Just by the simple nature of what I do; advocating for law enforcement, I see a lot. I hear a lot. I read between the lines a lot and I am told a lot by those who feel they have no one else to allow to hear some things which go unspoken for different reasons. I hear a lot from the spouses of officers. I hear about their greatest fear, kissing their loves goodbye at the beginning of a shift only to weep as their casket is lowered into the ground a week later. I hear about the nightmares I share with them, the dreaded knock on the door, a unit pulling in front of your house which does not belong to your officer, having to tell your children their hero is never coming home. I listen to those who realized those horrors and now call it daily life. I watch as their resilience somehow gets them through another day and I am in awe of their strength.
There is another side to the words which go unspoken for many. It is the officer who rarely speaks and the reasons behind their silence. For many officers, silence is protection. They wish to protect those they love from the truths which should never be spoken of again. For many, silence is a burial of things too painful to relive, or a coping mechanism in self preservation. Becoming anesthetized to the things which are seen and the words of hate continually spoken, the loss of life in manners of such inhumane circumstances it is easier to stifle somewhere deep inside and simply carry it to the grave...as 'simply' as one can carry such a burden. After all, if you can't handle the 'job', if you're not cut out for those things, if you didn't realize what you signed up for, then that's just a personal problem, right?
Over the past months many citizens have taken a renewed notice of law enforcement. Despite an administration hell bent on creating a broadcloth disrespect for the thin blue line, it has backfired. Despite the sensationalized, media fueled accusations and hatred hurled as a collective towards law enforcement, the public has slowly, yet steadily began to rise up and say enough is enough. For as much as those intent on spreading and inciting hatred against our men and women in uniform have tried to turn the country against those who protect us all, they have failed. We have seen organized efforts to lift the spirits and show support for law enforcement across this nation. We have seen countless American citizens voice their disgust at the public threats being made against law enforcement and the notion of "an eye for an eye" as some sort of vigilante justice where two completely innocent (and minority) NYPD Officers were literally hunted and assassinated simply for the brass on their chest in the name of vengeance against white police brutality. Our citizens are sick and tired of the entitled nation of crazed looters and rioters who have no idea what or why nor interest in any cause other than mayhem and destruction. There has been a collective sigh of "Enough already" from the majority who can feel the pain of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he undoubtedly sheds tears in heaven over what his dream has become under the hands of a charlatan and his cronies with nothing more than greed for fame and fortune in their eyes.
And yet, there is something underlying which is still rarely mentioned. Something which is taking its toll on our officers just as much as the war against them from certain members of society. Something which is leaving them more broken than the hatred they've been accustomed to for years. It's taboo to speak of and for most pointless in its entirety. It's an understood fact and one of those "it is what it is and always be" realities for officers across the country. There's a much more devious wolf out there than the evil in sheep's clothing. There are the wolves in suits and brass. The sad reality is that if you were to ask most officers who has caused them more stress, they will tell you it comes from administration and within the walls of blue, and not from the evil of the streets.
There are thousands upon thousands of officers in America who are ethical, honorable peacekeepers. There are some who are not. There is no officer who loathes a corrupt officer more than an ethical one. For those citizens who contend that until the "good cops turn over the bad cops" there will be no change, I implore you to look inside a "good cop's" reality. A good cop is just an average joe. He/she puts on a uniform one leg at a time and heads out each day to keep the peace. Over the span of 10-12 hours they may go from directing traffic to drinking coffee on a break to delivering a baby to discovering a body. They never, ever know. Every encounter is unknown. They must now worry about being executed from behind simply for their uniform. They must be willing at any moment to put themselves in harms way for a stranger, even those who hate them. They must at every moment be willing to die to save innocents. They must worry about scrutiny and hatred and judgment and being complained on and sued and losing their pension and livelihood because of any given, unknown, circumstance that could possibly happen. If you were to look inside a average joe cop world you would see the supervisor just as you would see your own boss. You would see that you don't get your way by simply asking and you don't get a raise when you deserve it and you may need a new computer or phone system but it's not in the budget, just like officers need new bullet proof vests when they expire....of course your slow computer probably won't contribute to your death if you're shot.
