The following is a guest piece, written by a man who just recently got sworn in as a Deputy Sheriff. It describes his personal evolution.
I got sworn in to the Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff just recently after a long 22 weeks of POST Academy training. I remember day one of the academy thinking to myself, “Here we go. It’s going to be a long 22 weeks.” Those 22 weeks passed me by like if it was a dream. We started off with nearly 100 recruits and just shy of 70 graduated. However, let’s rewind the clock back to a different life.
As a youngster in the 90’s and 2000’s, I did not like cops nor did I trust them because I had negative experiences with cops as a kid. I remember one time the first words out of a cop’s mouth toward me was “are you on parole or probation?” when all I was doing was sitting in a park watching a movie on my laptop as a college kid back in 2012.
The environment I grew up in taught me that it was an “us vs. them attitude,” them being law enforcement. I thought to myself “well f**k them then”; they don’t care about answering our calls. A car in my neighborhood got broken into, it took cops like an hour for some kind of response, and even then I don’t remember them showing up that night. The influences and media portrayals of cops were that they could do what they want and get away with things because they have a badge. The Media tends to be full of shit when it comes to those portrayals. Even the friends I had influenced me to have poor perceptions of a lifestyle I did not understand…that is until I started to fill out an application to join the Sheriff’s Department.
Initially, I filled out an application to join the Sheriff’s Department. I did my written exam and VPAT (Validated Physical Ability Test) along with my background packet. I remember scrolling through the massive background packet that every applicant had to fill out detailing every memory we could cram into our Personal History Statement. After the background packet was submitted, I had to follow up with a polygraph exam to re-confirm I was truthful throughout the entire packet. I can recall the faces of those applicants who failed the polygraph test.
To simply get hired as a recruit by an agency is very difficult because the background investigators will go through as much detail as time permits about a person’s life. Integrity and moral character are huge factors that are sought from a candidate. Take it as a hint that not every person from the street can even be considered to become a recruit, much less a cop without surviving a long hiring process and training.
One might wonder why the hell did I even apply to be a cop if I hated cops, right? As cliché as it sounds, I still have to say that my opinions toward cops did not change until July, 2016 when then Dallas Chief of Police David Brown said “We are hiring. Get out of that protest line and fill out an application.” As they say, “Can’t beat them? Then join them.” Quit being part of the problem and become part of the solution is what I told myself, and there I was, filling out an application. If it wasn’t for the random shared post that I somehow ran into which Deputy Matt shared I would have never liked his page nor become more aware of how a first responder thinks. I followed up on posts written and shared by the page admins through the years since July 2016.
Moving forward into October 2018, I remember going on my first ride along. I can recall vividly the events of that night. I remember leaving the station at the end of the shift with a different perspective than I came into the station with. It’s one thing to hear about it from news or online, it’s another thing to witness it first-hand. Later that year I was offered the position of DST (Deputy Sheriff Trainee) and got my academy start date. I was excited and naïve on what waited for me.
Throughout the academy, I learned to do many things with my fellow classmates to the point where we started to shed our individualism and come together as one. One of the hard realities that our class had to come to terms with was the risk involved with the career paths we have chosen. Deputy Matt once wrote an article about having to attend officer funerals; I believe it was for Sacramento Sheriff’s Department Dep. Robert “Bob” French. I had to re-read that article to help me get the words out of my mind as I struggled to articulate myself to write this.
I remember attending my first officer funeral and it hit home, because I can still hear the voice of a panicked deputy as he called out “officer down” on the radio; everyone stopped doing what they were doing and listened to the radio. Deputy Matt would harp on recent events and saying that there is a war on cops. I always thought that he was exaggerating a bit before I started the academy. Since then, I’ve sat down for 2 officer funerals during my academy and witnessed a department tradition done for the EOW (End of Watch) anniversaries of deputies. I can still see the sister of Deputy (name removed) cry over his gravestone after all these years.
It’s funny looking back at the entire hiring process on how stringent the background investigators are when it comes to screening applicants; roughly 4 out of every 100 applicants that get screened are selected to be hired as Deputy Sheriff Trainees. It is said that out of those 4 applicants hired as recruits, about 3 make it to graduation. I graduated with just shy of 70 other faces, who I know I will always remember. The sad truth is that I anticipate at least one of us to be gone before finishing our careers.
Now I see what Deputy Matt meant by the war on cops; it’s very real. The Media portray us as corrupt, abusive and because of that, the suspects are not afraid to pick a fight with us. The fight will come to each one of us one day and we must train and prepare for that fight when it comes.
Yes we wear a uniform, a badge, a vest, carry a gun, look serious and at times look militaristic, but underneath that uniform we still bleed, cry, love and fear like everyone else.
Instructors asked us recently “why are we here?” I’m here because as a Peace Officer, I want to use my knowledge to help close the gap of misunderstanding between the public and LEO’s and to clear the misconceptions that the media portray about my brothers and sisters in blue. Some may think that I’m a dumb, naïve boot; maybe, but I cannot let myself forget the “why am I here?” otherwise I may lose sight of who I am.