Dennis Sullivan received the Officer of the Month award from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund for excellence in service. In the recorded interview which followed, Dennis said, "I really believe that if being a cop is not in your heart, you will not be a good one." Amen. If being a cop is not in your heart, this article is not for you. Find something else to read.
In the course of our work as cops, we get hurt. The injuries can either be to our physical bodies or to our emotional well-being. We can see a cut, a bullet wound, a broken bone or a black eye. Often, the scars are visible for years to come - maybe even for a lifetime.
Emotional wounds, on the other hand, can linger unhealed forever. Even when we think they are resolved, the scars remain. Though no one else can see them with their eyes, we feel them every day with our entire being. We do all sorts of things to hide them. We drink to excess. We change/end relationships. We try every trick in the book to drown them out. We try so very hard to pretend that they are not there. Rarely, do these tactics succeed.
We try to continue on our journey as a good cop. We do that maybe because we cannot imagine doing anything else with our lives. Maybe coppery is the default because it is all we know. Whatever the reason, we trudge on.
Sometimes, without even realizing that it is happening, we begin to erect barriers around our emotional selves. We hide our feelings, our personal side; we hide who we really are and allow very few people inside - or maybe no one is allowed inside at all.
We prejudge people and situations so that we can anticipate and deflect anything that might bring us pain.
Cops are often heard to refer to a non-cop as a jerk - one of them. It is a bunker mentality: us versus them. It is our form of self-protection. But how do we react when we are hurt from someone who is on the "inside?"
At the time when I was a freshly-minted cop straight out of the academy, I remember the horror I felt when I learned that I had been betrayed by a fellow officer - a brother, or so I thought. The pain of the injury was nearly overwhelming. I could not come to grips with the notion that someone who professed that he would give his life in my protection would intentionally harm me with his words or deeds. Can you pronounce the word naïve?
Some cops choose to follow a path of self-protectionist wall-building. They become hardened to everyone and everything around them. They become a solo act. In return for what they believe will be emotional safety, they cause their own emotional death.
They hate, or complain about, everything in their lives. Nothing and no one seems to bring this person pleasure or real happiness. It has probably cost him his marriage and/or family relationships. I bet that you know or work with someone like this. This course of action fails to recognize that hate is a burden to the person who carries it, rather than the target at whom it is directed.
Hate changes and diminishes the good qualities in a person. It pushes out the good thoughts and deeds that made being friends with this person desirable. It steals the values that drew others to this cop like steel shavings to a magnet.
As a result of the emotional scars and hatred, this cop is now always working the angles. Whatever drove him to the humanitarian career of coppery has been replaced with the constant consideration of WIIFM? (What's In It For Me?)
These are the people who will sacrifice you - or any brother officer - to make themselves: look good, advance more quickly, find favor with the administration, etc., etc. They have no concern with you or how you are affected by their behavior. They could care less if they throw you under a bus - so long as somehow they benefit from it.
Bitter or Better
I recently ran across this quote: