Losing Any Member of The Thin Blue Line is Unacceptable

June 26, 2017
I have many brothers and sisters, but losing any one of them is painful. We lose far too many every year and we need to aggressively work on reducing the number.

I do not often rant or respond to critics, but I have been simmering far too long. For my readers please brace yourselves. Recently, I was on my social media account and responded to a response that angered me. Background, a longtime friend, honorably retired police officer I know is in a serious fight with cancer. Therefore, me being me, wrote some encouraging words to him and finished up with the “Love Ya Big Guy”. Then later comes the snarky message for me using the words ‘love ya’ to another man. OK, let’s get this thing started!

Let me explain this in a different way. I do not know if you are familiar with loss of a limb or digit (in my case) and the phenomena of phantom pain. This pain feels like it is coming from a body part that's no longer there. Doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these real sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain. This is real I can attest to it, missing part of finger. However when we lose one of our own, the loss of a friend, partner, it never goes away. It lurks and comes around like phantom pain in to your heart and soul. To this civilian that responded on my post later said that he did not know what it like to be a cop. Understood and he will never know the bond of police and military for that matter. I wish him the best and could only wish that he did have a bond such as this in his life.

Being an only child and my extended family is rapidly diminishing. However, I do have many brothers and sisters. Some wore blue, others wore green and some are fraternal. For those who have served in the military, thank you for your service. I was never in combat but as a US Army Military Police Corps veteran, I gathered experiences that only another MP would understand. I learned my leadership lessons from some great men who I still look up to for all that they did for me. In my era of the Army there was not that much ‘leadership’ training for young NCO’s, it was all on the job. Luckily, I had a couple of senior sergeants who had their own versions of leadership training; I still use their guidance to this day. The point here is we were a small company of MP’s in a division, where we stuck together through thick and thin. I still keep up with several who keep me grounded back to the good old days, thank you my MP Brothers.

Now, as a police officer I have many brothers and sisters that have pulled me out of fray, stuck by me during perilous times and never wavered when it got tough. Being a FNG (fabulous new guy) in a large metro department and not knowing but a handful is intimidating. I developed relationships within my watch. We fumed and fussed with each other but we stuck together, on and off-duty. We had each other’s back and you knew that if it got tough, they’d be there for support. Now, I will admit that I came along before we became so politically sensitive and correct. Way before cell phones with cameras to the social media. Granted we did some ‘things’ but nobody got hurt. Our watch parties were epic, sometimes near Hollywood material. You bonded like no other and we still (those still living) stay connected.

One of the dark sides of life is that of police and military veteran suicides. Blame the PTSD but there is a lot of blame to go around. Research reveals that we lose approximately twenty-two military veterans a day nationwide. Henceforth the various “22 a Day” programs, check one out when you can. Granted there are some stating that this number is way inflated, matters not – one a day is too many. Educate yourself on this and how we all can help veterans. As for the law enforcement side of life, I have lost many of my ‘family’ to suicide. What amazes me and often infuriated me, was that clues were present and we all missed them. Not everyone makes the public cry for help but often times things were there and it was unnoticed. Get with your local mental health professionals and human resources and educate yourself on how to help. One thing is keeping the numbers to counselors or professionals who can be there 24x7. Do not accept we work 8-5, Monday through Fridays – this is an emergency and treat the response to this as one.

One of the truly unspoken victims are often the friends who saw things and were silent. The enablers who thought they were helping. Those who saw (but did not observe) and then walked by their opportunity to make a difference.  It can wait and handle it another day. Some of these are now the walking wounded for failing to care, respond or to recognize the tragedy that was about to unfold, this too has to cease. My goal will be not one more suicide within our ranks. The second goal is to stop the hurt and pain of loss of a brother/sister. Ending the guilt that some carry. We should fully understand that these goals are indeed unachievable. However, they are the goals we should strive for, not one more if we can help it. What a military veteran survived is hard to describe. Our government trains them but cannot deprogram their memory banks. Emergency responders (police, fire, EMS and communicators) have far too many ghost that dance in our minds at times. We often laugh about needing some ‘brain eraser’ or the “neuralyzer pen” used in the movie “Men In Black”. Mental health and stability is serious business for the military and emergency services at all times, on the job, off the job and retired/away from the job. Speak to your partner, sergeant, spouse, clergy or whoever your trust. Those of us who have done this job as long as some of us or had those exposures to the darkest moments of life need to prepare others to help us. I hate to use the overused word but what ‘triggers’ you needs to be disclosed to your support group. They need to know and it is not a sign of weakness that you cannot handle something.

When I started out in emergency services and having spent some back to back calls involving death and suicide attempts I was confused at the age of 18. A wily old captain and WWII veteran Pete Doss told me this. “You have a uniform on now, you represent something to folks when you step out of this truck. You have no alternative but to take a deep breath, pull up your pants, roll up your sleeves and get in there and do something”. His words have been told to many rookie at their first bad scene. I remind myself to get past my demons who dare to release their monsters from my deepest memory. Watch and know each other’s trigger moment and care for one another. This cycle has to end. And to all of my readers, Yeah,  Love Ya All.

About the Author

William L. Harvey | Chief

William L. "Bill" Harvey is a U.S. Army Military Police Corps veteran. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC).  Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department in field operations, investigations and completed his career as the director of training. Served as the chief of police of the Lebanon City Police Dept (PA) for over seven years and then ten years as Chief of Police for the Ephrata Police Dept (PA). In retirement he continues to publish for professional periodicals and train.        

Sponsored Recommendations

Build Your Real-Time Crime Center

March 19, 2024
A checklist for success

Whitepaper: A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

July 28, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge

Listen to Real-Time Emergency 911 Calls in the Field

Feb. 8, 2023
Discover advanced technology that allows officers in the field to listen to emergency calls from their vehicles in real time and immediately identify the precise location of the...

2022 Transparency and Trust Report - Public Safety & Community Relationships

Nov. 16, 2022
Veritone releases its 2022 Law Enforcement Transparency and Trust Report delivering Five Key Findings of Community Sentiment on Policing

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!