As I have mentioned a thousand times before, cops have a sick and twisted sense of humor.
I know I do.
“At least my kids live with me” or “that’s not what your mom said” are staples of the american cop humor diet. It is our way, believe it or not, of showing love for each other.
Some of you may shake your head and ask yourselves, “what the fuck is wrong with these people?”
I completely understand.
I’m going to let you in a little secret.
I’m a clown. A comedian.
The village idiot.
For some reason, I make people laugh. Be it my cutting sarcasm or quick wit, people come to expect me to dole out zingers or wisecracks at will.
For the most part it comes without much effort.
Sometimes my humor doesn’t land the way I intended. Sometimes it doesn’t land well at all.
Several years ago, one of our veteran detectives had screwed up and gotten himself a DUI. In my usual fashion I tried to make lite of his situation with humor and jokes.
It wasn’t working.
In one last veiled attempt to lessen his burden with my wicked wit, I jokingly told him to just go out back and kill himself.
As soon as these words were uttered this detective looked at me and said without one ounce of hesitation, “you know, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately”.
To say I felt like an idiot would be a gross understatement.
I had tried to use humor, dark twisted cop humor, to help a brother going through a rough situation. Not to give myself an out but this was how we had always helped each other.
As mentioned, it was how we showed love.
CISM didn’t exist at the time and I wasn’t a trained psychiatrist. It was the only way I and other cops knew how to help a fellow officer who was hurting.
Humor is good medicine for the soul. When an officer has reached the point where the option of taking his or her own life is the only way, humor is not enough.
As I have grown in the job and in life, I have come to better recognize when my jokes or sarcasm are landing on deaf ears.
It is especially hard for cops to seek help when they really need it. Society and the culture of policing has created the false doctrine that cops are infallible to the same troubles that befall regular people.
Recently, a friend of mine who helps manage the Facebook page, Survive the Streets: A Page for Cops, received the awful news that one of its former admins for its page, and cop, had taken his life.
To make matters worse, just a year before, another cop that helped out with the page had also killed himself.
Although I didn’t personally know these officers, I was deeply effected by my friends pain over their deaths.
It hasn’t left my thoughts in over a week.
Why are there so many cop suicides
Why are so many of my brothers and sisters taking their lives?
All cops go through rigorous psychological testing prior to being hired. For the most part, cops have it together mentally more so than your average Joe or Jane.
In the past few years, cops have had to endure one gut wrenching tragedy after another.
The Sandy Hook shooting where over twenty elementary school age children were gunned down senselessly.
The mass shooting at the theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
The unspeakable death toll from the night club shooting in Florida and more recently, the mass killing in Las Vegas.
The officers who had to respond to these incidents and gruesome crime scenes will never be the same.
Humans are not meant to witness such atrocities.
While these scenes played out, secretly, every cop in this country was thanking god they had been spared having to deal with the suffering and carnage of these incidents.
I believe these events have a way of effecting officers, even the ones who were not there.
How would I handle a call like that? Would I have the stones and fortitude to function as a police officer while witnessing such horror?
This is the cumulative stress that wears an officer down to the point where depression can sneak up on them.
Even though stressful events have a big impact on cops and their overall mental health, I believe another, more insidious reason, lies at the feet of this issue.
Violent crime is out of control.
The media has fueled an over-hyped, heavily edited false narrative about police use of force and brutality.
The trust we once had with the public is gone. If it’s not on video, it didn’t happen. Worse, if it’s not on video, the police are lying.
Police leadership (not all) is now quick to throw an officer to the wolves if there is the slightest appearance of potential backlash.
They say we are not welcome in their gyms.
They spit in our food.
They write “fuck the police” on our restaurant receipts.
Some, even in our own family, have outwardly and publicly shown a disdain for cops while supporting Black Lives Matter.
Professional athletes protest us at football games, some being players we have personally followed and supported for years.
These are just a few of the reasons, compounded with the problems and turmoil that a struggling cop is already dealing with, that leads to hopelessness.
When a struggling cop has lost hope, he or she is in danger.
They are in danger of making a bad decision that has a permanent and devastating effect on those left behind. I should have known better that day when I thought a joke would make my brother forget his worries.
When I think back, he was on the very verge of losing hope while I tried to be a comedian.
Thank god he didn’t head my stupid advice that day.
As mentioned, I have grown since then and have tried to be better about knowing when to joke and when to just shut up and listen.
We all need to lean on each other during these hard times and recognize when one of our own is struggling.
You may never know the lives or the very hope you have restored by just being there.
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