So You Were a Cop

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So You Were a Cop

In case we’re meeting for the first time- I was a cop in the inner city but I’m now a corporate girl in the ‘burbs. And let me tell you- I felt like a fish out of water for quite a while. While I think I’ve adjusted, I still marvel at the list of questions I consistently get. It’s always a reminder of how the average Joe just doesn’t get what’s actually lurking in the shadows and what it means to be a cop. I know I was once a bit naïve and “green” myself, but some of them just seem inappropriate at times. So- here goes- the top 6 questions I receive and my true thoughts about them.

Have you shot anyone?
What I say: No. Almost, but no. Most officers haven’t.

What I’m thinking: I’ve heard officers get shot at on the radio. I’ve had shots go off half a block away while on a traffic stop. I almost shot a perp from a business burglary in progress but he raised his hands and peed his pants in the nick of time. He received inactive probation and committed a first degree murder a few months later. I wonder if my partner and I would’ve done a corner of the world a favor had the trigger been pulled. Not that I’d want to kill him- but would it have woke him up and saved his future victims? Nevermind- the answer is no. I haven’t. And most don’t ever even fire their weapon.  And if they had it’s probably one of the toughest, life-altering moments of their lives- maybe not the best to ask in the office or of someone you just met. It’s real life- not a plot from a movie script.

Have you seen a dead body?
What I say: Yes, of course.

What I’m thinking: What kind? Nevermind- yes. To every kind I can think of today anyways- suicide by OD and hanging, natural, murder staged as a suicide, murder by guns of all types, pedestrian struck by a hit and run driver, SIDS, dead and decaying. Wait- I guess I was off for the most horrific murders of children that happened in my district. I thankfully didn’t see that.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?

What I say: I don’t know- I saw a lot.

What I’m thinking: Seriously? Are you actually prepared to hear the truth? I mean, I could take this so many directions as my mind flashes between hurt kids, people overdosing, gunshot wounds, and standing in the room while an abortion was performed in order to collect “evidence”. I guess it all comes down to the general depravity of man. The brokenness of humans who rip each other to shreds when we are all so much alike is probably the biggest thing that has stuck with me. Other things were one off situations. But depravity? That’s everywhere. Why do we have to inflict so much hurt on ourselves and each other?

Was it rough to investigate child abuse?
What I say: Yep. The things you see are horrible but the work was immensely rewarding. For me, it was my dream job that I wish didn’t exist.

What I’m thinking: What have you or others within earshot been through? Is this conversation triggering painful memories for someone? What ever happened to the boy with the chest full of lashes from a belt? Did the beautiful girl ever get stomped on again? And then I think of the little girl who died from injuries years after her mom got angry and inflicted them.

What do you think of (insert latest high profile event)?
What I say: There’s always more than you can see in a video. Use of force is never pretty. Maybe I add a really high level view of the case as I understand it.

What I’m thinking: Do you know what you’re talking about? Do you have time to discuss officer safety, tactics, training, and policies? Have you looked for any details other than what’s being reported on the 5 o’clock news? Are you actually open to seeing different views or is this just bait? Can we actually have an honest discussion? If so- let’s go- I really do try to see every case objectively and I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not- please just stop talking. You’ve gone onto the standard “cops are terrible” story and it’s getting personal now.

Do you miss it?
What I say: Yes- everyday. Even more today. But I have to do what’s best for my family and that means a 8-5 gig.

What I’m thinking: I miss the work. I miss the comradery with my fellow officers. I miss the ability to serve at a moment’s notice. I miss doing the best damn job I could in order to do all I could to keep the bad guys away from the kiddos. I miss standing side by side with guys and gals who would fight with me till the end even if we didn’t like each other personally. I miss meeting people in their darkest hours.  I even miss wearing my comfortable boots. I think I miss everything but the politics, lack of administrative support, and threat of being sued or put in jail when I did my job and others didn’t like how it looked.

