It happens…another shooting

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!

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10 Responses to It happens…another shooting

  1. I’d like to say to the officer who was shot (hoping he reads the comments) that there are civilians in the world who are breathing heartfelt sighs of relief that you will indeed, live to see another day. I can’t imagine what it’s like and quite frankly hope I never have to find out. Sending my wishes for a speedy and complete physical, emotional, and mental recovery.

  2. Christina says:

    I often say being a mother is the most important job followed by teaching. But if it were not for law enforcement trying to maintain order in what could easily be mayhem (even in those quiet little towns) neither of the previous occupations would be possible.

  3. rarasaur says:

    I have a big mush of heartbreak and gratitude inside and it doesn’t know what to say… I hope he heals well, and thank you for sharing the story.

  4. E-Lei Freman says:

    When one of us bleeds, we all bleed. I hope that the officer comes back to work when he’s fit. I hope he learns and becomes the leader who helps keep his men and women safe on the streets years into his career. Heal up, officer. The streets need good people.

  5. Jen S. says:

    I’m so relieved that the young policeman that you taught is going to be alright. Still, it just reinforces the dangers you commissioned folks face on the streets on a daily basis, especially during a time when the anti-LEO squeaky wheels get the media attention and free passes. There are a lot of decent citizens who greatly appreciate your service to our communities.

  6. lrconsiderer says:

    Rara charged me with finding a favourite v-word. Today I came across ‘valiant’. That’s what this chap is. What you all are, who do the job. BRAVO, and I shall hope protection for as many of you as possible, for as long as possible.

  7. Thank goodness this officer is going to okay. How incredibly scary for him, for his superiors, his teacher (you) and his family. I am sending thoughts and prayers his way. It must have been so difficult for you to hear the news. You are all so brave! xoxo

  8. I read this and I think about his mother. Or father. Or wife. Your wife. I don’t know how your loved ones handle the stress of knowing that you do an inherently dangerous job. To me, the families of these officers are heroes too.

  9. OneBusyMama says:

    It’s sad how much violence and how many shootings are happening in the world today. I went on a rant yesterday about the shooting in CA to hubby. Media being so gruesome about it is making me just as upset. To yourself and the other police that read this blog….you are an amazing group of people! You put your life on the line for others…even some that may not deserve it. You and your families are all heroes in mine, my husband, and my children’s eyes!!! To the police officer who was just shot….you are so brave and strong! Hang in there and feel better soon! Most importantly, thank you for the sacrifices you make for sooo many!

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