The Stories: Would YOU Do This Job? The Real-Life Police Perspectives the Media Won’t Highlight

As promised in my piece featured on TheBlaze, below are the stories I asked you to come and read. I’ve left them in my interviewees’ own words to give you a far more personal glance into the lives of our law enforcement community.

Note: Select edits have been made to protect these individuals. Emphases are mine.

“D.H.” – Police Officer

Background: Officer D.H. has been an officer for the past ten years. He works in a large metro environment.

The Hardest Parts

The underlying hypocrisy is the hardest aspect of policing. When police are called, for whatever reason, something has already gone wrong and is in need of correcting. However, when the correction does not fit the political narrative, the police are to blame. I was not responsible for the single mother’s decision to have six children, but when the children lack parental guidance and the situation is critical, the police are called. There is no changing the mindset of a 16 year-old gang-banger when our intervention is at that critical juncture in the teen’s life and typically lasts 10 to 20 minutes.

The Misconceptions

Aside from the obvious, such as, “why don’t they just shoot them in the foot,” the most commonly misunderstood aspect of policing involves our mission. The generic term “police” is used for everything. The police did this, and the police did not do that, yet police do not do anything without orders. Unlike Sherriff departments, where the Sherriff is elected, the Police Chief is hired by, and serves at the will of the mayor, or city council. The police chief serves as political cover or a scapegoat for the politicians. We witnessed this with the way New York City Mayor de Blasio used the Chief of Police to defect the Mayor’s obvious orders. The same charade is currently occurring in Baltimore, where the Mayor issues a stand-down order and the media asks why the “police” did not protect property. This process serves as a cover for elected politicians who are in the business of deflection, deceit, and race-baiting.

The Current Climate: Its Origins & Effect on Law Enforcement

The animosity directed toward police is a daily occurrence. The representation of animosity can be something as simple as the spitting on the sidewalk when an individual sees us patrolling, or the disciplining by the parent of a two to four year old for simply smiling and waving at the police.

Our country is hurting, and has been for sometime. The human condition requires an explanation for the hurt, and when individuals fail to recognize their role in the hurt, they will seek blame. Police are the easiest targets for this condition. We are the cover for the politician, and we are kept quiet by rules, regulations, and bad leadership.

There are approximately 850,000 police officers in the United States. President Obama has stated that, “there seems to be a new example of police brutality every couple of weeks.” If I am to take him at his word, then that means there are 26 examples of police brutality in the U.S. every year, or 0.0031% of the officers in the country are involved in active police brutality each year. Conversely, 99.969% of the officers in this country do the right thing every day.

How has it changed my ability to effectively do my job? I will not chase vehicles, I will not get involved in foot chases, I will not join specialty teams, I will not speed to emergencies, and I will not endanger my family’s well-being for the citizen. You see, one mistake, a simple mistake that is delightfully human, results in indictment, blame for the woes of the country, and the loss of my family’s safety. As much as I want to help my fellow citizens, I am responsible for my wife and children first and foremost.

I am close to completing a Ph.D. and had intended to use the degree in my current profession, but I am going to take a half-retirement and pursue new endeavors. I cannot rightfully expose my family to retribution and ridicule anymore.

The Single Most Critical Thing We Must Understand

I am human. I am fragile on occasion. I am fallible. I fear for my life. I love my fellow human beings. I have cried with victims and I have cried with my brothers and sisters in blue. However, the single most important thing is, “my life also matters.”

God bless my brothers and sisters in blue, and may God Bless America.

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“M.P.” – Police Officer

Background: Officer M.P. has been an officer for the past 17 years. He works in a suburban environment.

The Hardest Parts

Dealing with death, whether suicides, or death notifications, especially juveniles.

Moreover, being accused of racism is one of the hardest things we’re facing now. It’s difficult chiefly because I’m NOT a racist, and also because it has changed the way we can do our jobs. We’re all being judged by an incident (‘hands up, don’t shoot’) that categorically did not occur.”

People sit there and automatically presume I’m looking at people through the lens of race only, yet people judge me every day. They judge me not only on the basis of my race, but by the color of my skin: blue. That’s right, it’s blue. It’s my uniform—and so many people have predisposed ideas based on my uniform.

The public doesn’t realize this, but we’re facing a growing number of people who are being raised to “pull the race card” with the express purpose of avoiding consequences.  That is, they’re being told that if they pull the race card, the officer will back off if they’re threatened with the charge of racism—regardless of the reality of the situation. It’s become that toxic that our young people believe they can get away with something as long as they effectively convince an officer that they’re going to make this interaction about race—publicly.

