The Officer Next Door

Articles from the perspective of a police officer.

the burden 3

Photo Credit: YouTube

I saw the news break late last night before heading to bed. A shooting reported at a bar in California. I initially thought, “Maybe it’s not a shooting, just gunfire in the area and no one was hurt?” Wishful thinking, but why not? I try to be optimistic.

This thought immediately caused a flashback to July 7th, 2016. A day I can’t seem to escape, despite having not worn that Dallas Police uniform going on 11 months now. The evening the shooting took place – resulting in the death of five police officers – I received a text from my Mom, “Shots fired at the protest.” My response was dismissive and annoyed. Once again, I thought, “shots fired” doesn’t mean anyone got hurt, hopefully it’s just someone being ignorant shooting into the air, trying to be a pain in the ass. Sadly, I was wrong, very wrong.

Despite the fact these events seem to occur much too frequently, it doesn’t make them any easier to accept. I stayed up a little later and watched some more television and eventually went to bed. No matter how much I told myself I’d get some “good sleep” and that I was “tired”, I knew it’d be a crappy night of sleep. All because of a simple “breaking news alert” with little to no information about what transpired. I didn’t know the number of people shot, dead, or if anyone was even shot or dead.

Two hours later, after tossing and turning, battling visions of red and blue lights flickering in my head as if I was at the scene of the shooting when I closed my eyes, I did what anyone does that can’t sleep, I picked up my phone. There it was, confirmation of more disgusting and unthinkable evil in the world. I don’t remember the headline exactly, I just saw the words “dead” and “officer”. I knew more innocent people had been killed and apparently a police officer was among them. What a joke.

I put my phone down in disgust. I’m thousands of miles away, my phone didn’t ring, no bad news came my way personally, yet here I am, struggling. I haven’t worn a bulletproof vest in months, haven’t seen a dead body in years, yet I lie there awake, frustrated, bothered, sad, angry. I think about the victims, who did nothing wrong but go out to have fun with friends. I think about the police officers, firemen, and EMS who ran toward the scene and the horror they were confronted with once they arrived. I think about how they will never be the same and those who survived will also be forever changed.

I don’t know why I still carry this burden, as if I wish I could have been there to help. I’m angry it happened, despite not knowing anyone involved. Maybe that’s just who I am, or more accurately who I was. No matter what happens, especially the bad in the world, I always feel like I should have been there. I should have helped, maybe prevented it, saved a life, something, anything. Not because I want a medal or an award, nothing like that, those are meaningless, but because that was just my mentality for just over 12 years. When bad things happened, I am who you called. It was up to me to help you. Stop the evil, or even better, prevent it.

Each and every time I hear about incidents like what transpired on July 7th, 2016 or November 7th, 2018 at the bar in California, I feel like I’ve let society down. I didn’t do enough. I wish I could have been the officer who out of sheer luck, made a traffic stop as the shooter was on his way to the bar to carry out his evil plot and stopped it all from happening. Wishful thinking and almost silly to think I could be that “good” but I’m just being honest. When these things happen, it pisses me off to my core. It’s just in my DNA I suppose.

Before I was married, I’d be angry that the officer that gave his life was a 29 year veteran police officer and was married. It’s been reported he called his wife to tell her he loved her before rushing into that bar and giving his life in attempt to save others. Why couldn’t it be me instead I’d ask myself. I don’t have a wife. I don’t have kids. It should have been me.

I don’t know why these thoughts rush into my conscience. I don’t ask them to, I certainly don’t want them there. In the end, I know I’m powerless and just have to accept the fact that another tragedy happened and it is over. Just like on July 7th, 2016, I survived, some of my friends didn’t, I have to learn to live with that reality.

Honestly, I should consider myself lucky. Unlike the hundreds of officers who responded to that scene last night, I’ve never done that. I haven’t had to run into complete chaos with dead people everywhere, injured kids crying for help. Maybe that adds to my guilt? Yet another psychological bullet I dodged and my brothers and sister in blue have to absorb.

In the end, I know this, this burden is real. You can’t escape it, you can’t ignore it, and you can’t just make it go away.

It may never go away and I only carried it for 12 years. I can’t imagine 30.

I will forever support those who run toward danger and the burden I know they carry.

Thank an officer today, trust me, they need it.

