From The Cop Side: Letters You Should Write To Your Mother But Never Send
As most parents, mine wished me the best in my endeavors and wanted me to be successful at whatever I chose to do as a career. My dad passed when I was 21 years old, but I had assured him I would be the greatest business marketing whiz I could be. He had laughed but was supportive that I was seeking a degree in business. Five years before that I had sworn to him I would be a veterinarian. I think my mother would have preferred I went into teaching or nursing, the family traditions. She definitely insisted to me that I always be a lady and on occasion she muttered about my attire being less than desirable. Would it behoove me to wear a dress? Well, for occasions I wore dresses. I had inherited her addiction for shoe shopping. So, those odds are not bad, right?
I never shared much of my police work with either parent. First, my dad never got a chance to listen because he was gone by the time I had become an officer. Second, I did not think my mom could handle most of my encounters in law enforcement, so I shared the safe topics. I should have written her a letter each day on duty. Instead, I kept a journal.
Great news! Today I received a conditional offer of employment as a police officer. I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me. I will have to wear man shoes all the time. They are not cute. I know you always wanted me to be in a normal career, but this is going to be fun. You will see. I get to drive a car that doesn’t fall apart for 12 hours straight. I mean I get to drive a new car for 12 hours straight. You know what I mean. Don’t worry, Internal Affairs is going to contact you for an interview and check into my background. Please say nice things and don’t tell them I was mean to my brother. You might have to go through an FBI screening as well. I am not sure about that, though.
After passing the academy and my field training program, I embraced everything about being a police officer. It was all dynamic, exciting, and full of puzzles to solve. On all my calls, I was very attentive and tried to be thorough. Waking up for another day of duty was a dream come true.
If my mother worried about me, she did not say it out loud. In fact, once she asked me about my day and I rattled on and on. In the middle of my story, she stopped me and said she could not bear any more information because it was so gross. She never asked me again. I am almost certain law enforcement is a calling she never thought any of her children would find as the perfect fit.
Today I got to wear a dress. It was green. You would be so proud. They made me just like a prostitute, and I got to work undercover. You should have seen the guy’s face when he was busted. I think his wife is going to be upset. Yesterday, it was full of accidents and traffic stops. It seemed the entire city forgot how to drive and threw the regulations right out the window. They probably needed you to ride shotgun or scold them from the back seat. I also learned how to cuss in 5 languages. This is so awesome! I love this job!
Patrol was and is not always routine nor humorous. There are moments of tragedy and being a first responder places an officer right on the frontline of human misery. Over time, police all become calloused-not because they are heartless individuals, but because it is a natural neurological response. I believe this is the part of my human spirit my mother missed the most.
Becoming apathetic is going to the extreme. Officers usually line up somewhere in the middle of apathy and empathy. It is a coping mechanism to shield us from getting personally involved in calls which would prevent us from being objective. Yet, officers are human and there is always that one call that gets us. Daily human suffering and adversity compounds an officer’s psyche.
Tough calls occur every single day in every town. First responders arrive in the midst of the incidents and have to be a buffer. One minute an officer might enforce the laws. The next instant he or she is comforting a broken soul. The result is the brain’s natural reaction to compartmentalize all of those tragedies observed and put them into seclusion. Police officers cannot afford to be emotional wrecks in a time of crisis.
I am finally catching a breath after a long day of crazy events. I don’t understand human behavior all the time and it often leaves me in thought for quite a while. My partner and I responded to a suicide call first thing out of the chute. When we got there, the dad was hanging from a rope in the garage and my partner cut him down. We both knew he had a slim chance of making it. The fire department was on scene at the same time and they all worked to save him. There was no need for me to add to the 4 firefighters already performing CPR and medical duties. My partner was talking to the wife and I was given permission to take pictures and gather evidence for the detective. Pretty soon that was put aside because the wife was so distraught I had to comfort the three year old. She clung to me like her life was depending on it and would not go to anyone else. My uniform collar was soaked with her tears. I asked her if she was scared and she would just nod and snuggle right up to me. Her grip got tighter. She would not utter a word the entire hour I held her. All I could think of was to tell her she was safe because telling her that her dad or things would be “OK” was not something I could guarantee. Her mother had left in the ambulance and someone called an aunt to pick up her child. So that was my job today. I didn’t know what to say to the girl except meaningless chatter. She would not release me and did not want to get down and play in her room. Pretty soon I just did that mother sway thing back and forth while I was standing and holding her. You know how I can’t stand still. I did not cry once, although my heart strings were stretched pretty far because no little girl should have to experience something like that. It was a pretty deflating day.