I had someone once make that accusation when I pulled the guy over for speeding. “You just stopped me because I’m black!” The only problem? It was in the middle of the night on a major road—and he was doing WELL over the speed limit. I couldn’t possibly tell what color the guy’s skin was. It’s not about being a certain color. It’s about what you’re doing. Give me a reason not to stop you (like, obeying the law) and we’re good.

And yet, there are cases when I’m looking for someone specifically based on race. I mean, what are we supposed to say? Look at my calls; look at what I’m responding to. If someone calls in a theft and the description is a black male, I’m going to be looking for a black male. It just is what it is—what would you have us do?

If we keep separating people into races, versus those who abide by the law and those who don’t, it’s only going to get worse.

The Misconceptions

Lately one of the more frustrating things is just ignorance about our jobs.

There’s a prevalent idea the idea that we’re “out to get people.” It’s portrayed as if we “like” arresting people. It’s just a part of a job, because people are out doing dangerous things. There’s a reason why we arrest people who are breaking the law and endangering people. It’s not like I high five my partner every time I arrest someone; it’s just something that has to be done.

Society also grossly misunderstands what it’s like when an officer has to use force, especially deadly force. In reality, shooting someone—regardless of the type of situation your’e in—is a career wrecker, a marriage wrecker … a life wrecker. It’s a BIG deal, chiefly it’s simply not human nature to take the life of another. It changes a person  Generally speaking, I don’t know of a single officer who ever operates under the premise of “oh today’s the day I’m gonna shoot someone. Sweet.” Yet, that’s the perception the public seems to be operating on when it comes to law enforcement. It’s like we’re “out” to shoot someone.

I never have, and I personally hope I never have to.

The Current Climate: Its Origins & Effect on Law Enforcement

The pendulum has swung SO far since having started the job. I grew up in a small town, and my neighbor was cop; in fact, he’s the reason why I got involved in law enforcement. I grew up watching him and his interactions with the community, and wanted to perpetuate that positive relationship with society.

People don’t believe it when officers interact with the community on a personal level. Whether it’s commiserating with someone or stopping to interact with kids playing a game—the public just doesn’t believe we do anything other than hand out citations, arrest people, and use force. We WANT to connect with our communities, but the public perception is that we never do. IT couldn’t’ be farther from the truth—but that’s the narrative that’s out there.

I’ve never witnessed this level of animosity towards law enforcement before. There are SO many factors that affect this shift—but in my opinion, the bottom line is that it starts with the family. It starts with accountability, from our families, our peers, our jobs … and our faith. The farther we fall away from God as a society, the more broken we become. You’ve got broken families, single mothers working two or three jobs to make ends meet (and being away from home in the process), absent fathers/father figures … the list goes on.

When I started 17 years ago, it was common for a family unit to be intact in most cases. It’s a different story today. And honestly, most households I see where there are issues (drugs, theft, abuse, etc.) are households that are broken. And SO often we hear from the kids involved, “my dad isn’t in the picture.”

Honestly, even though I feel that law enforcement is my calling and my mission field in the world, I don’t even like to go to work anymore. With everything that’s going on, it’s painful. I mean, we’re seeing things like cops getting executed in the streets JUST for being cops, and for nothing else. There’s days I come home and I’m completely drained by the day and what I’ve seen. And I just give it to God—I know he’s in control even though I can’t always understand what’s going on.

It might sound cheesy but I WANT to help. There are helpless people out there—through their own doing, and some through uncontrollable circumstances—and I just want to go the extra mile.

The sad thing is, this is changing how I view the future of the profession. I’m first generation law enforcement. In the back of my mind I always thought it would be cool if my son followed in my footsteps. It would mean that he felt that it was an important, meaningful job. But today, I hope he doesn’t make that decision. It’s gone too far; it is changing so fast.

The Single Most Critical Thing We Must Understand

People need to understand that there is no silver bullet solution to the difficulties and challenged faced in effective policing.

Take body cameras, for instance.

To my knowledge I’ve never said anything that I couldn’t back up. So in that sense, I don’t care if I’m asked to wear a camera. My only reservation is that it’s not a cure-all. Cameras only hear what they can hear, and only see what they’re pointed at. What’s right in front of the lens if I have my gun drawn? My hands—so the camera can’t see the full picture of what’s going on. They don’t record senses; what’s in the peripheral… I’m just worried people will get caught up in the aspects that the camera can’t possibly capture.