The Officer Next Door


Photo credit: ©Getty Images

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. A common saying that applies to policing more perfectly than people may realize. Most of society probably isn’t aware that there are basically two “kinds” of police officers, proactive and reactive. They have their pros and cons, but both are important to have a successful and effective police department.

As a police officer, you have the ability to decide which kind of officer you want to be. The “pro-active” police officer is the one that answers calls for service, but prefers to actively pursue the criminal element or find a person with an active felony warrant, illegal guns or drugs, and put them in jail. A pro-active officer comes into work early and reads all of the crimes that took place over the past few days. They note vehicle license plates taken at gunpoint in the latest armed robbery, they note the homes that were broken into and what was stolen (in case they come across someone with two televisions, an iPad, or wrapped Christmas presents with the name “Suzy” on them), in essence they pay attention to crime trends and possible suspects they may encounter over their shift.

This is what I call a pro-active and diligent officer. One that gives a damn, sticks their neck out a little more than the rest, by actively seeking to find and arrest the criminal element, more so than the other kind of officer, the “reactive” officer. I say “stick their neck out” because inherently when you’re actively seeking the criminal element, the likelihood they “get into something” as police officers say, goes up. The likelihood they get into a fight, car chase, or shooting, increases exponentially because they are actively seeking those in society who are violent and are committing violent crimes. Subsequently, those violent individuals tend to have more to lose. If caught, they are likely headed to a cell with a roommate they don’t get to choose for an extended period of time. This isn’t good for the pro-active police officer. This likely means more complaints from internal affairs, more injuries, and more chances to get hurt or killed themselves. These incidents take a toll on you as an officer and can affect your pay, or promotional eligibility. Some officers start out “proactive” then eventually become more “reactive” as they age. Or lately, more officers are becoming “reactive” as it is safer physically and they are less likely to end up in the news, be accused of wrong doing, using excessive force, being racist, or any other number of accusations that have become popular in the “post Ferguson” era of policing.

On the contrary, the reactive officer is sort of like a fireman in a police uniform. This isn’t a knock on firemen, all jokes aside, they’re heroes and amazing folks. A reactive police officer will get in their police car and basically go wherever the dispatcher tells them to go, answering calls as they come in. This kind of officer is a necessary member of your team, as they allow the pro-active officer more time to do what pro-active officers do, actively search for the criminal element. I’m not saying reactive officers are bad, in fact, they’re good because they embody the “serve” aspect of “protect and serve”. They are more “customer service” based as a quick response time is something everyone wants when they call police for help. So these officers are essential for a balanced and effective police department. These officers are far less likely to get into a fight, car chase, or shooting, because by nature, responding to call for service is REACTIVE in nature. The crime already happened and they are being called to the scene to take the report. Again, vital to police operations, but don’t count on these guys to make multiple traffic stops and recover those stolen Christmas presents or get the felon with two pistols and some heroin off the street. They’re too busy heading to that next call about a stolen checkbook from a vehicle, than to make a traffic stop and catch a “bad guy.”

The sad thing about our society is they “want their cake and to eat it too” when it comes to police officers. They want the reactive and consoling officer to show up in a quick and expedient manner when called. But they don’t want to see an officer speeding to get to that call, putting people in danger. Drive normal and cautiously, but hurry up and get here! They don’t want to see police officers fighting anyone or possibly hurting anyone, let alone shooting anyone. But at the same time, society wants crime rates to be low, response times to be short, and the bad guys caught and held responsible! But in the process, no one can get hurt, little to no force should be used, and certainly nothing should be done that puts anyone at risk of injury or death, especially members of society who aren’t committing crimes. Trust me, police officers want this too.

Well, guess what? That’s rather altruistic and basically impossible. If you are chasing the violent felons and members of our society that have chosen a life of crime, the odds of bad things happening are unfortunately high. They’re certainly much higher than taking the reactive police officer application of policing and simply showing up AFTER something bad happens.

