It is all I ever wanted to do. And like so many other law enforcement professionals, I have spent my entire adult life serving and protecting. I remember it all, which is to say, this is a meaningful profession to me.
There are few other occupations which have similar attributes of dedication and sacrifice. Certainly our military and our other first responder family members immediately come to mind. The calling of a law enforcement officer is strong. It is so intense, women and men voluntarily risk their health, marriage, relationships, financial well-being, and even their own lives—all for the sake of this profession. They love this job.
An abundance of awesome rewards come from this career. Strangely, many of these are often unspoken and go unrevealed. There’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment officers feel after solving a case, helping a crime victim, saving a life, mentoring a child, or offering simple kindness. This concept is not easily explained if you are an officer, and difficult to comprehend if you are not. Officers have emotional attachments to these proud achievements, personal victories, and benchmarks of their career.
Officers remember their victories. They also remember the struggles and the sacrifices made as the collateral damage of their chosen profession begins to accumulate.
In the early years, new officers are invigorated, focused, and excited about this fast-paced and exhilarating job. High-speed chases, arresting “the bad guys,” a good scuffle now and then, and the rest of the Hollywood stuff we grew up with keep the job fresh. This is an extremely influential period for a new officer, as these exposures to great and exciting things begin to build a bond between the officer and the agency. They love coming to work, doing the job, and experiencing the esprit de corps of a tightly knit patrol shift. It is common for officers to incorporate their agency, and the law enforcement lifestyle, as part of their individual identity.
As the years pass, and the newness wanes, officers begin to experience the collateral damage of this profession. Whether it’s a divorce, financial woes, health issues, or other struggles, officers become disenchanted with the profession. Officers discover that the agency they once loved now presents them with rules, discipline, politics, favoritism, unfairness, skepticism, public scrutiny, and other real pressures. They loved their agency by sacrificing family time, personal hours, health, their marriage, and more. They gave their unwavering dedication, passion, and love for the career. They went over and above to seek out the evil, bring darkness into the light, and risk their lives.
Where is their agency when they need it the most?
Simply put, your agency will never love you back. It’s not because you don’t deserve it, or haven’t earned it. It’s only because your agency is not designed, nor capable of returning the feeling you had for the law enforcement profession when you first arrived.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide are a business. The business of law enforcement was here long before now, and it will remain long after we are gone. It is normal for officers to transition to several different phases during their career.
Perhaps the most challenging is the disenchantment phase, which occurs sometime between years 6 and 10. These years were the most challenging for me, as I struggled to understand my role and questioned my career choice. During this time, my initial reaction was to blame the agency for its lack of compassion and love for the officers. Its failure to take steps to improve morale, support the officers, and make the agency a fun place to work again gave me a strong feeling of contempt. I gave so much to this agency—why can’t I get anything from it in return?
It took a few years of soul-searching, building my education, seeking wisdom from colleagues, and working through these issues to understand my true relationship with my agency. It is after all, a business relationship. As such, no person is irreplaceable. When I experienced this realization, my career opportunities and professional outlook improved greatly. I understood that the task of improving agency morale, instilling compassion, supporting my fellow officers, and making the workplace a fun environment again started with me. I took responsibility, discarded the negativity and blame, and got back to work.
Leaders concern themselves with seeking ways for improvement, and not seeking whom to blame for failures. I remembered the reasons I was attracted to this profession. To protect and to serve. It is all I ever wanted to do. Self-actualization is a tough path to travel. Unfortunately, many officers never complete this journey.
I love my agency. I love what it represents, the officers who serve within, and the brotherhood it provides. I have made some fantastic contributions to the community, and have experienced professional and personal growth in ways I could never of imagined. I have an extreme sense of accomplishment and pride.
I love my agency. I know it will never love me back, and I’m okay with that.