Another critical point is the night vision component. It can see FAR better than my own eyes. For example, there’s a range of 10-12 feet of green video, but my own personal vision is just three feet out in the pitch black. While the video might make it perfectly clear what’s in front of me, my eyes can’t always see the same things and thus my reaction might not be based on the same thing the camera is seeing. People just don’t realize that! So—when I’m hauled in front of a court of law for some action that I took, the public sees the video and makes an instant judgment about what I “should” have seen.

Furthermore, who gets access to these videos? What about privacy? What if a would-be thief puts in a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and gets every video from Officer M.P., including every house I’ve been in—and uses it to case houses he’d like to rob? What then?

It could be a real Pandora’s box—and people need to understand that it’s just not that easy.

Above all, however, the single greatest thing the public needs to understand is just this: as simple as it sounds—we’re humans. We do the very best that we can, but we make mistakes. We have tempers. We’re not robots.

We’re all sinful and we all mess up—especially the further we fall from God. Yes, we are held to a higher standard, and the hammer should be dropped when something’s done wrong. We hope that through training, tests, etc., that will help me AVOID those mistakes. But they’re going to happen.

And sometimes, a cop’s buttons get pushed. Take South Carolina, for example. Every cop knows you can’t shoot a person in the back. What I think happened was that the guy made a BAD decision because his buttons got pushed—for whatever reason. But to make it sound like we’re ALL these racists, war mongers—it’s just not honest.

I look at my 17 years, there’s only been TWO times where I’ve seen what I would categorize as actual, intentional, pre-meditated abuse of power; of the thousands of interactions I’ve had with cops—those have been the only two. Yet somehow—it’s become the definition for all of us.

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“Meghan T.” – Wife of Police Officer

Background: Meghan T.’s husband has been an officer for the past eight years. He works in a large metro environment.

The Hardest Parts

I think every police family has their own challenges, but some rather common ones are: officers missing out on significant events (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries), scheduling issues (overnight shifts, no daycare, two working parent households), a lifestyle changes (worries about safety, anonymity, retaliation), on the job concerns (administration, politics). Law enforcement families have a high rate of divorce and often struggle with communication, leaving the job “at work”, finding balance and it takes a toll on officers day in and day out.

The Current Climate: Its Origins & Effect on Law Enforcement

There has always been a subset of the population that doesn’t like law enforcement, though I have not personally seen this “level” of public displays of it though until now. These situations are not new, but the way the media has portrayed law enforcement is new, and the way we all communicate with each other via news and social media is also new.

The court of public opinion is quick to judge based on rumors, unsubstantiated evidence, and however the media decides to spin the story. The case of Baltimore has turned into a race issue when in fact three of the six officers accused are also black. The true facts and statistics surrounding the cases that movements—like Black Lives Matter—are protesting are pushed aside because those facts don’t sell stories for mainstream media.

There are unfortunately bad apples in every profession, but the media has created a strong divide between people who believe the police are there to serve and protect and minority that believes the police only seek to abuse their badge and hurt people of color. It personally is very disturbing to me to think that people can’t see beyond a badge to see my husband as a father, a son, and someone that cares about his community.

Despite this, my husband will never stop being an officer. He says it’s the “best job in the world.” He cares too much about people to consider a different career path.

The Single Most Critical Thing We Must Understand

The most important thing you need to understand is that you cannot define all officers by a few that may have made mistakes on the job. Officers are human and they have to make a lot of decisions in the blink of an eye. If their decision is not the best one, they are held accountable by their administration, and civilly in a court of law. We need to be respectful of the process and we need to end the divide and hold the media accountable for their reporting.

I never want anyone to be afraid of calling 911 for help or fear that an officer approaching them has any intent to do ill will. Officers take an oath to serve and protect and all officers I know that seriously. My husband believes in his role in the community and appreciates the support that those citizens who understand what real police work is continue to share with us. Those people may not have the loudest voices but they deserve to be heard too.

 

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“R.S.” – Fiancé of a Police Officer

Background: R.S. recently organized a rally in support of law enforcement in her community, and her comments focus greatly on that effort. Her fiancé has been a police officer for the past six years.)

The Hardest Parts

When I hear or read derogatory comments towards law enforcement officers, it feels more personal. Those are my friends and family being bad-mouthed, and I think that brought out my defensive side. After all, no one would stand by quietly while the people they love and care about are being talked about in a negative way, so I wanted to do something—anything—to show them that they are cared about and loved.