When a proactive officer sees a suspect that has taken a car at gunpoint, or confronts a drug dealer known to be armed, the common sense person has to see that the likelihood of a foot chase, fight, car chase, or shooting, are higher. It’s just the unfortunate truth about policing and confronting violent criminals. If you are a more “reactive” police officer, your shifts will be generally uneventful, if all you’re doing is speaking with crime victims to take their report. In essence, the “reactive officers” mostly deal with the “good people” in society. The proactive officers assigned to “Gang Units” or narcotics task forces head out each day with the goal of being the “cat” and the bad guys are the “mouse”. This is a long running game that has rules that only the cat has to follow and usually ends with the cat winning and the mouse going to jail. But this game isn’t without consequences, sometimes deadly ones. In my opinion, this is where society has begun to get it wrong, by blaming the cat for the actions of the mouse. Yes, there are rules. Yes, the cat has a duty and responsibility to be diligent and operate in a safe manner and not put people in harm’s way unnecessarily. But lest not forget, ultimately the mouse decides what to do, whether to fight, run, or produce a weapon. The cat merely reacts and does their best to catch the mouse. The cat can’t force the mouse to make bad decisions, the cat just hopes the mouse complies and everyone goes home safe.

So the next time you see a news article or video on the internet, ask yourself, who caused this to happen? The cat or the mouse? And then also ask yourself, what kind of police officer do you want protecting your city, county, and country a proactive or reactive one? Maybe a mixture of both?

Ultimately, all police officers are REACTIVE to the decisions made by the people they encounter. They can’t control whether the “mouse” decides to run, fight, bite, kick, or shoot at them. We need to change the lens we use to view these incidents and recognize that policing isn’t always pretty, but in the end, it really is up to the “mouse” to decide if the outcome is peaceful or violent. A tough job for sure.

Thank an officer today.

The Officer Next Door

Human Police

When you are a new police officer you get told many things.  You learn the laws, how to answer calls, what to do in case this happens or that happens.  But one thing they don’t cover enough is the mental health aspect of the job.  Oddly enough, one of the first things I remember being told as a new police officer is, “This job will change you.”

Multiple times over and over I was told that eventually I would look at the world differently and I would change as a person.  They were right.  To be honest, if you didn’t change as a person after becoming a police officer, that would be concerning.  Let me explain.

Once you become a police officer your entire purpose in life is helping people fix their problems.  You respond to situations that are complete and utter chaos.  No one calls the police just to say hello or say thank you.  Furthermore, police officers are called to each and every horrific tragedy that takes place in your community from fatality car accidents, suicides, homicides, sex assaults, child abuse, you name it, they handle it all.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Not every day is horrible.  In fact, every once in a while, things seem to go really well, and no one fights you, hates you, spits on you, or hurls insults at you as you drive down the road.  But then there are “those” days, those days every police officer has that honestly make you question whether the job is really worth doing.  The days you respond to the most horrific scene that makes you sick to your stomach, want to cry, or make you so angry you can’t believe what you are seeing.  Images of dead bodies or abused children that will be forever burned into your mind. But while you are there, you can’t show these emotions.  You can’t cry or shout in anger.  You have to be professional and treat it as a crime scene, or just objects if you will.  This isn’t done out of disrespect to the people hurt or dead, it is done out of self-preservation as a human.

Police officers are human.  They are fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters, just like everyone else.  The emotions they feel while at these crime scenes are real but must be stifled while on-duty.  They must remain professional and appear to be “strong” in order to get the job done or console a witness or victim of a crime.  However, seeing the tragedy and horrific crime scenes take a toll and eventually you change as a person.  You start to think everyone is a potential suspect or a bad person.  You feel like there is only negative in the world.  You become upset more easily or irritable and you aren’t sure why.

Add shift work, long days, and the overall stress of what is called “hyper awareness” during a shift to the mix and you have quite the recipe for changes in a person.  Especially for someone who, before becoming a police officer, didn’t deal with dead bodies and irregular working conditions on a daily basis.

Ultimately, the fact that the people in the profession or in the academy have the foresight to warn you that “this job will change you” is great.  The problem is, they fail to tell you how to deal with the changes in a healthy way.  As I’ve said before, seeing and doing what police officers do on a regular basis is far from normal.  Often times, it is downright awful and tragic.  Those pent-up feelings or emotions have to go somewhere and unfortunately they don’t just fade away with time.

There is a reason that police officers are known for what I call “the big three” – alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide.  When there is a running joke in your profession that you aren’t a “real cop” until you’ve gone through your first divorce, I think it is safe to say that the issue is an epidemic within the profession.  Unfortunately, due to the type of person it takes to be a police officer, most shrug it off and say, “It’s part of the job.”

