Counting my time as a recruit, I have been a City police officer for over seventeen years.
I was never one of those people who always wanted to be a cop. It wasn’t my lifelong dream for sure. Honestly, I don’t trust people who say it’s what they’ve always wanted to do, especially if it doesn’t matter where. Who dreams of working in an underpaid, under-appreciated position for 30 years of their lives, especially in a town or city where they have no affiliation?
In spite of my sometimes crusty personality, I do like some people, and I enjoy helping folks when I can, particularly those who need help the most, like kids or the elderly. I imagine most good cops feel the same.
The City was the only place I applied, and had I never been hired here, I’d have never been a police officer. I was born in the City and spent much of my childhood roaming the City streets. It’s where my loved ones still live, plus the blue uniform shirt really bring out the blue in my eyes, so it was a no-brainer.
In spite of this, I sometimes wonder what it must be like to work in a community where crime isn’t so rampant. I wonder what it’s like when a busy shift means a couple of calls about kids skateboarding where they shouldn’t be, or because somebody’s dog is barking too loudly next door.
My last post was almost three weeks ago. In that post, I offered words for the newest police academy graduates. They would be going to areas where there is no time to answer dog barking or kid skateboarding calls, because there are always more pressing issues to be handled.
In that post I asked the following:
Will they have the courage to pull the trigger to save another person’s life, if that’s what has to be done?
To save another officer’s life?
To save their own life?
I hope they never find out, but the odds are stacked against all eighteen of them going through even a short career without at least one of them having to use deadly force, or being the victim of somebody else’s use of deadly force upon them.
Three weeks after their graduation, one of them learned the hard way that I wasn’t blowing smoke up their asses when I lamented the odds of none of them being put into a deadly force situation.
Three fucking weeks.
And this just four months after another City officer was shot and saved by his vest.
Last night, one of the newest police officers was shot in his shoulder, just inches from his neck.
Inches from paralysis
Inches from death.
He learned that he did have the courage to pull the trigger to try to save his own life.
“XXX got shot.”
That was a text I got last night from one of my buddies I worked in north city with, probably not long after it happened. Thankfully, I was already asleep.
I didn’t see the text until I woke up this morning, or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep all night.
He was a good recruit, and will be a good officer, should he still have the mental fortitude to carry on with this job.
I trust he will.
This recruit was assigned to the sixth district. Those of you who’ve read my posts about any number of violent shootings will recognize the sixth as the same district where I most recently worked.
The district is a clusterfuck of indifference to human life. It’s an area of rampant depravity and me-first mindsets, interspersed with some commercial properties and small pockets of good and decent people living among all the chaos.
It’s for these people that we are able to will ourselves out of bed to go to work everyday. It’s for the people who want to say thank you, when they see an officer, but are too scared to be seen talking to the police for fear that somebody will think they are snitching.
Snitches get stitches.
That’s funny in some contexts, but it’s the cold, hard truth in North St. Louis. It’s a battle we fight every day.
The officer is a “Lucky SOB,” is what I was told by the sergeant who was with him when he was shot.
“He didn’t even know he was shot. I had to tell him,” the sergeant said.
Fear and adrenaline are good for that, at least. The pain comes later, when it all wears off.
The sergeant is a good police officer and a good man. I worked for him and would go to bat for him any time, any place. I know he feels some guilt about what happened because he cares for his men and women. He would feel the same even if he wasn’t there that night. It’s the nature of the job to always question what happened and question what we could have done differently. Those are good questions to ask though, because that’s how we learn. That’s how we improve.
The bullet went in and out of his shoulder, catching nothing but some skin and tissue, it appears. That’s lucky, but it’d still hurt like hell, without all the juices flowing.
We harp on the dangers of policing for the entire six months of their training, and I sometimes wonder if any of it is sinking in.
The “it won’t happen to me” attitude is dangerous.
It won’t happen to me is what we’re thinking when we don’t use a seat belt or we drink and drive or we leave a loaded gun in a house filled with kids.
It’s a dangerous mindset, but we all have it sometimes.
It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a class of recruits in the academy right now, because this would be a perfect learning tool and reality check for them in understanding just what we mean when we tell them the job is dangerous, and that it can happen to you.
I’m sure the new officer used to sit in the back row of class and think, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a dangerous job, I get it…”
You can bet that he does get it now.
Thankfully, but for a couple of inches, he’ll live to get it another day.
To the officer – you know who you are, and I recall you mentioning that you read this blog. Know that I am proud of you and thankful that you are going to be okay. Take all the time you need to get your mind where it needs to be to get back out on the street. The sergeant said you did a great job, and I had no doubts that you would, though I hoped you and your mates would never be put into that position.
Keep up the good fight!