The Officer Next Door

Articles from the perspective of a police officer.

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

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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

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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

Sad officersImage Source: JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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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Image Source: Facebook

“After an officer involved shooting or any tragic event, can the police say sorry?” It was an intriguing question. This question stemmed from a discussion about how police are portrayed by the news media. The person who asked the question is from a country where it is culturally important to say “sorry” if something bad happens. For example, if a major bank went bankrupt, an apology is what you’d likely hear from the CEO. A stark contrast to what you would see here in the United States. Good, bad, or otherwise, this made me think about the culture of apologies – or the seeming lack thereof – here in the United States.

Naturally, I tried to remember an incident where a Chief or someone representing a police department apologized for something that took place. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of an instance that resonated with me. Lo and behold, later that week I was reading an article where the Chicago Police Chief offered his condolences and apologized after an officer involved shooting. To my surprise, a quick internet search of the words, “Police Chief sorry” or “Police shooting apology” actually returned quite a few results. The apologies stemmed from incidents ranging from arrests to officer involved shootings.

Upon finding multiple instances of apologies by police departments, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was unable to respond to the question with a confident, “Yes, police apologize when bad things happen.” If a quick internet search disproves the notion that police never apologize, why does it seem like they never do? Personally, I was surprised by this and thought maybe he was on to something. Maybe if police apologized more, society would see police as more humane? Maybe there would be less animosity in some neighborhoods? Maybe not?

We theorized that the seeming lack of apologies could be related to legal liability. Jumping in front of news cameras and immediately saying “sorry” implies guilt or wrong doing. Nearly all police involved shootings result in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, justified or not. Even if the officer acted in accordance with the law and departmental policies, a payout of hundreds of thousands of dollars is common and likely. Do apologies increase their liability?

Another likely reason people don’t associate the police with apologies is because apologies are not what you see in the headlines. If you search the internet for instances where apologies are issued, they are usually after the initial incident or in the body of the article, not the headline. This is problematic as it seems so many people these days ONLY read headlines, form an opinion, and immediately begin their social media tirade. So if all you ever see are headlines that read, “Officer involved shooting leaves man dead.” It’s understandable you would miss the fact the Chief offered an apology during the press conference.

Further silencing the police, the officer(s) involved in the shooting can’t speak about the shooting while it is under investigation. Most certainly not to the news media. Naturally an apology from the officer who actually did the shooting could really resonate with the public. However, it is inadvisable for legal reasons. Let’s not forget, a police involved shooting is still considered an aggravated assault or murder and they are investigated as such. As much as that officer may want to publicly say sorry, no lawyer in the world would allow it. Police officers have legal rights afforded to them after a shooting just like any citizen who shot someone in self-defense would. Ultimately, it is still up to the grand jury to determine if charges are necessary and subsequently a jury to decide guilt or innocence if such charges are filed.

What is unfortunate from an empathy standpoint, is the fact that police are kept silent for their legal protection. It dehumanizes them and insinuates that police officers lack sympathy or empathy for what happened. If you never hear an apology, over time, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to surmise that police officers aren’t sorry for shooting people. Just because you never hear it, does not mean that is how officers feel.

Personally, I was lucky and never used deadly force despite the multiple times I was justified to use it throughout my career. That being said, I would bet that every single officer who has been involved in a fatal police shooting, wishes it didn’t happen. Nothing good comes of being involved in a shooting. There are nightmares, sleepless nights, constant stress and worry about the grand jury referral, not to mention the financial impact it can have on them. If an officer is on administrative leave, that generally means they cannot work overtime or off-duty jobs to supplement their income. Many officers I worked with had regular “extra jobs” they would work while off-duty to supplement their income. A shooting does nothing to help them financially and could really put them in a bind depending on their family situation.

As I have said many times already in my articles, police officers are human beings. They are not robots. They are not programmed to do a job and end threats with precision and perfection. They are human beings, who make split second decisions based on the situations they are presented with day in and day out. No human being wants to take another life. Period. Officers are forced into these situations. Police officers are 100% reactionary when it comes to their use of force options. If the “suspect” turns around and puts their hands behind their back, you will never hear about that arrest because the “suspect” CHOSE to comply. The arrest is over and nothing bad happens. This is how everyone wants any police incident to end, including the police.

On the contrary, if the suspect resists, fights, or points a weapon at the officer, you will likely read about the aftermath in the news. This isn’t rocket science, it is simple cause and effect where the suspect is ultimately in control of how the incident plays out. Yes, there are shootings that are not justified. The shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina is an example of a horrible police shooting. Consequently, the officer was convicted and is serving a 20 year prison sentence, rightfully so.  On August 28, 2018, a policer officer from Balch Springs, Texas was found guilty of murder. It does happen and will likely happen more in the future due to video being readily available during nearly all police and citizen interactions.

Sadly, police officers will make mistakes and police officers will continue to go to prison. This is the new normal police officers have to accept. Years ago, grand juries made deicsions based on witness testimony and the officer’s statements. In the past, accounts of what happened generally led to a no-bill from the grand jury (meaning the officer won’t be charged with a crime) or an innocent verdict if they did go to trial. In today’s world of law enforcement, we can review a shooting like it’s a play in a professional sporting event. What happens in mere seconds can be broken down second by second, frame by frame, and eventually a decision is made as to whether it was justified. Things have changed and any mistakes like the ones in South Carolina and Balch Springs, Texas can and will likely result in a prison sentence. A bad day at the office could cost you 20 years of your life maybe longer. The job of being a police officer was always difficult, you’d be hard pressed to convince me it isn’t harder today than ever before. Perfection or prison.

Back to the original question at hand.

Can police say sorry?

Yes they can. And I bet they would do it more if they could.

