I feel I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the four officers slain in Oakland. I don't really know what to say about the circumstances of these the senseless killing of these four officers.
Read the article. I wanted to write something because I can't imagine the pain of their fellow officers. I was a police officer for 26 years. Those were some of the most satisfying years of my life. I was proud to be a police officer and it was a job I and my fellow officers took very seriously. But we also realized the risk. We knew that this kind of devastation could come at any time.
The difference between being a police officer and being a military member was that when I went to Southeast Asia I knew what was going on there. When I was a police officer I didn't know when the danger would come. It was a much harder job because I was required to be so many different things at once. A social worker, law enforcer, counselor, lawyer, were a few of the roles filled by cops. When I was a young officer I wasn't prepared in any way to fill these jobs. I learned as I went along. Sometimes I performed well, sometimes I performed not so well.
The public has a skewed view of police officers. That view is perpetuated by movies and TV. The officers I worked with were dedicated professionals who took on an impossible task and tried to make our world a better place to live. Our training in no way prepared us for what was to come when we went on the street. Talk about taking a drink from a firehose. What makes the police officer's job unique is that there is a very small margin of error. The outcome of failure may be death. Think about that for a second. If you make a mistake you could die or get your fellow officer killed. These thoughts haunted me everyday I went to work.
I was more aware of death as a police officer than I ever was in the military. Sounds strange? In the military I wasn't required to do social work and be polite. I was expected to protect myself and my fellow airmen. That gives you focus. In other words, your world was focused in a very small narrow corridor. That didn't reduce the fear, but it focused the mind in one direction. Survival.
As a police officer, the many functions I was forced to perform made me look in many directions at the same time. That sounds crazy, but I didn't always think only of survival because I was required to SERVE and protect.
I am sure that you have heard of your life flashing before you in stressful times, right? Every time I made a traffic stop my life flashed before me. Sound dramatic? That's how it was. No officer knows with any certainty who they are stopping or what is in that vehicle. I lost two fellow officers on traffic stops. They stopped killers when they thought they were traffic violators. Who knew?
I spent my career in fear. It didn't paralyze me, but it sure as hell focused my mind on surviving. My mother lit a lot of candles, my dad gave me holy cards, I wore a St. Michael the Archangel (Patron Saint of Police) medal my whole career. I lost friends, I used violence, I used my weapon in the line of duty, I kicked ass to save my ass, and I survived. I'm out now and it's a young man's job.
It's also horribly dangerous as evidenced by the death of these four officers. If the military lost four soldiers in a day it would be noteworthy. A police department lost four officers in one day in a civilized American city. It will be news for a while and then it will be forgotten.
SHAME ON US.