Being a cop is something that sticks with me and always will. I’m still an officer at heart and find my purpose in protecting people in some way. And while I definitely don’t think all questions are inappropriate, many can be. Sometimes I’m just struck by the audacity. Would it be okay to walk up to a woman and ask if she had a miscarriage or abortion? Would it be okay to ask someone to recall their worst day when you just met? Do you really want to hear about the ugly of the world right now?

We must remember that anyone who wore a badge is also human. Our experiences are real. The things we saw are real. Officers are not playing parts in the latest crime drama. By asking some of these questions upon first meeting or by the water cooler, you could be bringing up one of the darkest moments of their lives. Are you prepared for that? I am. If you need to talk we are here for you.

Please reach out.


  • Christina

    Great Blog. Personally, 16 years as a cop, 11 years as a dispatcher. Just retired, trying to learn how to stop reacting to sirens I hear in the distance (someone else is responding now), knowing my family is actually CELEBRATING every siren they hear because there is no way I am driving that patrol car (while I miss it). This was a surprise to learn (as a family member called to tell me they heard a siren & just wanted to thank me for not being the driver). Leaving the department..very injured though (back, knee injuries). Thank you for this blog. It is so spot on, especially the “have you seen a dead body & what’s the worst thing you have seen questions” because if I was honest it would depress the average person (not be interesting).

  • Michele

    I absolutely loved this blog. I relate to it everyday after finally leaving fifteen years as a patrol sergeant. Thank you for sharing.

  • Leon Drennan

    My father was a Sergeant in a Boston suburb. He died from old gunshot wounds when I was 9, and we never “talked shop,” so reading what the Officers go through helps me better understand my dad’s life, and my own.. To all who serve, I’ve got your six.

  • Will

    In my 31+ years, on the job, the worst things for me were the abuse, physical and mental, of the helpless; children, elderly and animals.
    I’ve been retired 10 years and some of those memories still haunt me.

  • Scott

    My wife showed me your blog.
    I can absolutely relate.

    I was an officer for eight years in another state. Four, almost five years have passed since.

    I moved to this state to get away from all that. The problem, is that it was still in me, the desire to be an officer. You just can’t remove the badge, and that’s it, you are done.

    The rush of the fight. The pursuit and capture of the bad guy. Solving problems of the community. Arriving on a scene of total chaos and destruction, and creating order. And by far, the camaraderie of being a police officer is what I miss the most as well. I miss that once I left, I felt like an outsider to my old co-workers. Once you aren’t in the “game” anymore, you are on the outside. You lose contact with so many people so fast.

    I tried working in the civilian world, but I missed the professionalism and the order of an organization.

    I work for a new department now as a dispatcher/jailer, but it isn’t the same and my level of professional and expectations are so high, because of my previous department, that I am disappointed when I don’t see that at my new department.

    Sometimes it is fun talking about the old times. Sometimes it is fun talking shop and laughing about the crazy calls for service I received.

    There are some stories, that just aren’t appropriate to tell, no matter where I am or who it is asking.
    There are some things that I don’t even want to think about.

    I very recently realized that I need to have closure, due to leaving the department so abruptly. I got hurt in the line of duty. I was there one day, and then gone next. Never really had the chance to say goodbye.

    I decided to write a letter to my department, telling them how I felt then, how I feel now, and how I need to move past them and let go. I will never send the letter to them, no point. The letter is for me. “They” don’t really care. When I was fresh out of the academy, an officers with decades on, told me “this is a place machine. It will function with or without you.” The same holds true in this case, my letter would be nothing to them. The city and department chewed me up and spit me out….I can hear a voice ring out now “NEXT!”

    The department and incidents were haunting my dreams and running my life. I was even dreaming about things I never did, and promotions I never received, because I desired them so much.

    To me, leaving my department under the conditions I did, felt more like getting a divorce while you are still in love.

    Since I wrote the “Dear John”-style letter, I feel a little more free. Free to move on, permission to move on.

    Given that it has only been a week since I wrote it, time will tell how useful it will be. So far, it feels good. I have read it out loud and to my self several time since, just to have it sink in. It doesn’t feel forced.

    Thank you for the blog. Glad to know that I am not the only one. I am always hesitant to say anything in the open out of fear of being ignored or dismissed.

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