So, what’s the solution?  How do we do better?  These are the important questions that need answering.  I would start by saying we need to end the stigma of talking about the negative effects of being a police officer.  Simply telling a recruit, “This job will change you,” isn’t enough.  It is frustrating that police officers are aware of the mental health hazards that come with the job, yet only acknowledge them and don’t take any action on how to manage them.

Reach out.  Talk.  Discuss.  Find hobbies or hang out with friends that are not police officers.  Do ANYTHING but ignore the fact that as police officers, we deal with very difficult things on a daily basis, physically, mentally, and visually.  It would take a toll on anyone, so don’t think you’re immune or weak for admitting the truth.  The job WILLchange you. Be prepared, have a plan, and be safe.

The Officer Next Door


EConor O’Neil,7, who wants to be a police officer, stands and salutes as the funeral procession carrying slain Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon leaves the church on Wednesday,April 18, 2018. Staff Photo by Nancy Lanenter – Boston Herald

If I made the statement, “The news media mostly publishes negative stories about police.” Would you say I am wrong?

What if I said, “The news media purposely uses controversial or inflammatory headlines when a story involves police officers.” Would you say I’m wrong?

I have been a critic of the media when it comes to how they cover incidents involving police officers in America for years now. Most notably since 2014 when the Ferguson incident became the catalyst for the new wave of police protests and controversy across the country. I whole heartedly feel that the news media has played a huge role in pitting citizens against the police officers across this country, mostly through the use of controversial headlines and inflammatory stories. This kind of news coverage has led to an ideology and belief that it is acceptable to resist and fight with police. This is a dangerous epidemic and mindset in which no one will win or benefit from.

Now I am not suggesting that when a police officer does something horrifically wrong that the news media shouldn’t cover it. There is no doubt, the police are responsible for some of their own plight. However, the constant “stoking of the flames” by the news media creating controversy does nothing positive for anyone, no matter which side of the coin you are on.

So am I arguing that we should do away with the freedom of the press? Absolutely not, that would be rather ironic of me as I sit here freely putting my thoughts and opinions on paper without fear of government persecution. I am suggesting that the fact the media cares more about profits, clicks on news links, and ratings, they will continue to put those priorities before responsible or non-inflammatory coverage of police incidents.

Here’s my bold statement of the week: If the news media made it a point to cover positive interactions, heroic moments, or truly kind hearted deeds carried out by police officers on a daily basis, it would FILL THE ENTIRE NEWS CYCLE. You read that right, the entire 24 hours news cycle would be filled with selfless and heroic actions that police officers and first responders were responsible for each and every day. It would get so repetitive that eventually heroic actions and kind hearted deeds would become boring and no one would want to read about them anymore. That’s just human nature, even too much of a good thing can get old.

Each and every year, police departments across the country give out hundreds of thousands of awards to their employees. These awards are called things like: The Medal of Honor, The Medal of Valor, The Purple Heart, The Live Saving Medal, and The Police Commendation Medal. You get the point. Do these award ceremonies make it in the news? Or more importantly, do all the heroic actions that led to the awarding of these medals end up in the news? Maybe some do, but I would bet not all. A very small percentage if I had to guess.

You see, police officers are human and capable of making mistakes. They certainly deserve to be held to a higher standard and punished for crooked or wrong behavior that denigrates the trust of the public. But they also deserve to be commended for a job well done and taking the risk of not coming home to their families for the good of strangers all across the country. However, it is easy to only see police officers in a NEGATIVE light, when that is all you ever see about them on the news media.

There’s a problem though. Police officers are human as I just mentioned, but more importantly they are mostly humble humans. They view their role in society as the sheepdog who fights for the rest of society. They recognize that by doing so, they are sometimes the ones who get hurt or killed. They recognize sometimes they are cast in a bad light because what they do isn’t always pretty, but needs to be done for the betterment of society.

Due to their humility, police aren’t going to run to the media and say, “Look what I did! I bought a homeless person some food today!” Or, “I gave someone ride because it was raining, I saved this person by stopping them from committing suicide, I replaced this victim’s Christmas presents from my own pocket because they had theirs stolen!” Yes, we hear these stories on occasion, maybe on a slow news day or because SOMEONE notified the media about the incident. I can assure you it wasn’t the officer who did the good deed. It diminishes the act and goes against the grain of what a good police officer is on the inside, humble. A servant to the public. Who does the job not for riches, but for the cause.

