As a patrol Deputy I always insisted on the public doing ride a longs with a law enforcement officer whenever possible. This practice was heavily advocated because of the difficulties I had in explaining the multifaceted angles of the profession. Today a friend of mine was speaking with me about a tragic ordeal she both endured and participated in and I remarked about the horrific and wonderful strangeness of the profession. It is true that molecularly each human individual awakes as a physically “different” person each day. I propose The Deputy awakes conceptually or even spiritually different as a person each day.
As a blanket rule, Deputies do not believe in blanket rules so this multifaceted and angular description can only poke small holes into the container which preserves the entire essence of the topic, yet this is endeavored upon in multiple parts here. While certain examples are used, this is not meant to be a collection of cop stories or law enforcement accomplishments nor is it meant to be used as a political tool in any way. My intent is to simply educate and deduce.
Part 1: The Bonding Pear
Having taught from time to time at the Sheriff’s Academy I see new recruits entering in to the profession from a perspective of naivety as to what kind of career they are embarking upon. As if looking through a foggy (and perhaps somewhat cracked) mirror I have delighted in realizing once again the varied backgrounds of each individual who believe they desire the job of “Protecting and Serving.”
From all walks of life, we get pilots, ex-military, bartenders, hairstylists, stay at home mothers, college students, college professors, doctors, scientists and youthful wide eyed teenagers to name a few. They all desire to do something more with their life. The first few days of an Academy class are always awkward as each participant attempts to find a way to bond with others who are so different from themselves. As the Academy progresses individuals learn to function as more efficient groups and begin to motivate each other through various intensive training and testing procedures.
As the recruits learn laws, ground combat, defensive driving, report writing, firearms proficiency and physical education they begin to develop the muscle memory which ultimately kicks in when the body produces excess adrenaline. One might become top of the class in a certain area of instruction yet it does little to prepare the recruit for the actual work. If these skill sets can be learned at a fundamental level, the recruit moves into much more intensive training in the field. It is the field where many people, after witnessing the realities and cruelties of life choose to pursue other work.
In the beginning, it is ensured that Deputies plant the bonds of partnership deep within fertile soil. It was put to me years ago in the Academy that if one did not possess a certain “fire” in the belly, succeeding as a Law Enforcement Professional would be difficult. Within the same speech I was also told if I thought I could get through the academy or field training without the help of others then I was stupid. Deputies do almost nothing alone. We have each other read arrest reports, we bounce ideas off one another during complex investigations, we show up for each other when the potential for trouble exists and we offer a brotherly nod when a good job has been done.
Entire novels, psychological studies, endless theorems and both good and terrible television series and movies have attempted to capture the essence of what Law enforcement is. In an effort to demonstrate the temperament of such circumstances and shed light upon the greater existence, certain “stories” must be told. Those beginning bonds which took root within the elementary training environments ultimately yield the fruit of emotional and physical survival in various ways. If those seeds have not taken root however, The Deputy is, for the lack of a better term, in a bad way. I thank God for those more experienced officers who came so quick to help me before I understood the overall predicament placed upon me.
I can recall, once while I was relatively new to the job and enjoying some personal relief within the heavily graphitized resting area of a gas station, a clerk shrieked to me about someone being shot across the street. While zipping up I remember thinking to myself how important the situation must have been to have the female clerk run screaming into the men’s bathroom while an armed, stone faced Deputy Sheriff in a black uniform urinated in a supposed secure environment.
I walked outside to look across the street and indeed witnessed a mob of people doing…who knows what. I am still not certain to this day what the angry group of people were doing because most of them ran away when I arrived. It didn’t strike me until much later, but the weight and authority of driving by myself in emergency status to a shooting where an angry mob gathered was much more than I could bear psychologically at the time. The thoughts of what could have happened always come much later, sometimes years later.
I remember calling for my partners immediately. Some of them were guys I didn’t quite get along with and others had pulled me aside to specifically tell me they flat out did not like me. Each one still came, and when they arrived upon chariots of salvation they came bearing fruit from those trees long planted. I had never tasted fear and relief at the same time yet this was the overwhelming flavor. The fruit nourishes and helps to grow, even at times when it has a rotten appearance or taste. Without it, no Deputy could survive during, after or even before a significantly stressful incident.
Situations like having to kill someone, watching someone die, attempting CPR on an infant, rescuing a half burned corpse from a burning car, or attempting to bring order to chaos after an intoxicated teenager has killed the driver of another vehicle. Events such as these provide nightmares to The Deputy either immediately or many years after the fact. The events cannot be erased and they become part of The Deputy; forever to be carried upon high shoulders along with the radio, shotgun, rifle, Taser, baton, gloves, keys, chemical spray and medical kits. Deputies become weary yet they are always sustained by the fruit.