Some police officers will do this job until the day they die. They would seemingly prefer to keel over in their squad car driving a drunk or bum to jail. And even if they do retire – a piece of them always seems as if it’s missing. That they aren’t the same individual without the badge, gun, and perception of power. They were not taught how to shake the weight of the world that has been strapped to their shoulders for decades.
Some people get so wrapped up in this job that it evolves into their identity and they can’t see who they are on the other side. They do not allow the dark things that they have seen to escape and instead contain rage by remaining in place.
On the other hand, one of the best police officers that I ever worked with carried around his resignation letter in his vest and had to be convinced out of submitting it – multiple times. The negativity of a bad call, shitty supervisor, or “soul sucking” department can often be softened with a good lunch and banded camaraderie around the ridiculous cynicism.
This job weighs on people. And after a while – some can’t even recognize themselves outside of the badge. That is a predictable cost when decent people dedicate their professional lives to helping others. Some get addicted. Some believe that they cannot go on without it. And some believe that the community cannot go on without them standing guard.
I stand firm that True Believers are inevitable in this line of work and that they exist in every single law enforcement agency. You know this is true – because even before reading this sentence you nodded along and mentally pictured the guy or gal in your agency that best fits this description.
Thin Blue Line
The idea that without police officers – the 1% criminal population would ravage and bleed the 98% of the population that live as potential victims – if the sheepdogs were not out insatiably patrolling.
The concept that police officers protect people and that less police activity equates to more crime, violence, and unnecessary victimization is not difficult to understand. It is really isn’t a concept as much as a fact. And unless you enjoy the safety of living behind high walls with private security – this idea is not challenged by many.
However, the True Believer not only knows the facts contained in the above paragraph but they extend it an extra step and personalize the paradigm. The True Believer thinks that they are the chosen guardian and that the community could easily crumble into chaos without their 40 hours a week.
We need people like this strategically placed in police agencies. We may not want to take that many calls with them. But we all occasionally need that co-worker who is as excited on their 19th year to do this job – as they were on their first day.
I believe that police officers are the reason that crime decreases.
I believe that police are officers are the reason that neighborhoods are safer.
I believe that police officers are necessary for the stability of a city.
I believe that aggressive policing is what the vast majority of law-abiding citizens crave.
Most importantly. I believe that there is no other job where the ceiling to have a positive impact on the community is as limitless.
I just am not self-righteous enough to believe that I am the only one capable of doing any of this. And that is a good thing. Keep your humility and with it – your inevitable failing humanity.
The idea that experienced police officers can teach the next generation to do this job is vital for successful succession. Policing should not be like politics – with Mitch McConnell barely holding up his duty belt refusing to allow the rookie to take primary on a hot call.
Sometimes it’s time to retire or leave and move on to something else. The average lifespan of a police officer is 66 years. The average life span of a normal person is 78 years.
My thoughts – when you are eligible to retire – you should. Pass the torch. Cops and Robbers is a young person’s game.
Here’s to a few months left of this circus.
This article originally appeared at Police Law Newsletter.