The War on Cops Has to End

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copsA few weeks ago, I walked into the grocery store and was immediately assaulted by the Time magazine cover declaring that “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Beneath the giant white letters on a black background was a blurry picture of a police officer chasing a black man. I walked up to the magazine pile and briefly considered dumping all of the issues in the trash. Instead, I just turned them over so that the cover wasn’t visible, then spent the rest of my grocery trip so angry I forgot half of my list.

For the past 20 years, I’ve been married to a police officer. And in all that time, I’ve never witnessed the kind of vitriol directed at cops as I have in the past two years. In the past, those willing to pass blanket criticism of law enforcement fell into two general groups: 1) those who consistently run afoul of the law and 2) people who had recently received a speeding ticket. Most folks, though, were willing to concede that the men and women in blue were decent people just doing a tough job. A few even appreciated their sacrifices; a rarer few considered police work an honorable vocation.

Recently, however, there’s been a shift in the general attitude toward police. I’ve witnessed countless online conversations in which the assumption is that cops are really just corrupt, power-hungry thugs that need to be reigned in. I’ve been in groups where people’s demeanor visibly changes when they learn I’m married to a cop; the same person who was just pleasantly talking to me becomes immediately reticent or even mocking in her tone. Last week, when my husband and 12-year-old son attended Police Week in Washington, D.C., an annual event honoring slain officers, a woman came up to them on the street and shouted “F— you!” to each individual cop in their group, as well as to our son for being with them. Another man on a bike screamed “F— the police!” so disruptively during the memorial service that he was arrested for disturbing the peace.

What’s stunned me is that the people I now see saying and doing these things are not criminals or anarchists, but your average, middle-class citizens. They’re professionals, mothers, Christians. I actually left Facebook entirely after seeing a conversation in which several Catholic women I’d thought were my friends were talking about the “institutionalized police brutality” and saying that most cops are just interested in “oppressing people.” A parishioner recently told me she understands why people heckle police who set up a perimeter when an officer has been killed, “Because if the cops had just left them alone in the first place, none of that would have happened.” (You know, because police can decide which calls they’re going to respond to.)

It's been distressing to read so many bashing police when our friends gave their lives last year to serve the public.
It’s been distressing to read so many bashing police when our friends gave their lives last year to serve the public.

The increasing hostility toward police has become especially intolerable to me since last May, when my husband’s partner and boss were murdered in an Alaskan village; a young man shot them to death for simply trying to arrest his father. Sgt. Scott Johnson left behind a wife and three teen daughters; Gabe Rich left behind a fiancee and two young sons. Last year, 117 people in law enforcement died; 45 police have already died so far this year. Yet I notice there has been no Time cover declaring that “BLUE LIVES MATTER.”

Few people know that before my husband asked me to marry him, he showed me a video of a police officer getting killed. He wanted me to know that this could be my reality, that he could go to work one day and never come home. I chose to live with those risks and God has generosity given us two decades together. But there has been an incredibly steep cost to all of us for my spouse to serve and protect.

Our children have nightmares and anxiety that they’re going to lose their father, which has only been heightened by the murder of his coworkers last year. Under the chronic pressures and trauma of police work, the outgoing, gregarious man with a palpable joie de vivre I married has faded into a quiet, socially-withdrawn man who suffers from insomnia and nightmares when he does sleep.

And why shouldn’t he have nightmares? He once held a dying seven-year-old boy in his arms and then had to listen to his family wail for hours while he guarded the body…he’s seen men, women, and children literally torn apart, their pieces strewn across the road or floor from accidents and suicides…he’s seen children and women beaten and unimaginably sexually abused. Last year, he had to walk through his friends’ blood and brain matter as he secured the house they were murdered in, as their bodies lay on the floor in a heap in front of him…and then he had to go back to that same small village and walk by that same house several times a month. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that only military personnel have a higher suicide rate than police officers.

Having seen the cost to my husband and countless other police officers, it’s truly incredible to me that an increasing number of people in our society look at cops with no awareness of or appreciation for the profound personal sacrifices they make. They look at these men and woman who give so much of themselves, who suffer so much privately to carry the terrible psychological burdens that they do–and they assume the worst about them. It never occurs to the growing number of cop-bashers that CNN or MSNBC or The New York Times might want to distract the public from more serious, impactful issues being mangled by our elected leaders. Or that the media has a vested financial interest in stirring up controversy. Or that there’s a reason grand juries–the ones with ACTUAL facts about cop shootings–almost always acquit police officers of wrongdoing, even in the most publicized cases like Ferguson.

It never occurs to people that maybe, having never actually had the training that cops do or faced the same risks that they do…it doesn’t occur to people that the police deserve the benefit of the doubt until the facts prove otherwise.

If you happen to be someone with a less-than-favorable opinion about police, I invite you to get into the trenches with them by scheduling a ride-along with your local department. Spend a shift or two with a cop, with an ordinary man or woman who has dreams, bills, fears, maybe even kids like you do. Watch him deal with infantile adults who can’t manage their lives, with the horrors of domestic violence and child sexual abuse, with delivering death notices to people that their loved ones have died. Watch her and consider that you likely couldn’t do her job (I know I couldn’t).

