Occasionally, I get some pretty cool benefits from blogging. Today, I was given an early copy of a new book coming out on Friday, December 12, 2014, Hearts Beneath the Badge.
Now, I’m a voracious reader. I typically have one fiction book going and another one or two non-fiction books working as well. I am a strong believer in the “Leaders are Readers and Readers are Leaders” mentality.
Consequently, I dig getting new written material to dive into. This one is of particular significance because one of the chapters in this book features a fellow motor I know that has gone through some intense personal tragedy over the past few months. He may not know it, but he has been an inspiration as to how to handle the unthinkable and refuse to give in to all the trauma, negativity, and destruction that can follow it.
I read his chapter first.
After wiping away some tears, I started at the beginning and read the foreward by PoliceOne editor, Doug Wyllie. I’ve always enjoyed his style and he doesn’t disappoint here, either. His straight-forward nature plays well in a book designed to show you the lives of police officers.
I moved on to the preface, written by the author, Karen Solomon. Upon completion, I immediately hit the computer and asked her if I could use it as a guest post. She readily agreed.
I know many of my readers are either law enforcement or have friends or family on the job. This book will hit them differently than it will my non-LEO readers. I really wanted my non-LEO readers to hear a different voice, one very similar in nature to the Wife’s, but still…not a cop. Karen blogs at The Missing Niche and is also the wife of a police officer.
I am proud to present to you, with permission from Karen, the preface to the upcoming book Hearts Beneath the Badge.
Many will say I wrote this book because I am married to a police officer. Not so. My respect for law enforcement began when I was a child. I lived in what is now called affordable housing and an officer fresh out of the academy and his family lived a few doors down. As I grew up with Dave as a role model in my life, I saw, even at a young age, the difficultly of his job. What I never saw was anything more than a man doing his job. Men and women like Dave are easy to find – you simply have to remove your preconceptions of law enforcement.
So why did I write this book? It’s been a tough year for law enforcement. Actually, every year is a tough year for law enforcement. Men and women put on a badge and uniform to spend their working hours patrolling the streets. During their shift, they are spit, bled and vomited upon. They are dragged by cars, kicked, punched, stabbed, shot, and killed. They also stand by while the people they are paid to protect call them derogatory names, just inches from their faces. They are made out to be villains in the press and children are taught to fear, hate, and disrespect them.
An officer must balance politics, PTSD, training, public opinion, his or her own safety, the safety of their families, and the suicides and line-of-duty deaths of their brethren. They are supposed to be politicians, therapists, mediators, triage nurses, investigators and more. They are expected to make all the right choices, at all times, often with little time to process the unfolding events. They are held to a higher standard than in many other careers and little understanding and forgiveness is offered in return.
When their shift ends, the uniform and the badge are put away but the aftermath remains.
I think people forget that the men and women who patrol our streets are human, that they have families, and that they suffer emotional trauma from their occupation. We don’t see what happens once the news cameras are shut off. We don’t know what goes through the officers’ minds and we don’t know what it’s like for their families.
Shortly after the riots in Ferguson, MO, my son came home and told me that the kids at school said that police beat up and kill people for no reason. He wanted to know who would tell his classmates such a thing. To answer his questions, I simply had to turn on the news. I didn’t. That’s not how or what I want him to learn.
Within the same week, a cashier saw my debit card from our local Police Department Credit Union and asked if I had family in law enforcement, I proudly stated that I did. I think that law enforcement and the military are the two most honorable professions there are. My pride quickly turned to fear as she told me exactly what she thought of law enforcement. I cried all the way home.
I didn’t cry because I was ashamed or because she hurt my feelings, I cried because I couldn’t believe that this is what it had come to. A complete stranger telling me what she saw on the news, as though it were Gospel, and blaming me and my family for it.
Seeing so much hate extended to all of law enforcement was troubling. It hurt my heart to read the news. Mainstream media isn’t willing to take a neutral stance until all of the facts are out. Social media posts that go viral are the ones that are the most inflammatory as opposed to the ones that are most flattering. I simply couldn’t understand why the loudest voices were the ones filled with so much hate. I wanted someone to stand up and say “Enough is enough!”
The only place I saw that kind of love and support were within the confines of law enforcement support groups. Not many outside these groups would listen or care. The voices of the ones that did care were drowned out by louder voices of anger. I listened to the fears of many law enforcement families and knew that someone needed to take some sort of action. That is why I wrote this book. Love is silent. Hate is loud. I don’t want our love for law enforcement to be silent any longer.
This book is a simple gesture to say “Do you know who I am? I am the wife waiting to fall asleep until she hears her husband’s truck pull into the driveway. I am the mother who tucks her children in and has had to answer questions such as ‘Are the bad guys going to kill Papa tonight?’ I am the person in front of you that purchased your meal or coffee because I can see your uniform in my rear-view mirror. I am the person in the crowd who wants to tell you that you are doing a great thing. I am the one who won’t turn on the news because she is tired of seeing you crucified. I am the voice that says you aren’t a murderer or bigot or dickhead, you are a good person. I am the one who respects the soldier and the law enforcement officer above all others. I am your friend.”
Why would they believe me anyway? I could turn on a dime. They’ve seen that happen. They have a right to have a wall around them. They have a right to be afraid.
Everyone sees the flashing lights, the gun and the badge. Everyone reads the news. It’s all a flash in the pan and tomorrow is a new day, a new incident to question. For you and the press, perhaps. Not for the officers. Not for their wives, children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends. It’s never over. Every time they watch the news, read a paper or listen to the radio, their perceived shortcomings are being reinforced; even worse, their trauma is relived.
People are injured and killed every day. When Sally is killed in a drive-by shooting, everyone mourns and society protests the murder of an innocent. When Bob crashes his car into a tree while speeding, his family is consoled and a speed limit sign is erected. They get closure. When Officer Diane is shot at a traffic stop, there is silence. When Officer John is dragged by a motorist and dies as a result of his injuries, there is silence. The difference? Diane and John were wearing a blue uniform. It’s expected that they will die.
Do they not feel pain? Do they not need support? When a police officer is injured or killed, every other officer and their family walks a little slower, holds a heavier burden. It’s another chink in the armor. It’s one less chance they will be today’s casualty but one more chance they will be tomorrow’s. For those that were close to the incident, they carry the burden of the survivor.
Writing the book was easy; listening to the families was difficult. There is much more to them than what is in this book and I cried listening to so many of them. With each chapter I wrote, I fell in love with the people behind them. It wasn’t hard; they are good people. They are our neighbors and friends. But, this book isn’t about the sadness – it’s about the things officers do every day that don’t make the papers or the evening news. It’s what doesn’t go viral; it’s what is often overlooked.
Although I suspect my biggest audience will be law enforcement families, this book isn’t for them. They live it. This book is for the guy that is pissed off because he was speeding on the way to work and will now be even later, the gal who couldn’t get out of a DUI so she wrongly accused the officer of misconduct, and the next person armed with a gun who thinks that killing a police officer will somehow help the world become a better place. Those are the people who need to read this book.
Finally, this book isn’t a political statement, it’s not a solution to race relations or police brutality, real or perceived, so please set your expectations aside. It’s simply a book. It’s my way of saying thank you to a community that doesn’t hear those words often enough.
If one mind changes as a result, if one person is a little kinder when they are pulled over and if one person can hold their judgment before they assess the entire situation, the book will be a success.
For more information, visit HeartsBeneathTheBadge.com!