In summary, sadly there is plenty of negative to go around in this world. The news media certainly does its part in highlighting the tragedy taking place each and every day in our society. However, we do not have to let that define how we see our world. Secondarily, we do not have to let it define how we see law enforcement and the job they do every day, every weekend, including holidays. Millions upon millions of selfless acts are carried out by our men and women behind the badge, so let’s not forget that. Just because it may not be breaking news, remember what truly goes on behind the scenes. They are fighting for you, maybe do them a favor and fight back for them. Stop being the silent majority and start being the vocal majority. Share good deeds you experience or witness. I think we can all agree they could use it. They’re counting on you.

The Officer Next Door

black officer photo

Note: This article was written by a current Dallas Police Officer. I am sharing it with their approval and blessing. The officer wished to remain anonymous.

I am a proud black man and a proud police officer. Did you notice I didn’t put the word black when I described myself as a police officer? I’ve been with the Dallas Police Department for the past 10 years of my life.

Being black and growing up in the black community, all my family members, teachers, coaches and motivational speakers ever preached to me was, “Life is still not fair for blacks.”

Instead of complaining about it, I prepared for it.

I planned my life during my freshman year in high school after  listening to a motivational speaker in 8th grade at a Team Success seminar. The one thing he said that has always stuck with me was, “Life is going to pass you by if you don’t have a plan the day you graduate.”

No matter who you are, I believe that holds true. Why? Because I see it daily on social media. Back in August of 2009, I made the decision and plan to apply to the Dallas Police Department one day. Six years later, I put my plan into action and have been a sworn Dallas police officer ever since.

I’m just one person, but I know it can be done by people who come from “the hood”, just look at Adryelle for example. We share identical mindsets and personal stories. No one said it would be easy, it wasn’t, but we just haven’t complained about it.

I can write a book on why I became a cop, instead I’ll share this quote I developed in college. “I like to see people happy and enjoying their lives and for someone to come in and take that away, I want to be the one who makes that person face the consequences, up to and including putting my life on the line.”

I’m the real definition of a beat cop.  I have spent my career focusing on South Oak Cliff, a predominately black part of Dallas. I understand the way of life in this part of town, because I grew up in and around it.

Myself and my co-workers self-described as the “South Central Trifecta,” actually go after real bad guys and have a pretty good success rate. We make a trip to Lew Sterrett jail almost daily. We actually take pride in taking the burglars, robbers, jack boys, car theives, and let’s not forget the “almighty drug dealers” off the street. That’s one less person on the street that may do harm to you and your family in ways unimaginable. Right?

Sadly, in all actuality, this is what my day as a black police officer is often like:

I get told multiple times a day by “my” people, that I shouldn’t care about their wrong doing and “let it slide” because I too am black. Often, I show up to a call and don’t say a word, yet everything becomes my fault because I’m the black officer on scene. How does blame or behavior benefit the black community? And who is making it about race? It seems no one wants to be held accountable until it is a police officer is in the hot seat. Then you want the book thrown at us.

I’ve even been told by other officers that being “pro-active isn’t the way to go.” That attitude tells me that particular officer doesn’t care about cleaning up violent crime in the streets of Dallas. The truth about being proactive and getting the gun off the street before it’s used in the violent crime is how crime is suppressed. You would think this would be applauded in a neighborhood riddled with violent crime. (That is an entire seperate soapbox).

Countless times while at work, I am called names like, “sell out” or “Uncle Tom”. I hear comments like, “You’re supposed to be on our side!” Or “He’s the one in charge of the arrest and he’s black!” Among many other comments referring me to being a “sellout”. The truth is, there is no side. There’s a law and you’re breaking it. Ultimately yes, it’s my discretion if you take a ride or not, but that doesn’t make me a “sellout”.

You see, I didn’t “sellout”, I bought in. I bought in to the community I grew up in. Being a Dallas police officer is my way of giving back and I feel like I was called to do it. I make it my priority to protect you from danger and make you feel safe at night. I’ll die for you while attempting to arrest that bad guy who broke into your house, despite the fact that I don’t know you. What’s sad, is most times the suspect I am chasing is someone who lives in the same apartment complex or three blocks up the street. That in itself is a damn shame.

