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It's an exciting thing when you first put the badge on and take the oath to defend and protect. Your family is standing there, along with your chief and any others he has invited. Your significant other, or child or even a parent hold the bible and you take your oath. There is nothing that really compares except marriage or the birth of your children. You also know that you have entered a field that is wrought with danger, and stress but also reward. You do not become a police officer for the money, you do it for a need or a want to help. You do it because you feel a calling from a higher power to do what needs to be done and protect the sheep. You are the sheepdog! If you don't, leave the field now because you are giving the ones that do it for the right reasons a bad name.
In the Police Academy, or BLET or Rookie School, whatever it is referred to where you are from, you are taught the laws, the way to conduct traffic stops and handle all types of people. You are taught everything you need to do the job. They even go over the hundreds of ways you can die, just writing a ticket! The first time you pull a car over, you are shaking so bad you have to hide it from the person you pulled. But you settle in and you begin to do the job and become at ease with the dangers. They teach you the job while in training, also. You are with veteran officers and they show you the ropes of day to day policing. You are shown everything you need, except how to handle leaving and then watching the people you served with for years get hunted and killed! No one teaches you how to leave. No one teaches you how to handle what happens after you are gone.
In recent years, the rate of officer-involved shootings has skyrocketed, but why? How do you watch these things happen and not feel the need to return to the job you once loved. Many of us get out because of burnout, or health reasons or marital and family reasons, but what do you do when the feeling to return hits you? You feel useless as you watch TV with your family, and see breaking local news, a local officer was just shot and rushed to the hospital and they don't know anything else. You watch the news all night and sit up all night hoping to hear, but nothing. The anxiety grows until you have to reach out to people who are still in the field and all they can tell you is, we can't tell you right now.
As you talk to other former officers you realize you all think the same thing, but you also all know you can't possibly return because of age, or length of time since you left. Sure you could go back through the academy or BLET, but are you really young enough to do that now? Besides, you have a new career and a happy family life and what about them. Most of us are in some way involved in post careers that keep us involved somehow. Mine is a drone, safety consulting and contracting business as well as practicing in a medical field. For some its something that still causes you to use your situational awareness, and "street smarts." I remember when I left, my wife slept all night for the first time since I can't remember when. That doesn't change the feeling that you have. The guilt for some, the anger for others. Guilt, because you made it home all those times, being in wrecks, getting in fights, serving high-risk felony warrants. You made it home. Anger, because who could possibly do this to the very people who are out there to keep them safe. Sure we go after criminals, but to be shot in cold blood for trying to tell you, you have a tail light out?
What do you do in these instances? How do you help without becoming someone that could lead to a bigger problem based on your age or health? Let's remember why most of us started this to begin with. To help! But we can't help anymore, at least not in the way we want to. We can, however, be an ear to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. We can try to tell people about the truth of doing the job. People will always "Monday morning quarterback" the police. It's just what they do, but we can tell them the truth and try to get them to see things from an officer's point of view. We can take a buddy who still works to dinner or lunch, or we can anonymously buy the meal of the officer sitting alone. Perhaps the best thing we can do is understand. We can empathize with the officers because we have been in their shoes. Who hasn't attended at least one officer funeral? Sadly, I have attended more that one. We all know that one officer who needs to talk, so encourage him/her to talk. I myself have really struggled with this the last few weeks as two local officers have been shot.
At the end of the day, we can still be used and needed, just in a different capacity, and the current officers out there, maybe they can still learn from us. We have all been in unique situations and had to fight for our lives at one point or another. So no, we don't need to ask why, or how but we need to ask how we can help. How can we still be of assistance, without getting in the way of the ones out there now? It's simple, really. Let them do the job that we helped teach them when we were there. We either physically taught them, or they learned from what we did, inadvertently. We are still there just not in the physical sense we want to be. We are there in the minds and thinking of those that we influenced, and therefore continue to influence today. We are there because we helped make the policies and the training that is there now for them to use. And we are there because we, more than anyone else, know what they are going through. We have been there and gotten the t-shirt, and we continue to be there with them in thought and prayer. So don't ask why or how, but ask what now? What now am I going to do, to encourage those doing the job now to stay strong, and fight the good fight, just as the ones who came before, did for us. It doesn't matter how long you were a cop or where we all did it. All of us faced the same dangers. By being there and remembering why we did it, we can help, and therefore still contribute to the cause of law and order.