On organizing the rally: I had had enough. I think I read one too many news articles online one day and just got sick and tired. The people writing those articles have more than likely never met an officer or even spent a day with one. So I decided to combat all the negativity with positivity for a change. And that was it! I made the event, and from there it grew exponentially. I remember as I created the event, I was sitting on the couch in the living room watching TV with my fiancé- and I remember saying to him, “Even if we got like, 100 people that would be so cool.” I think we had 100 people by noon the next day! I’ll never know whether our little event influenced anyone to do the same, but if someone were thinking about hosting something similar, I would definitely encourage them! It was such a simple gesture but it truly meant a lot to so many people.

The Misconceptions

Admittedly, I hadn’t met or personally known an officer until July 2008 when I met my now fiancé, a police officer. I was uneducated about what a police officer is and does. Over the past six-and-a-half years, I’ve met so many officers along with their friends and families, and my perception of who an officer is has been completely changed. They’re ordinary people with extraordinary careers. They tell jokes, watch the same TV shows as you or I, play catch with their kids, take their dog to the park, yet because of their job are subjected to a lot of hatred … and honestly that hurts me.

The Current Climate: Its Origins & Effect on Law Enforcement

I’m still fairly young, and I’ve always wondered whether the tensions truly are boiling over, whether I’m just taking notice more now that I have a personal connection to the issue, or whether I’m more aware of the situation because I’m a bit older than I was 5 or 10 years ago when things like this didn’t concern me. The statistics definitely show that there is in fact an increase in violence towards police: the number of deaths annually is climbing and that’s just something we can’t dispute. But I can’t figure out why. It seems like hating cops is the cool thing to do When’s the last time you heard a song say something about respecting police? Or a parent saying “if you finish all your homework, the cops are going to come and give you a sticker!” I think a lot of parents are raising their children to hate cops and be afraid of them, which only leads to more violent encounters and fuels the fire.

The Single Most Critical Thing We Must Understand

At the end of the day I wish everyone could see what I see, and what every other officer’s family sees. These are not militaristic people out on a mission to physically fight with people or—heaven forbid—use their weapon. They don’t enjoy those dark parts of the job. That’s not their purpose and that’s not why they chose the badge. Getting guns and drugs out of the hands of a known gang member who sells to kids—that’s what matters. Making the community safer for us so that we can let our child walk seven houses down to their friend’s house without having to worry about them—that’s what matters. And at the end of the day, all they want to do is go home to their families like the rest of us.

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Tulio Tourinho – Police Officer

Background: Officer Tourinho is a Brazilian immigrant, Iraq War veteran and has served as a police officer for the past nine years.He has been gracious enough to lend us his perspective in the past, and that story can be found here. He works in a large metro environment.

The Hardest Parts

I would say that the hardest part about my job is the misinformation and public scrutiny. The general public simply doesn’t understand, or seemingly care to understand, what our job is like and why we do things the way we do. And then, to add insult to injury, they judge us on perception and misinformation instead of facts. It has always been my position that the most important responsibility of any Chief of Police, second only to ensuring the overall well-being of the men and women under his charge, is to inform and educate the public. Police departments ought to have 15 to 30 second weekly infomercials where the nuances of police work are explained to the public: why we “blind” drivers with our spotlights during traffic stops, why we behave aggressively when alone or in secluded areas, what our protocols are, why we don’t always respond with lights and sirens, why it’s nearly impossible to shoot someone on the leg when in a deadly confrontation, etc.

An equally hard part about the job is the job itself, as it relates to what we see, hear and take in on a daily basis. People don’t call the police because they want to thank us and invite us to dinner. They call because there’s a problem they are either unwilling, unskilled or unable to overcome. In other words, we see the worst in people and in society ALL THE TIME. It wears you down, leaving you stressed, unable to reconcile the experiences with the human element. Cops are humans, believe it or not! Suffice it to say, we too experience the myriad of emotions and stresses anyone else does. We may be better than most at containing and controlling these emotions, but it certainly does not mean we don’t crack at times.