Just as you bust your ass for years and years only to see some new kid with a better diploma sweep in and get your promotion, so too will a good beat cop bust his ass for years only to be passed over for a well earned position due to upper brass politics and pure bullshit. Just as you would go to Human Resources to complain about the unfulfilled promises made to you by management, so to will a average joe cop go to his FOP to file a grievance, only to be blacklisted by the upper brass and guaranteed to be left without a back on the worst shift for the next five holidays. How many of you citizens with a 401-K and medical benefits and a mortgage who are already in your 40's or early 50's are willing in this economy to take a stand and walk out of your job based solely on principal? Before you answer, remember an average joe cop has to start all the way back in the mailroom as a clerk when he walks away, as in become a rookie all over again, academy all over again, the equivalent of your first job out of high school all over again as it is extremely rare to get a lateral hire on another police force.
Remember those times you dropped the ball or spilled the beans at work and next thing you know you were delegated to the most worthless project they could find for you in order to make you want to quit? Average joe cop who stood up for what's right is the one you see in the freezing rain hoping not to get hit by a semi. Average joe cop is the one whose supervisor sent him to the bloated dead body call in the middle of August. Average joe cop is the one who will get ignored for his dedication in never leaving a shift shorthanded when every good 'ol boy in with the upper brass calls in sick and could care less. Average joe cop will get nowhere fast each and every time he opens his mouth about what's right.
You know who average joe cop is? He's the one you're screaming at in a protest line. He's the one who hasn't eaten in nine hours and has to pee so bad it hurts. He's the one who has a wife and two sick kids at home but can't afford not to take the overtime because there's a cutoff notice in his unit. Average joe cop is no more happy about having you scream at him because he's sure wishing you would call someone higher up all those names who actually matters, because he sure doesn't feel like he matters at all. Average joe cop is probably working one of two or three jobs and is hoping not to get a bottle hurled at him or have to fight for his life, one....because of the obvious, two, because he can't afford to be off work.
Average joe cop hasn't been home on a holiday in years. Average joe cop has missed birthday parties and anniversaries and every summer three day weekend for as long as he/she can remember. Average joe cop feels defeated and forgotten by his superiors unless he just happens to have gone to school with them or church with them or luckily a relative is married to a lieutenant. Average joe cop knows good and well if he/she dies in the line of duty the chief will most likely need to look at a picture to know which average joe cop is dead, and then read up on the particulars of average joe cop in order to speak at average joe cop's funeral.
If average joe cop manages to survive an attempt on his/her life, they will be hard pressed to have a department who backs them for very long, and God forbid average joe cop needs some kind of counseling or help with PTSD because average joe cop will have upper brass picking up his/her unit, gun and badge before average joe cop can see a counselor. This is the honest truth and it is widespread across this nation and for those in departments who treat your own this way....you're just as much of a problem. For those who take care of your own, thank God for you and yours. A cop eating his gun or dying of stress related heart illness on average every 17 hours is more than enough.
For the average joe cop, there is much more than public scrutiny weighing on their shoulders, there is much more than hatred and a target on their back. There are memories which never fade, there are monsters they aren't allowed to speak of, there are feelings which get them labeled a pussy. There is humanity which must be suppressed for the sake of self preservation and the ability to protect those in need, yet there is compassion expected in order to serve the public. There are expectations of perfection on a split second basis and there is a knowledge that anything less could mean the end of their career, or their life at any moment. There is a lack of support from the suits and the brass who have agendas and retirements and who have forgotten what being a beat cop was like. For the average joe cop many times feels like nothing more than a badge number, and most of the time that's exactly the case.
Every person who reads this will recognize the names of Mike Brown and Eric Garner.
How many, including law enforcement recognize the names of Suzanne Hopper, Craig Birkholz, Brian Jones, Jared Francom, Jaime Padron, Paul Butterfield and can speak to any aspect of their life, or how they died? If "All Lives Matter", then make it so.
We desperately need the support of the public for our law enforcement officers, but those in command, at every level, need to remember this family. Every Mayor and City Council member and every single person holding rank and title within law enforcement needs to remember, constantly, that first day out on the beat and every single step it took to be in a position to forget those who in your eyes now stand underneath you, rather than beside you.
If it doesn't apply to you, thank you for giving these men and women who risk so much the respect they deserve. If any of this touched a nerve, contemplate how you can change it.
Our LEO's need our support. All of it, from all of us.