told me to follow his lead and do everything he told me to do. Little did they know, that the very first order would be the first I had to disobey. To follow in his footsteps and do everything he did was one, putting my career at risk, and two, putting people's lives at risk. Special took short cuts. I never really figured out if it was a laziness issue or he was scared of inmates but he didn't want to do cell checks, he avoided strip searches and there was a running joke that if you needed him during a problem he'd be the guy holding the door.
A couple of weeks into training with ole special, one of the other officers came back from vacation. Finally, a face I could trust. We knew each other from a prior employer and I knew she was a straight shooter. Fortunately, she confirmed my beliefs and helped me smooth over what were already choppy waters.
My first accommodation would come relatively quickly. I never understood why until after I was promoted to Sargent a year later. It was the middle of the night when I heard the racket. Running into the security section of the jail I could hear the rattling of bars. Voices called for help. It had unquestionably been a long weekend with all the special orders for a celebrity prisoner that had just been sentenced. Right across the hall, in another block, is where I found a guy in distress. I got an accommodation, for following my gut and bypassing steps in the process, just because I didn't want to see the man die in jail. I moved a lot of moving pieces of what I would learn was a much bigger puzzle, a puzzle called liability. Unfortunately, the guy died. His heart, or rather his aorta, ruptured in his chest while still in the emergency room. By then, I had already arranged his release from custody and separated the agency from him by two hours.
Murderer, that's what they called me. His family was angry because of stories that were fabricated and that caused the harassment and intimidation to begin. What started as a poor, older guy, on the tail end of a jail sentence and in need of help, was quickly turned into a racial issue. It stayed that way for a decade even though four years later the families' attorney would learn the truth and publically vindicate myself and my partner that night.
By the time that all came to a conclusion, I was nearly eight years into the job. It was a time of confusion and tough decisions. Everything in America was changing in the post-September Eleven era. I had changed, and not for the best.
There is literally a limited number of times that people who are healthy can be exposed to violent encounters without it having a detrimental change to their personality. My number measured into the triple digits. I suppose that was a testament to my ability to deal with adversity. Maybe it means something was wrong with me from the start. I'm not a psychiatrist, although I did go to see one once and it was his professional opinion that disillusionment with the job usually occurs around the seventh year.
From 2005 to 2013 the job shaped me into a cynical man, disillusioned by mankind and more than ready to see the world burn. I felt like it was the outcome that mankind deserved and still, to this day, have moments I feel this way. Many times I believed in what we were doing, the mission. Around me, I saw others that didn't and it drug us all down, simultaneously. It's easy to lose faith in a job where everyone but your family seems to hate you, where you feel the need to carry a gun with you every day and can't find it in yourself to trust anyone that you don't know and very few people you do.
I always wanted to do things the right way. Like any human, I've struggled with the balancing act between the right way and the right thing to do at the time. In 2010, I learned that I wasn't alone. After hearing what sounded like a credible threat a week before, I was called to answer questions at a security hearing for court. By this point in time inmates facing a judge couldn't be kept in cuffs without showing a clear and present danger. Threats of gun violence in the courtroom and an attempt at forcing a suicide by cop definitely qualified. It was the hearing that didn't sit well with me. I'd taken enough law classes to know that what the prosecutors and the defense attorneys were at a minimum, ethics violations. Of course, I'm not a legal expert. Never one of the good ole boys as much as my career needed me to be, it didn't take long to realize they forgot I was there.
In 2014 I was the victim of the worst of several assaults I'd suffered at the hands of the "bad guys." Perhaps this was my downfall as the effects of that attack only exacerbated my cynical view of the world. I felt like the department failed to address the problems leading up to my attack, as mistakes in policy were in fact made by one officer. Regretfully, I was out of commission long enough that by the time I learned the truths, the powers that be didn't care or didn't want to know. So, while I was suffering from a traumatic brain injury and post-concussion-syndrome, I had to deal with the feelings of rage, mistrust, and a growing paranoia about the agency to which I'd dedicated a good portion of my life.
What happened to Law Enforcement, is one part the fault of the system and it's a strong, hard to cross, blue line. The other problems are, from my observations, attributable to the press, the politicians, and a culture that lacks responsibility and equality.
I can honestly say that none of the cops I've ever worked with disagree that certain things should not happen. Shootings have happened that were more than questionable. Men have made mistakes. The current politics of law enforcement has been shaped by these events. Everybody has a cell phone and nothing is left unseen by the general public. One of the things that should never happen on the streets, however, is deciding guilt and innocence. As flawed as the system is when we begin to allow mob rule to decide the guilt and innocence of any citizen, regardless of the status, position, or situation in the circumstance, the system has completely failed.
About the Creator
I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. I have enjoyed the current state of science, human progress, fantasy and existence and write about them when I can.