Being on the front line is the priority of patrol. Investigating a complex case falls on the responsibility of an investigations unit, unless you belong to a small department. In those instances, a patrol officer may investigate a serious crime from start to prosecution and any and all crimes.
There is no mandatory career track or magic path in law enforcement. Most organizations have many different assignments or special duties for an officer to engage in and hone their skillsets. Promotions can range from supervisory positions to special assignments.
Five years of patrol work gave me enough experience to take my career to another level. Investigations and problem solving were catalysts for my disposition. I applied for a detective opening and was chosen for the appointment. After a year, I was assigned to Crimes Against Children. This required me to be on call often whether it was to respond to cases, conduct search warrants, or answer questions and give referrals to patrol. Of all the assignments in my department, investigative operations were by far the most challenging and rewarding undertaking.
Last night I got called in to an armed robbery. The guy was so stupid he looked right into the camera as he ordered the clerk to put the money in a backpack. Patrol picked him up down the street a few blocks away. He started to tell a big story and I tried not to roll my eyes. I had to play it cool. Then I lied to him and he confessed. Anyway, the lies were probably unnecessary because all I had to really do was show him the video of his brilliant act. Oh well. It is good to practice. I know you think I should not lie, but this job kind of requires it. I consider it acting practice.
Being a detective is not for everyone. It requires many long hours, extensive training, experience (prerequisites vary in departments but can be 3-5 years), call outs, and an abundance of documentation. Investigations demand dedication, report writing skills, and organization. Above all, communication skills are paramount. Because the caseloads are mostly felonies and time consuming to solve, the first response to a call rarely happens in this duty. First response lies with patrol.
No day off for me this week. On my way to a raid today, all h-e- double hockey sticks broke loose. The roads were pure ice and very, very dangerous. In fact, they should have been closed. Top that off with -25 degrees. On the way to the station, I witnessed a fatality accident involving a semi hauling dangerous chemicals and a pickup truck. I will spare you some of the details, but just know it was horrific. I skied over to the accident, literally because of the ice, to render aid dressed in my gear which had big white “police” letters all over it. The tanker was leaking but the driver didn’t tell us until we were all exposed. Naturally, I had to take over until Highway Patrol got there because the other drivers on the road were expecting me to do something. Not that I wouldn’t anyway, because that is what I am supposed to do. I had to usher them way over to the other side of the highway and stay away. The people were yelling at me to pull the driver out of the pickup to help him. I knew he was probably deceased, but I cut his seat belt away and pulled him to the ground. Another man helped me assess him and he started CPR. We didn’t have any masks or protective gear because I forgot it in the trunk of my detective car. It was too far to retrieve and so I just did it without a barrier. That is zero fun. When the Highway Patrol got there, they scolded me for taking a chance. The firefighters pronounced him at the scene. After giving my statement, I continued to the station. Luckily, I got to my office in time to get in on the search warrant. That is the most fantastic part of the job. Do you know how exciting it is to knock and announce, then bash a door open? We were out for 6 hours gathering evidence and writing reports. I am so tired.
Cops shield most everything from their families and the public. I do not think most people really want to know the finite details of every circumstance-certainly not my mother. I was inclined to disclose only funny short stories or tell her everything was “fine”. Much of what police are exposed to and see in human behavior is unfathomable. Why would a person want to continue working in those conditions? The answer is simple. It is the greatest job on earth!