I really wrestled with writing this because I did not want this piece to appear disingenuous, as if I was searching for professional sympathy or was trying to engage in the woe-is-us. I wrestled with the disconnect between what law enforcement professionals really deal with and what our communities think we deal with. I did not want my ideas of that disconnect to serve as a further wedge between that supportive and valued community and those in the business. But I felt it cathartic to write, to provide a glimpse. If they could only imagine …
Imagine going to work everyday and not knowing if today would be your last day on earth … because of your job. Does the IT professional worry about this? How about the surgeon, the accountant, the tax professional, the salesman, the attorney, the window installer, the fence builder, the teacher, the telemarketer, the preacher, the plumber, the architect? Imagine coaching your last baseball game, not knowing it was your last. Imagine the last “I love you,” the last “I cannot wait for the weekend,” the last “I’ll call you later.” Imagine being called a racist, yet knowing you are not. Imagine being called an idiot, despite eight years of college education. Imagine having your every move examined by in-car cameras, body-worn cameras, traffic cameras, cell phone cameras, news cameras. Imagine everybody is an expert—except you.
Imagine burying your 6th co-worker in 8 years.
Imagine going to work, everyday, not knowing whether or not you will see the co-worker you had coffee with, ate with, cried with. Imagine people wanting to kill you for the uniform you wear, the oath that you took, for what you represent. Imagine being called a pig, a bigot, worthless, a waste. Imagine having to simply take it because that is what you signed up for.
Imagine burying your 9th co-worker in 10 years.
Imagine playing baseball with the son of one of your brave co-workers … who will never play baseball with his son. Imagine telling him how brave his dad was, how much he loved him.
Imagine burying your 12th co-worker in 11 years.
Imagine how on top of the worry of whether you or your co-worker will go home that day, you see the destruction of families by virtue of drugs, battles with mental health, alcohol, gang violence, child abuse, sexual assault, sex trafficking, greed, and the list goes on.
Imagine the 13th and 14th co-worker coming on the same day—that was year 12. Imagine being told your wife was one of those killed, only to learn she was spared.
Imagine doing CPR for the 4th time on a child, trying like hell to deliver a miracle, again. Imagine being unsuccessful, again. Imagine these things landing upon your shoulders like 100 pound weights … again and again and again. How much can you carry?
Imagine burying your 15th co-worker in 17 years.
Imagine today: Imagine what it is like looking at your staff directory to gain an understanding of who knew Bob: the 19th hero to be killed for wearing a uniform, for taking that oath for caring about people. Imagine figuring out how to tell your staff delicately, timely and while holding it together. That happened seven times today. Imagine coming home to your family, for the 19th time, and assuring them all will be ok, that you will be there to coach your son’s baseball team, that you will be there to say I love you, that you will not let it happen to you.
Imagine waiting for the 20th … It is coming. It always does.