Regardless, I know that’s why I signed my name on the dotted line, despite the risks. I know there’s a bunch of other officers who would do the exact same thing and guess what? The majority of them are white. I apologize, to be more politically correct, the majority of them are not minorities. I’m not always politically correct by the way, I just speak the truth.

It would be foolish of me to argue about the typical white officer and black person story. It would take a small miracle for people to stop being ignorant and making everything about race. News flash, it’s NOT! Answer this question, if a white officer patrols a 90% black neighborhood and a majority of officers are white, if an incident were to happen, what is the likelihood of it being a white officer and a black person? (I just opened up a can of worms, didn’t I?)

Put black officers in the black communities is what you would likely say in response. To that, my response would be: please read a couple paragraphs above. A lot of people would rather be a part of the problem rather than the solution. I’m not saying the only way to help is become a cop. Truthfully, there are plenty of ways you can help change the relationship between the police and the community. The goal is to work as one. yet most of you seem to thrive on division.

Something else I’ve learned, is to focus on what I can control.

I’m not saying social injustice doesn’t exist. Damn sure not saying police brutality doesn’t exist either. The majority of officers are ready and willing to “get the bad ones out” just as much as the public wants that to happen. Trust me, we have the best Public Integrity Unit detectives (a unit tasked with investigating criminal allegations made against police officers) and Internal Affairs detectives in the country. They don’t miss a beat and everyone is held accountable.

Ignorance of the law is one’s own fault. The penal code, transportation code, and health & safety code, aren’t secrets anyone can look them up. I challenge you, look up Chapter 14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. But who am I kidding? I bet looking up anything is out of the question because you’d rather wait for another uninformed person to post something on social media to cause outrage, instead of educating yourself with facts or knowledge.

I am always baffled at the people on social media who post, “Free ____ insert name here!!!!” after they’ve been arrested. Almost like a cry for them to be released because they’ve “done nothing wrong!” Almost suggesting the police were wrong for arresting them. What’s sad is people post that nonsense no matter what that person was charged with! Does anyone ever look online to see what these people did to end up in jail? Three counts of aggravated robbery, yet you’re posting, “Free them!” No accountability right? Is that what is really best for the community? The alleged robber is “right” and the police are “wrong”?

The next time you feel like advocating for someone’s release from jail, ask yourself this question: “If someone stuck a gun in your face and took your property, would you still be yelling to free that person?”

– A Dallas Police Officer


You Want To Know The Truth?

A friend of mine recently asked, “Tell me, what is it really like being a police officer?”

I smiled as this was the hundredth time I’ve been asked that question. I thought to myself, “If you only knew the truth.” Protector to a fault, I couldn’t unload the real truth about what it’s like to be a police officer. Instead, I smiled and said, “It’s good, every day is different and I get to work outside.” If he only knew. Over the next few minutes, I would smile and nod as if I was paying attention to the conversation.

In reality, I was thinking to myself, if you want to know the truth, I’ll tell you the truth. When my wife asks how my day was I respond with a rehearsed, “It was fine.” I say that to protect her and I guess myself too. I’m not trying to be rude or short. I don’t want to keep things from her or hurt her feelings. I guess the truth is, I don’t want to relive the fatality car accident I responded to last night. A mother, father, and their two children didn’t survive, it was horrific.

If you want to know the truth, a few days ago I came home and was distant and distracted. My wife got upset with me because I wasn’t listening when she told me about the parent-teacher conference she attended alone. What she doesn’t know is someone shot at me on my last shift. I debated telling her but don’t want her to worry more than she already does. Honestly, I am just thankful to be alive. The scary truth is, my wife almost became a widow and my kids almost lost their father. That thought is really messing with my head. I guess that’s what I signed up for, so I’ll have a few more beers and then head to bed. I’ve got work in the morning.

If you want to know the truth, even though that guy shot at me, I’m thankful I wasn’t able to shoot back. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want that on my conscience. I don’t want to be on restricted duty because I need to work overtime to pay the bills. The truth is, I don’t want to hurt anyone and certainly don’t want to kill anyone. I want to help them but I know I’m a consequence for some, a sigh of relief for others, and a hero to a few. The truth is, I don’t go looking for a fight; the fight comes to me, whether I want it to or not. Ultimately, I just want to go home at the end of the night.

