Last week I posted a picture of a man and asked for your first impressions. I also asked you to state where your not you’re a cop and if so, for how long. Between tons of OT, family obligations, and sheer sadistic entertainment, my reply post was delayed. Until now.
If you haven’t read the original post, you can click here. As of the writing of this post, there were a total of 67 comments. The comments were pretty well divided between first responders and civilians. Â I know most of you have spent the last week tossing and turning wondering just what your ol’ buddy MC’s point may be, right?
There is a pretty consistent response from those of us in blue and even a few of you EMS-types with a number of years under your belt. It’s something that may help to explain our, shall we say, different, points of view and sense of humor. You may remember a couple weeks ago I posted a video and got a response from a civilian about how very disappointed he was. I responded in a separate post. After writing it, it occurred to me that there is a reason that many civilians just don’t “get” it or us.
I started to wonder about how to explain that until I was told about a Street Survival conference some of my co-workers atteneded. The story went something like this: In this class (full of cops, mind you), the speaker put up a picture of a Boy Scout troop leader. The speaker asked some officers who have only been on the job for about a year what they saw.
The rookies said things like “leader”, “parent”, “kind” and the like. The rest of the class was made up of veteran cops. The speaker had instructed them to say nothing whilst the rookies were answering. When the rookies were done, the speaker asked the class to respond with one word in unison describing what they saw in the picture. That word?
Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying there is one thing even remotely amusing about molestation. There is a special place in Hell for those people. What I am saying, and what I think the speaker’s point was, is this job does things to a man’s/woman’s brain. It takes our wide-eyed innocence and faith in humanity and bitch slaps it right across the face while pissing on our shoes.
Show me a 10 year veteran cop (and I’d wager the same can easily be said for other first responders…note some of the comments on the original post) and I’ll show you a jaded, cynical person. He/she laughs at inappropriate humor. He/she makes jokes about the degradation of humanity and man’s inhumanity to man.
We laugh and we make light. Know why?
Because we walk in the muck and the mire every day so good people like you don’t have to. You think you live in a quiet, safe little neighborhood where Janie across the street with the sweet husband and 2 kids bakes cookies for you. What you don’t know is her sweet husband beats her, but she won’t ever tell anyone because she loves her kids and he uses them to keep her in line.
Across your safe little town, your other neighbor’s kid is selling crank to kids at McDonald’s and breaks into cars to steal shit to keep his own habit sated.
Every night in your safe little town, the cops are arresting drunk drivers and preventing them from killing themselves and the little old lady you go to church with. And let’s not forget the soccer mom that is doped out of her mind on pain pills she got hooked on after her recent surgery…she’s just as under the influence as the 23-year-old college kid at 0200 hrs, only she’s cruising around in the middle of the day when more traffic is out. Oh, and she has her four kids in the car.
You know what happens to good cops with no sense of humor? They become burn outs that either cease to care or they become so jaded and cynical that it eats them up inside. There’s a reason the average number of marriages for police is three (but that’s a whole other post). This career will literally eat you up from the inside out if you aren’t careful. Part of our defense mechanism is humor.
Call it gallows. Call it dark. Until you’ve spent a number of years in this job, you may very well not understand…and that’s just fine.
So, back to the original post. You’ll notice that the lion’s share of those that said they were cops and/or other first responders also said the first thing that popped to mind was something akin to “pedophile”. (By the by, PC 290 is CA code for a sex registrant.) There were some civilians that said something similar, but it should be noted they had family members in law enforcement (we tend to rub off on loved ones).
It should also mention that I have no clue who the gentleman in the picture is. I randomly selected the photo from Flickr. I am not making judgements on him one way or the other.
Seems the speaker at the Street Survival conference was right on the money. Something to keep in mind is us cops are trained to be suspicious. About everything. When was the last time you waltzed into Starbucks and looked at everyone’s hands and demeanors to ascertain if there was any danger? When you drive down the street, how many cars are you looking at? How many people are you checking out to see if they’re up to no good? When you knock on someone’s door do you stand right in front or off to the side? When you are talking to someone do you stand facing them or slightly bladed?
All of these things take a toll on us. It builds an
unhealthy distrust in people because it means we run less of a risk of getting hurt. You built us this way. You need us this way. We are not effective if we aren’t always looking and questioning almost everything. The cost is we run the risk of becoming cynical and jaded.
So, let us have our Super Troopers and our “Where’s the Little Girl” videos. I don’t judge you for thinking Woody Allen is a comic genius.