My coworker walked into my office and I told him, only half jokingly, that if one more person pissed me off this morning, I was probably going to snap.
Some of the recruits had been pushing my buttons with their repeated mistakes and lack of attention to detail.
I was in a foul mood.
“You’re not going to like this then,” he continued.
“The cop shot this morning died.”
Just like it has for eighteen years now, those words hit me like an unexpected punch in the gut.
I knew about the shooting, but assumed or hoped that he would be okay.
Surely he’d recover with time, just like many other people who get shot do.
Another police officer is dead.
A young man with a lot of life ahead of him is dead.
A young father is dead.
A young wife is a widow. She may spend days or weeks or months hoping it’s not true and that her young husband will be home soon.
A two year old will never toddle into his biological dad’s arms again or ever draw pictures of a police man and hand it to his daddy with pride.
“The cop shot this morning died.”
How many times can one hear those or similar words and still go on working as a police officer in spite of it?
Shortly after I heard the news, my own wife texted an emoji to my phone. It was the one where the face is blowing a heart shaped kiss.
Without words, I knew she knew, and that she was thinking about me. She was concerned for me and for her own kids.
We don’t have time for cops to be killed right now. We already have to rearrange our lives to accommodate the circus that is the second presidential debate in St. Louis, and now we have to prepare to bury a fellow officer.
Either event alone is difficult; their simultaneous occurrence is a mess.
Still, we will do it.
We will take care of these events because we must. Somebody has to.
County officers will work the debate alongside us City officers.
We will stand tall with black mourning bands on our badges, thinking about our lost comrade and our own determination to continue on with this fucking job. We will do it right in the face of people who hate Trump or Hillary or cops or just everything in general and who will take that hate out on the front line officers.
We’re easy targets.
We’re easy scapegoats for a system that many people don’t trust or like or respect anymore.
Hate that your taxes are too high?
Hate email scandals?
Hate billionaires who are going to build walls and deport immigrants?
Take it out on the police officers.
You’ll never get close enough to the people who truly cause your life misery, but we’re right here.
Spit in our faces.
Call our black officers vulgar, disgusting names.
Tell female officers you want to meet them off-duty and rape them.
Tell us you want us dead or that you’ll find us and do harm to our families.
This is what officers have to listen to during protests. Every time.
Pretend that we don’t hate email scandals or corrupt billionaires or have to pay taxes or face the same problems as every other schmuck does once we get home from work.
Pretend we’re not unique individuals who share your concerns and hopes for a better future.
We’ll be there for you anyway.
We’ll have our days off cancelled and our shifts lengthened so that everybody can enjoy their debate related shenanigans.
We do it so you can enjoy parades and fairs and professional sports events too.
It’s tiring sometimes, but we do it.
We do it even when we’re deflated by news that a local cop has died.
That somebody who was doing what you do every day has been murdered.
The silver lining is that I’m no longer angry and on the cusp of snapping.
I’m alive and my recruits are alive.
We’ll use this as a learning tool. Mistakes and lack of attention to detail when you’re out of the Academy can get you killed.
They need to know that.
They need to get that through their skulls.
My kids can still draw me pictures of police officers and hand them to me with pride.
My wife can still expect me to come home after a long shift.
My dogs will bark at me when I do come home, and I will be annoyed at them, but less so.
I’m thankful to have my health and my life.
My problems are irrelevant right now, because I wasn’t that cop who died today.