The Misconceptions

There is no doubt that the most commonly misunderstood part of my job is the use of deadly force AND the application of rights to individuals. Every state has a different set of rules that apply, and, although most states have slightly different laws that rule over such things, people need to understand that deadly force is authorized in certain circumstances, no matter how “inappropriate” or “excessive” one might believe it to have been. As for the application of rights, what I mean to say is, people do have rights, but they rarely know what those rights are, and how to apply them when confronted by the police. The matter is becoming increasingly problematic because civilians THINK they know the law and their rights, and often challenge the police on it, but only to find themselves having to be forcefully brought into compliance. My philosophy has always been: comply first, sue later. If you feel you have been wronged, you always reserve the right to retain a lawyer and seek his counsel on the matter, and see if you have a viable lawsuit against the department. Why people challenge the police so much is beyond me.

 The Current Climate: Its Origins & Effect on Law Enforcement

This level of hatred toward a professional class is unprecedented, to say the least. Although I do understand where the more reasonable people are coming from regarding their distrust of the police – especially those who are, like me, lovers of freedom and justice – I still fail to see how the actions of a minute few ought to reflect as if a reality of the whole. The statistics are plain to see: the amount of officers who offend, by either committing a crime or abusing of their calling or being outright unjust in their execution of their authority is infinitesimal compared to the overwhelming majority who do not. Not all teachers are pedophiles, not all lawyers are charlatans, not all restaurant inspectors are on the take, not all male gynecologists are deviants, and certainly nowhere near all cops are evil. This civic response is not only unreasonable, it is illogical. But, once again, I work really hard at understanding the “other” argument. And I understand that the police is the most visible arm of the government, exacting the wishes of legislators who create the policies and laws officers enforce. It is only natural that, when a people are dissatisfied with the government, its policies and activities, a target of that dissatisfaction must be found. The police become the easy target for lazy thinkers who fail to see that the upholding of policies and laws is but the head of the spear. Yet, what do these people do? They elect the same individuals who have created the mess in the first place, blaming the messenger for the content of the letter. The lack of leadership at the highest level has undoubtedly been the major fuel in this volatile combustion. Instead of explaining and educating, they have divided and excited the irrational responses. Instead of excluding those who would seek political expediency and profit from such tragedies, they have invited them in and given them a front-row seat to help fan the flames some more. The lack of leadership from this administration, and dare I say from nearly every democratic stronghold in the country, whether Chicago or D.C. or NYC, has left the police vulnerable to unspeakable threats – as observed in NYC –  as well as to the lowest morale I have ever seen anywhere.

Well… while the law abiding citizen pays the price for the ineffective policing now being observed across many parts of the country, the criminal, and those with misplaced agendas (the liberty-lover who thinks that “standing up to the police” is the solution to the erosion of our liberties) will continue to contribute to the worsening of the the social fabric as it relates to crime and disorder. Whether because of liability or political expediency, officers in many areas cannot pursue a criminal, are hesitant to act when red flags are observed (the most dangerous of any situation an officer can face; hesitation is deadly), would prefer to look away than to face the wrath of a mob mentality when skin color is at stake, have lost their motivation to being proactive, and realize that the more active they are, the more they open themselves up for scrutiny – the more likely something will go wrong. One thousand “rights” are quickly and effectively undone by one “wrong” moment. And who wants to end up like Darren Wilson where, even after all the evidence completely and unequivocally vindicated him, he will never be able to live his life in peace, and as he wishes.

Society begs for forgiveness and compassion for cop killers, criminals and even presidents. But none is found for cops. How sad is that. What’s the point of exposing oneself as a cop who is just trying his best at doing his job? And even more so now as departments across the country modify and cut our benefits, why would any person want to become an officer when she knows that the benefits offered are not worth the stresses? How are departments to fill the recruiting needs with this level of low pay and benefits in addition to the current climate against officers?

I’ll put it to you this way: if I could afford to, I would leave now. Unfortunately for me, as a recently turned 43 year old, and who has had two other careers (as a teacher and a soldier), I cannot afford to change careers again and not have a single retirement to show. I’m stuck. I do not recommend this job to anyone. I no longer encourage anyone to become an officer. Not anymore. The risks simply far outweigh the rewards, even for those, like me, who believed in sacrificial service to others. The matter now is that not only am I at risk of having my name run through the mud by a sensationalistic media, but the court of public opinion will undoubtedly castigate me AND MY FAMILY  should I fail to live up to their notion of acceptable policing. My family will suffer undue, harsh and unreasonable attacks, and my life and career can be over in the blink of an eye because of this current climate. I’ve always been willing to risk my own life, but I refuse to put my family through this sort of Darren Wilson debacle.

The Single Most Critical Thing We Must Understand

We’re human being too. To dehumanize us because of your politics or ideology is in and of itself immoral. Not to mention extraordinarily hypocritical.

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