You want to know the truth? Today I got word that I’m being investigated, another ridiculous complaint and now my long-awaited promotion is in jeopardy. A drug dealer is claiming his money went missing and he was roughed up while being arrested. Despite the fact the video will prove none of that is true, I have to wait months for the outcome. No matter what, that complaint is on my record forever now. One more thing I have to explain to the promotion board if I even make it that far.

The truth is, my wife is expecting our second child and that promotion would really help with the upcoming expenses. Carrying all this stress the last few days, I’ve been pissed when I hit the streets. But just last night, I was flagged down by a frantic mother and was able to resuscitate her unconscious baby. The truth is, seeing the joy and relief on that mother’s face restored a sense of worth and purpose. In seconds, the anger and stress about the complaint and promotion were gone. I helped someone today and the truth is, that’s why I do this job.

If you want to know the truth, I’m not a hateful person. I don’t care what you look like, where you came from, or what you’ve done in the past, I will give my life for you. I may not know you, but that isn’t a reason to hesitate when seconds matter. The truth is, helping people is in my blood. I run toward danger, I shield strangers from harm, and I accept death as a consequence. I guess the truth is, it’s just my way of life. I’m a risk taker but don’t like the idea of dying. I didn’t sign up to die, however, I accept it could happen. The truth is, I would feel bad for my parents; no parent should have to bury a child. At least it would be honorable, that should count for something.

If you want to know the truth, I have a wife, a mother, a father, one brother and two dogs. I have a family just like you. Even if I have to work, they hope to see me at birthday parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like football and baseball. I watch movies and can quote some of them word for word. I guess the truth is, I’m not much different than you are. I have my good days and bad. I hope for the best, expect the worst, and always try to do the right thing. Like you, I want my family to be proud of me. I don’t want to bring disgrace to my name, my family, or my late grandfather whom I know is watching from above.

If you want to know the truth, I love my country, my city, and my brothers and sisters in blue. I guess they are why I keep coming to work every day. I don’t want to abandon them or our fight for what is right. We defend the vulnerable and defenseless from crime and evil. It’s what we do. If you want to know the truth, it gets harder every day. I just blocked some friends on social media. They said they wished “all pigs would die,” I just can’t stomach that. Why should I die? What have I done wrong? I just want to help people.

You want to know the truth? I may not act like it, but the job is starting to take a toll on me. Sometimes I lie in bed and start crying out of nowhere. I don’t feel sad, nothing in particular happened that day. In fact, I had a pretty boring shift. But the truth is, sometimes I just lie there and cry and I’m not sure why. I suppose the truth is, I just had to let it out and eventually I feel better. I’m not too sure if that’s a good thing but that’s the truth. I guess that’s just part of the job.

The truth is, some days I wonder if it’s all worth it. It seems like everyone hates us these days and no matter what we do, we are always to blame. The cards seem stacked against us. Surely, we are playing a game we can’t win. I can’t watch the news anymore. All you see is more protests, tragedy, death, and half-truths. Headlines that seem to be aimed at stoking the flames and furthering the narrative that the police are the enemy. I guess the truth is, I just want to do a good job and make a difference, but that seems impossible these days. Ultimately it seems like even if I did, no one would notice.

If you want to know the truth, the more I think about it, it’s just not worth it anymore. I drink all the time and my wife said she’s filing for divorce. I guess the truth is becoming clear, I’m not a hero. I can’t help myself, let alone strangers who call 911. I am angry all the time and I’m losing this battle. I don’t see a reason to go on. I’m losing my wife, my kids, my life seems over and this job has made me into someone I don’t want to be.

If you want to know the truth, I planned on killing myself today. I wrote the note and had a plan but couldn’t pull the trigger. I just couldn’t do it. Thankfully, I decided I’m going to take control of my life. I am going to seek help. I decided I need to make some changes and give myself a chance to be happy. I will fight for my wife and the life I once had. I guess the truth is, since all I ever do is fix stranger’s problems, I forgot to fix my own.

The truth is, when you asked, “Tell me, what is it really like being a police officer?” These are all the things I wanted to say. Instead, I smiled and replied, “It’s good, every day is different and I get to work outside.”

– The Officer Next Door

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