We Can’t Do This Alone
Recently (Return Fire, “A Man Of Faith” July 2012) a deputy sheriff from Ohio asked the editor to consider doing an article on faith and law enforcement. Suzi, understandably, explained to do so would be virtually impossible without offending some readers. I’d like to approach the issue from a slightly different angle in hopes it not only is supportive of the deputy, but all readers regardless of whether they’re men and women of faith or not.
One thing that’s become very clear to me over my years in and around the law enforcement profession is those who try to do this job without some sort of support system (sometimes affectionately referred to as the John Wayne syndrome) are doomed to either failure or personal disaster. Yet, many of us make the mistake of doing precisely that — thinking we’re one tough hombre — and other than the backup needed on particular types of calls don’t, need help from anyone. Those who push this approach to the extreme too often wind up as alcoholics, divorced, in trouble with Internal Affairs or all of the above.
Cop work is one of the most demanding endeavors you can find short of doing battle as a ground troop in a place like Afghanistan. What we’re exposed to throughout a career as we go from call to call ranges from boring to life threatening and everything in between. Any cop who tells me he’s never found a call to be gut wrenching or emotional either has no experience or is in a state of denial. I’ll never forget the first call that punched me in the gut as a new deputy sheriff. Twins had been subjected to the worst child abuse and neglect imaginable, and their drunken parents told me the children were a pain in the ass and hoped they died. It was only my partner’s intervention, which kept me from punching the parents’ tickets that hot summer afternoon.
So what’s the point?
If you deal with the crap we do in this business over a long period of time without benefit of some form of outside support, you’re headed for a major train wreck. For many of us the support keeping us sane comes from family and close friends (often of the non cop variety) if we’re mature and smart enough to appropriately share our feelings and concerns with them. For others the needed support does, in fact, come from a faith in a supreme being, regardless of particular religion. Still others get the desired support from a combination of the two.
I’m not advocating every LEO “get religion” — it’s a personal choice. For personal psychological and emotional survival every officer needs to find someone or some entity to rely on for support other than him/herself. Way back in 1624, the British poet John Donne wrote No Man Is An Island. His point was the one I wish to make. As human beings, even as tough cops, we should not, indeed cannot, bear all of life’s burdens unassisted. Even, or perhaps especially, cops need and deserve the support of others when the going gets rough. Sure many of us would like to think we’re the “one Ranger” that can handle “one riot” unassisted … but the reality is, we can’t.
Far too many of us, particularly early in our careers, eat, breathe and live being a cop. There certainly is something addictive about the adrenaline rush that results from handling hot calls. I was as guilty as anyone of not letting go of the job during my off hours. Like others, I paid a price for that. We need healthy non-work related endeavors during our off-duty time; they contribute to the health, strength and sanity that serve us well during the hours we are at work. Part of the stay healthy equation is relaxation, a hobby or physical activity, and time spent with others whose ear we can bend if we need to.
Count yourself fortunate if you have a support system as suggested herein. If you don’t, I suggest you develop one. And if you do, don’t forget to say thanks from time to time — be it to your spouse, a close friend, or in the case of some of us a supreme being.
Question, comments and suggestions for future columns can be sent to Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jerry Boyd