Many years ago, in fact, in the ‘70’s, I took some time off from the Norfolk PD for a vacation. We drove to Yellowstone National Park, which was as spectacular as advertised. One featured attraction was Old Faithful, a geyser that pretty much erupts like clockwork. It is set amidst others more random, but Old Faithful is regular. They even have signs posted to give the likely times. On cue, the water began bubbling and a tower of water exploded from Old Faithful.
To educate the visitors, they told how pressure from beneath the surface brewed until it came to the point of eruption, spewing the water spout from a geyser. That’s kind of how we are as people, more so, as officers. The restriction of the pressure suppressed by gasses is finally overcome by the power of the eruption.
The point is—sometimes officers stuff emotions and refuse to talk them over with anyone, not wanting to appear weak. The emotion of life on the streets, witnessing crimes, investigating horrible acts of violence, pressure at home, financial struggles, professional frustrations—all things that cause emotional turbulence beneath the surface.
Some pressures are relieved artificially—alcohol, narcotics, affairs and divorce (ALL extremely high among officers), responding to a perp out of frustration and jacking them when not really necessary. But the result is not healing. Marriages fail, addictions rise, and abuse of those around us is justified with “they deserved it.” I know what I’m saying. You do too. Those who have adequate personal support handle stresses far better.
Last year I went on a cruise. First one. They carefully explained the escape drill, how to use the life vest, and showed the life rings to throw to someone over board. Someone who falls in can struggle for a bit, but without a life ring for support, will likely come to their own demise. There are life rings for officers too. People who care enough to listen if you care enough to talk. A pastor, chaplain, or brother officer.
For me, it was my partner, still my best friend today. He saw me drifting, becoming more violent, and challenged me—confronted me—with what he saw. He saved my life, I can say with all honesty. We went to the Detective Bureau together with great success. He was willing to risk speaking up—challenging what he knew was wrong. Too often, officers see another in trouble. They see the symptoms. Excessive drinking, overreacting, temper flare ups—erupting like a geyser. Someone gets hurt—always.
If you really care about your brother and sister officers, you will be a life preserver—perhaps a life saver. Not a snitch—which some think, but a release valve to help a brother get through tough times. That is why I volunteered to be chaplain. I am available 24/7. If you see a brother floundering in rough water, toss a life ring, lend an ear, and offer hope.