Today is my first day true day off in weeks. My job is very demanding when I’m there and it sticks with me when I’m at home. There’s just a few things that I need to get off my chest that I’ve been holding onto for years.
For those of you who don’t know what I do I work for a Hospital Police Authority Department. Michigan has this awesome public act where hospital, or businesses, can employ their own police department.
I work in the 5th largest police department in our region.
Everyday starts off the same. Night shifter’s complain about their night and talk about “some jerk-off” that came into the hospital and stirred the pot a little harder than most. We all complain about our equipment and how our cars are running like crap. Then we all toss around the Fe-breeze bottle and spray off our vets to make them smell somewhat decent.
Once my vest is secured on tight to my body and my duty belt is set I start my day. First is the shift briefing. We all talk about what happened at the hospital during the night when we were gone and what to expect during the day. Then of course our Lieutenants give us the “be safe out there” saying and we are off to our day.
Now my job isn’t just “catch the bad guy then throw him in lockup”. We deal with staff members, assist with patients, and control the environment for the guests who come in every day of the week. Our department is real heavy on community policing. Our Chief throws more money at kids police stickers than he does on our own equipment (half of our department is running with older model duty belts).
Everyday I get at least one kid who tells me he wants to grow up to be a cop just like me. That is one of the greatest feelings in the world. To have a kid want to look up to you and be their role model (and you don’t even know their name).
The problem that I feel, and maybe other officers as well, is that I never want to mention the bad parts of the job.
Lets back track a little.
What I saw as a kid was a shiny badge, a crisp uniform, and a man with a lot of power. When my dad got pulled over when I was 6 I saw how the officer conducted himself. He had a face that couldn’t show fear and the way he stared at people could cut through titanium. He saw my sister and I in the back seat and gave us a quick smile and a small wave. I knew that I wanted to be an officer like him.
I was the kid in the neighborhood with a police siren on his bike pulling other kids over. Always dreamed of one day being able to join the men and women in blue. During my teenage years, at the peak of when my dad went berserk, I lost sight of what I wanted to be and was stuck in the “here and now” moment.
After I got back from my Marine Corps training I was right back where I needed to be.
After a psych evaluation, finger prints and background, and a final interview with the command staff I was hired at my department.
My first year I was exposed to all the craziness. What I learned in just a week was no one cares about the badge and uniform. Its all about respect. I treat everyone I make contact with with is respect. Then you have to build some sort of connection with them.
The nursing staff calls us to help them deal with troubled patients or visitors too. We deal with every type of prick in the area. Crack heads, psychos, jerks. You name it, we’ve handled it. Every day I thank the good lord that I got to go home in one piece.
I always keep two things in my breast pocket at work. A prayer card and a small letter. I never carried it until about over a year ago when I was involved in a pretty heated fight.
My sergeant, another officer, and I were escorting a few family members out of the hospital. One guy was there to just be the muscles and we all knew it. Big black dude standing about 6’3″ and I’d give him about 270 pounds of just pure pain. Our attention was not on him though. A scrappy little lady, who was intoxicated, was throwing a huge fit. Trying to swing at my sarge a few times.
When my sergeant and I tried to regain control the muscles did not appreciate it. He decided it was a good idea to yank me by the shoulder. I lost my balance a bit and quickly turned around and ordered him to back off. My partner then ran in between us and pushed him back.
I turned around again while my sarge and I were placing the girl under arrest. Next thing I saw was muscles punching my buddy in the face and knocking him back a few feet. Now people said I wasn’t thinking during that call and they were right. The only thing that ran through my head was to watch my partner’s back and without thinking I ran with everything I had and went for a center mass tackle. We both fell down to the ground and the wrestling match began.
Now he was easily stronger than me. When we were both on the ground the impact was so hard that it knocked my radio right out of the holder it was in. I couldn’t call for back up and he put me in a choke hold. I tried reaching for anything on my duty belt but my arms were stuck up in the air. I tried to break the hold but I couldn’t seem to get around to it. Next thing I knew I was kicking like hell and everything started to fade to black. (My buddy later told me he saw my eyes rolling to the back of my head.)
The irony of all this was we were right in front of the hospital chapel.
I was almost out cold until I heard my partner running towards us yelling “get the f**k off him! Do it now!”. I started to feel this guys grip loosen up. Next thing I heard was my partner giving this guy a few good strikes with his baton. As soon as I broke free I shook my head a little and immediately jumped this guy. All three of us on scene placed this guy in 3 pairs of handcuffs.
The girl we were dealing with decided to take off once she saw her muscles on the ground in cuffs. My sarge ordered her to stop but she kept running. He looked at me and said “you good?” I gave him a quick nod so he took off running after her.
My partner jumped on the radio and the call went out. “We have a 10-39, 10-39 requesting immediate backup” (10-39 is officer in immediate danger).
I looked up and almost every agency was on scene. A Michigan State Trooper, county deputies, and the rest of my guys. The Trooper was nice enough to say he could handle the lodging so our supervisors could check up on our guys involved.
Once we placed all of the suspects in our holding cells I asked my sarge if I could head to the locker room to change. I was all about looking clean and my pants were ripped and my shirt was all mangled. He said to make it quick so I took off.
My adrenaline was pumping when I was in the patrol car. I remembered that once I got to the locker room I just sat down. I couldn’t even tell you what was going on but I knew I just wanted to be alone. I was so shaken up it was unreal. Once I got up I felt a sharp pain in my leg and in my back. Guess the adrenaline masked the pain for a minute. I saw blood running down my legs through the rips.
I called my sarge to help me back up to the ER. Everyone that night made sure that I was the first one to get checked in.
After my 5 hour check up I asked my sergeant if I could remain on the shift. He placed me at a desk with someone and said “if you need anything just bump me on the radio. You sure you want to stay?” I made sure that he knew that I just couldn’t go home just yet.
I called my mom and sister that day and realized something. No one can understand what you went through unless they themselves do the same job as you do. No one understood what I was feeling or what was running through my mind.
I tried to go back to work the next day but everyone made sure that I would have the next few days off to decompress. I got daily phone calls checking up on me and even a few officers made sure that not a drop of alcohol was in my system during my days off.
I had trouble sleeping for a few months after that.
That’s just one example of what can carry on to my days off. Thinking of that still gives me the chills.
I hope that someday I can talk to my girl about all the thing’s that I’ve witnessed while on the job. The people I’ve seen and the things I’ve done.
But that may be the reason why I always pick up overtime at my department. I never get a moment to myself to think about anything that has happened while on the job. I haven’t developed any true hobbies to help me cope with certain things (other than working out).
I just hope that someday I can open up to my girl and hopefully she can help me find some sort of inner peace. Maybe then I can have have a life outside of just work.