I remember the day I truly learned what my dad did for a living. I was 14, and he took me for a ride-along. The first call we got seemed like an easy call, there was a homeless man being disruptive, and I thought OK, my dad’s going to help. As I was watching from the car, I saw the homeless man pull a knife out and pointed it at my father, and that’s when I realized . . . my dad could die doing what he does for his paycheck.
My dad’s a cop.
Growing up as a child, I never really understood what his job meant except that he wore a cool uniform, and he’d come to my classroom every once in a while to talk about seatbelt safety and wearing your bike helmet. I never saw the gun, it went straight into the safe when he got home.
Even when I was five years old and he was in a near-fatal car accident on the job, it didn’t occur to me what he did.
I later learned that that accident was caused by a woman hallucinating on meth who said her boyfriend was trying to kill her. My dad responded to what he thought was a life or death call, and even though his sirens were on, he was hit by a driver who was trying to run a red light.
Years later, a friend of mine’s sister was murdered at the age of 15. The brutality of her murder was the worst murder our city had seen in years. I remember thinking, what about that poor cop who walked into this? He was responding to a welfare check and had no idea what he’d see and could never unsee. That was the first time I thought about something like that, the first time I thought, Wow, what if my dad was the cop who saw that? How much could that mess a person up?
That’s the thing not everyone thinks about. Soldiers, yes, but no one ever thinks about PTSD when it comes to cops, firefighters, or EMTs. For a cop, it’s not just pulling you over for a speeding ticket or issuing DUIs. It’s responding to domestic disputes and comforting the child who was abused by their parents. It’s responding to a call about a missing child and finding the worst-case scenario has become reality. It’s responding to a suicidal person who’s on the brink of ending their lives and not being able to change their mind or get to them in time.
A cop cannot unsee the brutal things people in this world do to each other. It’s there forever.
Did my dad bring the job home with him? You better believe it. There were nights where his mind couldn’t leave the crime scene. Days where he came home angry because of the trauma he dealt with all day long.
Were things harder for me as a child because of it? Oh, yes, they were. My father needed to know the names of my friends’ parents before I could have a playdate in case he had arrested them at some point (yes, that happened once). My friends teased me in high school because of it and assumed I was a goody two shoes (so of course I tried to prove them wrong and rebelled).
Some dads have office jobs. Some dads work in manufacturing or the service industry. Some dads are doctors or lawyers. And some dads put their lives on the line to save others. Whether it’s a soldier, cop, fireman, or EMT—their job is saving people. We call them heroes or at least we used to call cops heroes until recently.
Yes, there are a lot of corrupt cops who abuse their power, but I’m not here to list out all of the bad cops out there.
I don’t want to talk about all the bad ones because I think we’ve heard enough about them lately.
No, I’m here to tell you about a good one, the one I call dad.
The good cop who instead of charging a little boy with shoplifting, bought the item the kid tried to steal as well as new shoes because he could tell the little boy’s family was poor. But you never hear about those types of stories.
My dad was a cop for over 25 years before retiring, and every day, he strapped that gun on his hip and prayed he wouldn’t have to use it. It was putting the badge on to protect and serve, praying he would respond to the call for help before it was too late. It was praying every day that he’d return home when his shift was off, and then it was the paranoia that his day job didn’t follow him home at night.
So please pray for our soldiers, our firefighters, EMTs, and pray for our cops too because there is no unseeing what they see every day.
And what they see is a broken world.