Thank an officer today.

-The Officer Next Door

Police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, military members, corrections officers, teachers, and nurses. The public servants of society share many things in common. Most people respect them and most of us appreciate their sacrifices, rightfully so. They usually work in harsh environments, work long hours for generally speaking, low pay. As much as the people who choose these career paths deserve admiration and respect, there is an entire group of people that are often overlooked. The spouses and family members of our public servants or the “unsung heroes” of our society.

They are truly the “unsung heroes” of public service. Not only do they shoulder work schedules that include long hours, shift work, or unpredictable “on call” statuses; they are at home trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy in the absence of their spouse. Celebrating Christmas on the 23rd or the 26th because your spouse has to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is anything but ideal and certainly not the “normal” the rest of society gets to enjoy.

It should go without saying, worry is a constant for the families of public servants. Every time their loved one walks out the front door, they hope they return the way they left. In recent years, it would not be a stretch to say the dangers have increased. Though statistically 2017 was a better year than most – in regards to line of duty deaths – an increase in ambush style attacks and unsolicited shootings of police officers do nothing to quell the fears for law enforcement families.

In a recent email from a reader I was asked, “How are wives supposed to handle the fear associated with their spouses being police officers in a society that so openly disrespects police?” My initial thought was how much I wish I had an amazing answer. One that could help them sleep at night. I wish I could prevent their heart skipping a beat when the phone rings, or there is an unexpected knock at the door during their spouse’s shift. Truthfully, that point of concern is exactly why I started writing these articles and created The Officer Next Door website. The pure hatred and vitriol that motivated the cowardly shooter in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016, lends credibility to the fear law enforcement spouses experience daily.

The dangers law enforcement officers face today have changed since 2014. The Ferguson effect is NOT just limited to police officers’ new hesitation to engage in proactive policing. It has also increased the chances of being targeted simply because of the uniform they wear. I think most law enforcement spouses realize the job their loved one signed up for is dangerous. However, I don’t think most law enforcement spouses dreamt it would become common place for officers to be shot while taking no enforcement action at all. This would be like worrying about your firefighter spouse dying doing something other than fighting fires. Sadly today, eating lunch can lead to being injured or killed and that is hard to digest for police spouses.

To the men and women out there married to a first responder, THANK YOU. Parents, siblings, and family members of public servants, THANK YOU. Without you, our public servants would struggle. You are the support system they need to be successful. The fact they became a public servant is a reflection on you as a parent or spouse and you should be proud.

I will offer this idea to help with your fear and worry regarding the daily dangers your spouses or family members face. Be vocal and supportive when talking about their jobs and their personal sacrifices. Share your concerns and worries with your friends. Don’t be shy to share with people what goes on in a family that has a first responder or public servant in it. Don’t “unfriend” people that speak negatively about law enforcement. It’s easy to turn a cheek to the ones who “don’t understand” what it is like to be a police officer or public servant in 2018. I can certainly relate.

When you speak to someone you know personally and share your perspective as a law enforcement spouse, one would hope they will listen with a sympathetic ear. Furthermore, I would hope they would take your input and perspective at face value as friends or acquaintances. When critics read my articles, they automatically think I am biased and ONLY support police regardless of fault, which is simply not true.

I have noticed that most people who are vocal or critical of police officers’ actions often have valid points or concerns. That being said, they can also be slightly misguided or have certain beliefs or opinions that are based on lies or half-truths. In this instance, it would be your job to dispel any mistruths about a particular incident or topic. All too often you see people in social media comments sections saying things like, “That’s entrapment!” or “That’s excessive!” Odds are good, if you review whatever it is they are talking about, they are wrong. Or it could simply be the fact, “it doesn’t look good.” Police work isn’t always pretty. People resist, fight, bite, spit, and shoot at police officers. These are all met with equal or greater force, which is legal by the way. None of which is fun to watch or “looks good.”

On the positive side, as technology, equipment, and training improve, officers are indeed safer. They are more aware of the threats they face today and training continually evolves to address these issues. Officers being issued tourniquets and higher quality bulletproof vests help as well. Can you protect against an all-out ambush? No. Just like we can’t stop rain on wedding days. Some things we can’t control, however, I am confident in the future for police.

With knowledge and understanding comes power. The power to change someone’s mind or make them see something from a different perspective is precisely what needs to happen to make police officer’s jobs safer. Unfortunately, there is little to be done about poorly chosen media headlines that care more to stir up emotion and garner clicks, than tell the story in an unbiased or non-inflammatory manner.

That is one aspect of the, “war on police” we have zero control over. So my suggestion of discussion and explanation when afforded the opportunity bears even more weight. I have had personal success of offering a different point of view when discussing law enforcement with people. As mentioned in previous articles, discussion can actually change someone’s point of view. Trolling, commenting with hate, anger, or a sarcastic “meme”, does little to help people see things from a police officer’s perspective.

I would be remiss to suggest that you can change everyone’s mind. I think it is safe to say there will always be some people who simply “hate” police. Usually, they seem to be the ones who place ill-directed hate toward police because they enforce laws they disagree with. Police officers don’t make the laws, they simply enforce them.

Engage people who hate what your spouse does. Attempt to have meaningful dialogue and address their viewpoints and concerns. If they don’t respond well and still “hate” police at least you tried. All we can do as law enforcement supports is continue to take the ever-difficult high road.

If doing the right thing was easy, everyone would do it.

Stay safe, stay supportive, and THANK YOU for being the spouse or family member of a first responder. You are truly the unsung heroes of our society.

Thank a first responder today.

-The Officer Next Door

justin-snyder-photo-606497-unsplash (2)Photo by Justin Snyder Photo on Unsplash

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 wanted “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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