It's A Wonderful (Cop's) Life

A Christmas story (with apologies to Frank Capra) by Chaplain Steve Lee, Founder of POM. Prologue & Post-Script (and some editing) by Chaplain Frank Ruffatto, Executive Director of POM


“I don’t like wasting my breath on people that don’t listen, and you ain’t gonna listen.  I know, because you remind me of me.  Let it go.”  Mike still hadn’t looked up from the investigative notes he was finishing.

But Sanchez was curious now and didn’t want to drop it.  “You afraid to tell me?”

Speaking the Truth in Love

Duncan shoved his notes aside and looked up.  “OK, no more jokin’ and smokin’.  You want it straight, you get it straight.  You’re a good cop and I like you, George, but you’ve been messing up lately.  Big time.  That stunt tonight, rolling in on Potter.  You jumped my call, which is OK by me – less work – but then you never called in.  You walked in like John Wayne, without backup, on a guy you know is dangerous.  Rogers and I covered for you and the Sarge won’t know, but you’re gonna get hurt if you don’t change – and you won’t.”

“Look, Pops, don’t do me any favors - and I don’t need the lecture.  I do things my way.”

Duncan sighed.  “Like I said.  You’re wasting my time.”

Sanchez leaned forward.  “What do you mean, ‘You remind me of me?’”

“Look, I’m gonna try this one more time, and either you listen or you don’t bother me again, because I can’t play guardian angel to a man who won’t be guarded.  So, let me ask you a question and you tell me straight.  You’re having trouble with Maria, right?”

Sanchez blinked.  “How did you know?”

“Like I said, you remind me of me.  Let me tell you something else.  You’ve been riding high, but you’re finding out that you can fall off your tall horse.  You’re frustrated ‘cause you can’t fix the world, and things aren’t the way they should be.  You’re mad at the brass because you got reamed unfairly a while back.  You got problems with bills, and Maria’s not paying attention to you like before because of the baby, but that Denny’s waitress sure is, so you don’t want to go home, especially to a crying baby and a cranky wife.  You would rather hang out with the troops after work and play your tricks and tell your jokes and war stories and elevate your blood alcohol level with the boys.  Your world has shrunk down to the size of your job, and you don’t even have any friends anymore who don’t wear a badge and gun.  Your wife is tired of you not coming home and tired of the way you are when you do come home, but you really don’t care anymore.  You want to prove me right, or you want me to go on?”

“Go on . . .”

“You have no patience anymore.  You’re a funny guy on the outside, but inside you feel like the cork is coming out.  You know now that stuff can happen to you, but you don’t care about that either, even though you’re about to lose everything.  You’re gonna lose your family.  You’re gonna lose your faith – if you got any left.  You got no life outside of the work, kid, and the work is getting to you.  You may even lose that.”

Suicide by ...

“How do you know all this stuff?”

Duncan checked out a customer coming through the door and then looked back at Sanchez.  “You ever hear of suicide by cop?” “Sure.  We just had an in-service on it.”

“You ever hear of suicide by crook?” Sanchez smiled.  “No.  Okay . . . I’ll bite.  What’s that?”

That is what you tried to do tonight, George.  I’ve been watching you lately, and I recognize the signs.  I recognize the signs because I’ve been there.  I got a history to be real proud of.  Over the years I’ve tried suicide by crook, suicide by booze, suicide by sex, suicide by work, suicide by play, suicide by divorce – I’m not boring you, am I?”

“I’m listening.”

“There are other ways to do yourself than eating your gun, and people will never know.  They’ll even treat you like a hero if you do it right.  But the truth is that suicide is suicide.  You only got three years on, George, but you’re already dying and you don’t even know it – don’t want to know it.  I died a bunch of times in my life.  I just didn’t go through the formality of funerals.  I was a hotdog on the street, but off the street I was too blind and stupid to see Dr. Death coming until it was too late.  Just like you.  So, have I insulted you enough?”

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