Then thank the officer, go home, and cancel your subscription to Time.

20 Replies to “The War on Cops Has to End”

  1. I have been equally disheartened by the attitudes of people towards police, even my own family members. I left law enforcement after 9 years of service almost four years ago, after a better paying job offer came my way in a very timely fashion… I came in to my then 3 year old son’s room in the morning after several hours in the hospital due to an on-duty injury. He saw my wrapped hand and asked, “Mommy, did you get shot?” My husband left law enforcement earlier this year after 12 years, but the anxiety of being a police wife still has not left me. Just 2 o’clock this morning, I woke up and panicked when he was not beside me. My brain went into overdrive, what happened? did he get called out? is he stuck on a call? is he….? And then he walked back into the bedroom from the bathroom. Although I heaved a huge sigh of relief, my heart did not stop racing for quite some time.

    People do not realize just how much law enforcement officers sacrifice. They do not realize that the overwhelming majority of them are called to do it, not for a need of power, but so they can help keep the community safer for their children, and grandchildren… and your children. They do not realize that, no matter how tough the exterior, it is difficult to work a wreck where a family of four has been burnt to a crisp because of a drunk driver, and the children are the same age as the officer’s. They do not realize that the officer will never forget the person they watch take their last breaths and the torment that follows even though they know there was absolutely nothing else they could do. They do not realize that walking into a college building and seeing the aftermath of one of the most horrific shootings to ever happen in this country, will haunt that officer for the rest of his life.

    You can leave law enforcement, but it never really leaves you. Especially when you are called to it. While I’m glad to be out of it, my heart stills bleeds for my brothers and sisters in blue. Because I know their hearts. I know their intents. I know the truth.

  2. Thank you! May husband retired after 35 plus years and it’s never been as bad as it is now. You are spit on

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, and thanks to you and your husband for the huge sacrifices you have made to serve us all. This situation reminds me a lot of some adoption issues. There is a militant anti-adoption movement that is totally opposed to adoption in any way, shape or form, based on corruptions within the industry. I don’t deny the institutional corruptions or that corruption is present among certain members of each adoption demographic. But that doesn’t mean that all agencies are corrupt or that all adoptive parents are corrupt, and it doesn’t negate the need for adoption or the adoption professionals and parents who make loving sacrifices to promote good outcomes. It’s the same with police. Yes, some are corrupt. But most are not. It is possible to push back against whatever corruption exists without the hatred against the vast majority of police officers who take pride in their jobs and make enormous sacrifices to help others.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I completely agree that this hate needs to stop. As with anything there is good and bad. I am thankful for cops that risk their lives everyday protecting us. I hope you share more articles like this so I can share them on my page. A lot of people there thinking they know it all. GOD BLESS YOU and your family!

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. God Bless you and your husband ma’am.

  6. Thank you for the story and for what your husband does and for all the police officers out there. I really appreciate all that you do to keep us safe! I’m sure you see a lot of ugly stuff out there and I praise what you all do.

  7. God bless and protect your husband. Thank you for sharing your story. People do size up others so easily, and have no idea what they go through, or anything about their life. I’m glad you let people know about the tremendous sacrifices policemen make, and also their families.

  8. Misty, thank you for writing this article. It speaks what has been on my heart for some time. I also am married to a police officer, so I feel your heart in it. After so many friends on facebook started posting police-bashing articles and just negatively judging police officers in general, I went on a campaign of posting “good cop” articles – and I still do. What a shame that we have to do that because the media won’t.

  9. “Infantile adults” ~ quit your job, maybe, if the price is too high? Really not sure why this is on a Catholic website. pax.

    1. I’m not sure why your comment is on a Catholic website, Tiffany, because it certainly isn’t very charitable.

      1. Policing is not for those who expect the trends (in our decaying decorum) to serve them, is it? This sure sounds like a lot of suffering for very little gain. If it’s being posted only to elicit applause, perhaps I’m misunderstanding the idea of a blog. As to the Catholic -icity of the viewpoint, it reads a bit angry and demanding. The characterization of the population being “served” sounds demeaning. (And the fact that they’re often gunning down officers isn’t lost on me; I get that Northwestern Alaska has a complex history with cops, mostly hostile).

        I respect anyone who risks their life for the cause of righteousness ; I revere those who do it without whining.

        1. Tiffany, before you start criticizing a blogger for how her post reads, maybe you should look at the tone of your own comments, because as I said, they come across as very uncharitable (particularly the “whining” and “quit your job if the price is too high”).

  10. This has been a subject that has deeply bothered me as well. I have worked as a civilian for a large police department and have had a close second hand account of what they go through. It’s been one of the most emotional career choices I have ever made and I’m certainly not on the front lines, but I see the men and women behind the badges and have read their accounts of the calls they go on every day. If it wears me down, it most certainly wears them down.

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