Thoughts from real action guys and gals
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”
By Danny McGuire
What coppers are thinking
For every article I pen, I enjoy talking to the men and women who are working in the field to gain their perspective on current events.
With that said, one early morning I was in a coffee shop located in the south burbs of Chicago, with zero intention of doing research for this article mind you, when a young male officer came into the shop. He looked fresh, however tired and almost wore out. I recognized that look and had great sympathy for it. I proceeded to pay for his order, thanked him for his service and then identified myself by showing him my identification, only because he looked at me like I was pulling his leg. Once he saw my name, the officer indicated he was familiar with my articles in Illinois Cops Magazine.
At that point I felt opportunity striking and asked him for a minute of his time as I was planning on writing this article about officer perceptions of the current climate. He said he would, but only if I left his name out of it. Of course I agreed and asked him how old he was and how many years of service he had. His reply: 30 years old, four years “on the job,” with three small children and a wife (which would explain his exhausted appearance).
I then enquired to his feelings about today’s climate involving police and the community. His response: “It seems like we just can’t catch a break, Doc. I go to work each night and can count on one hand how many ‘friendly’ conversations I have, but it takes all 20 digits and then some to count the negative interactions. It just wears on you. I am so, so tired of the negative. I feel beat up each morning when I get off to go home.”
His look of sincere frustration combined with defeat really struck a chord in my heart. I am looking at this young man with a long way to go, already morose and callous.
“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.”
I asked him if he was taking steps to keep himself “OK.” He looked at me with bewilderment and answered, “What do you mean?” I then presented the question differently by asking if he sees a therapist, peer support team member and/or anything helpful like meditation or physical activities to keep his mind and body ready. His response was something I too often hear: “How, Doc? How? I get home from work in the morning, the kids are up. One is in Kindergarten, one is two and the other 10 months. My wife is exhausted; she has to work so we can pay the bills. I get home, she goes to work. I get a two-hour nap with the kids then pick up the Kindergartener. When she gets home at 4 p.m., I get another two-hour nap, then back at it.”
His look of frustration was intense. He continued: “Then on my days off, I just want to sleep. Forget friends, family parties and other stuff. God forbid if I have court, I get no sleep!” Again, the overarching appearance of fatigue and exacerbation was written all over this young man’s face.
Before I could respond, the officer continued: “Then, come to work, no one is happy here. People hate you, young kids calling you names because it’s ‘the cool thing’ today. Those kids’ parents do not hold them accountable. Ah, it’s all B.S., Doc!”
Now this officer’s facial expression went to anger and I began to wonder if he required some real assistance.
The question is “Why?”
“Today’s frustrations and disappointments are the footsteps leading to tomorrow’s successes.”
At that instant I reflected back to my young years and recollected something an “old timer” asked me during a moment like this. That “old timer” asked me, “Why did you become the police then?”
I realize my response may be different than this officer’s, but I had nothing to lose, so I asked him: “Why did you become a police officer?”
His expression changed from anger, frustration and exhaustion to a smile. His answer was not surprising at all. His reply: “It’s what I wanted to do since I could remember. My uncle was a Chicago detective and did 28 years. He never retired because he never lived long enough. He died at 49 years old of a heart attack. I loved his stories and thought he was so cool.” I smiled back telling him I thought that was very noble. He then stated, “After a while I felt like I was really helping people, ya know? It is an awesome job when you actually help!”
I explained to the officer that the “right now” of his situation may seem infinite; however, in the blink of an eye his kids will be grown, he will have 25 years of service and his situation will be different. At that point I handed the officer my card and told him to call me anytime, day or night, and we could do this again and shared the adage “life is a marathon, not a sprint.”