Ask yourself: How does it feel to not be able to get hold of your cop – sometimes for hours on end – only to feel you mind wander to all the possible worst-case scenarios fear can carry someone?
A couple years ago I received a “silent dispatch” – a call put out only on the MDC and not over the radio – to respond to one of our local high schools. Strange, especially since it was far out of my zone and there were plenty of cars available in closer beats. I checked and was surprised to see almost every available car in the city, as well as a number of detectives, assigned and heading to the high school. Hmmm… something’s up!
Checking in with the SRO Sergeant, I learned there had been notes discovered detailing an impending school shooting - probably a crank, but maybe not, and who wants to downplay that threat if it’s for real? – and we needed to lock-down, secure, and search the entire building and grounds of an old, labyrinthine high school housing several thousand students. I had two wishes right then… first, that I had stopped to pee on my way and, second, that I had remembered to grab my cell phone when I jumped out of my squad.
Of course, as semi-factual information began leaking out of the school to parents and friends on the outside, and the news choppers began hovering, the rumor mill powered into overdrive (Hostage situation at Central High! Shooters roaming the halls! Explosives set to go off!); it was only a matter of time before panicked friends started calling Althea to get “the real story.” Jarred from blissful unawareness, she spent the next hours calling my untended phone.
The fear tied to not knowing is almost always worse than more defined, easy-articulated and specific fears. Those who love us become familiar – without ever really getting comfortable – with unanswered questions about what we’re up to, are we safe, is today the day? Watching a squad scream by sets imaginations in motion in ways most folks – and maybe not even you – will never appreciate.
And ask yourself: How must the ones you love, and who love you, feel when they experience the scorn, negativity, and lack of appreciation for what you do by proxy? When they watch the news, read the paper, listen to strangers and friends alike unjustly criticize you, your colleagues, or your profession, knowing they do so from bias or ignorance? It must be exhausting or infuriating.
And what’s it like to see and read stories of officers cut down by accident or assault - a new one almost daily, it seems – and feel raw empathy with the officer’s loved ones, searing pain and sorrow for their loss and guilty gratitude to not be going through it themselves? The wondering if whatever went wrong could happen to you wears deep.
Being a cop requires a lot of sacrifice, possibly even your life. This very fact means loving and supporting a cop requires a lot of sacrifice, too. Acknowledge, respect, and honor that sacrifice every day. Be grateful when your wife or your husband, parents and children, respect and love you enough to bear it, grudgingly or gladly, and know it is how you serve mankind. It’s how they serve, as well.
About The Authors:
Althea Olson, LCSW has been in private practice in the Chicago suburbs since 1996. She has a Master of Social Work degree from Aurora University providing individual, couple, & group therapy to adolescents, adults, and geriatrics. Althea is also trained in Critical Incident Stress Management & is a certified divorce mediator.
Mike Wasilewski, MSW has been with a large suburban Chicago department since 1996. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from Aurora University and has served on his department’s Crisis Intervention & Domestic Violence teams. Mike is an adjunct instructor at Northwestern College.
Mike & Althea have been married since 1994 and have been featured columnists for Officer.Com since 2007. Their articles are extremely popular and they now provide the same training and information in person throughout the United States. This dynamic team was recently featured at the at the 2010 & 2011 ILEETA Conference & Exposition.