This week I had a hard time deciding what I would write about. This is my 10th article, so I guess I wanted to write something special. I decided to write about police work and the toll it takes on a person’s emotions . This is not based on any science or psychological analysis but my own experience. Remember also that every person is different and other police officers might have had different experiences, but I think they will find similarities with my story.
To start off, I would like to say that when I first started out as a front line officer, I was learning a lot from more experienced officers. I would take from these officers what fit my personality and also what would work in the field when dealing with the public. I found that I was the type of person who would connect better with the public, whether complainants, victims or even suspects. I would be to get to know them better and know where they are coming from.
No, not the place they are coming from but what type of life they had and what brought them to this point…so in other words, empathize with them. Well for me to do this and for them to come and trust me, I would need to let a little bit of myself go also. Otherwise it’s one-way communication and you will never get any good rapport with anyone that way.
Then all of a sudden, the pulling and tugging stopped.
So this was the way I decided that I was going to police. It fit my values of life better and when I think about it, it saved me from a few tight situation. For example, one night I was working on the Reserve and keeping a close eye on a beer garden along with a local reserve officer. Close to midnight as we were driving in the parking lot, we were flagged down. One of the patrons was going nuts and wanted to fight everybody. My partner and I got out of our vehicle, approaching the subject of complaint and were going to arrest him then and there. Then all of a sudden, his buddies started tugging on us and we were being circled. The more we fought to arrest the subject, the more we were getting pulled and pushed away from this guy. Then all of a sudden, the pulling and tugging stopped. Well lo and behold, when I turned around, a bunch of people that I had built a rapport with in the past had formed a line and were keeping the subject of complaint’s buddies away from us.
For me to get a rapport of that kind, I had to let a little bit of my personal past out to them as well. But what happens when you do this is that you start to connect with people and the people you connect with the most are the ones you deal with almost on a daily basis – which are the one you get to arrest on a regular basis! You start to really sympathize with most of them because you start finding out that they are the way they are today because of what happened to them in the past.
I found out that some of them had parents that were alcoholics or only one parent who was an alcoholic and sometimes would roam the streets at 2-3 o’clock in the morning at 6-7 years of age so they wouldn’t see the dad, or boyfriend beat up on their moms. Or that some of them had been sexually assaulted by a parent, an uncle or even grandparents as young as three years of age. A lot of social problems resulted in young kids growing up with having to deal with traumatic events when they were very young . I think some of them wanted a different life but growing up just didn’t know where to turn to for help.
Those became what I call today my “robot years.”
Some of these people I got to connect at a close level ended up committing suicide, including two hockey players I had coached a few years before. That really took a toll on my mental health, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Dealing with these types of situations after awhile, those became what I call today my “robot years.” I would actually go to certain calls and it would be like I was on automatic. I would not care at all about a break-and-enter with minor value stolen. I would take notes, make believe that I was concerned, and then leave and write my report and on to the next call.
I had built a wall so well that I was forgetting what it was like to live life like a regular human being.
The robot years started to carry on during my days off. I still remember my wife telling me years after how she would look at me and it would seem like I was a person that just didn’t have any emotions left. I wasn’t seeing it that way, but now that I reflect back on it, I really didn’t have any emotions left at all. Everything was on a level. No highs and no lows. Just functioning through life… like a robot. I had built a wall so well that I was forgetting what it was like to live life like a regular human being. I still feel the effects today, although I do have glimpses of feeling emotions of happiness and sadness, but not as much as before I joined law enforcement. I feel like I am empty inside. Nothing left. This was actually mirrored to me by a very good friend of mine who also worked 28 years in policing and just recently retired. He told me those exact words. That he felt like he had no emotions left inside. That he was dead inside.
I think as police officers, especially the ones who try to empathize with people that are struggling through life, we try to keep our emotions so much in check when attending calls that our mind starts to think that it is not good to have any emotions. And when you think about it, police officers do have to hold back emotions frequently. We can not start to break down and cry uncontrollably in front of the public at a serious accident scene where kids are deceased. Or in one of my cases, tell a seven-year-old that his mom would be okay and asking a firefighter to bring the kid up the embankment for me as I was with the paramedic attending the mom. Her face was a grayish pale with purple lips. I had a feeling she was badly bleeding internally and the paramedic confirmed my assumptions. She died soon after. I always felt a lot of guilt, even today for lying to that kid. But I just didn’t want him to see his mom this way.
I just want to enjoy the peacefulness that nature brings. That to me is true happiness.
I could go on and on about these types of calls that other police officers and I attended. We are to hold our emotions in on a daily basis. After awhile, you do not want to let go of all those emotions at home. Why would I burden my wife on the violence I witness during my shift? I don’t even want to remember them today. So why would I give this hell to someone I love? Doesn’t make any sense. Today, I find a lot of peacefulness and happiness just walking in the woods with my dog. Even though my wife tags along with me at times, she knows that sometimes, I just don’t want to talk. I just want to enjoy the peacefulness that nature brings. That to me is true happiness.
Thank you for those taking the time to read my articles. Please share to whomever you feel could benefit from them. I would really appreciate that. Until next week. Stay safe my friends.