Letter to the Editor: This is What It’s Like to Work in Law Enforcement

By The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn
August 25, 2021 Updated: August 25, 2021

I am a retired Southern California homicide detective with over thirty-four years on the job. What I would like to discuss with you folks is the ridiculous idea that is being propagated by not only this country’s left-wing politicians, but all of its clueless citizens with the same mind-set—especially, in light of the heavy increase in violent crime currently being generated throughout the United States.

What most people, not just the ones I have alluded to in the paragraph above, don’t seem to understand is that the brave men and women that take on the mantle of first responders, be they law enforcement, paramedics or firefighters, is that like our folks engaged in combat, they can and do suffer extensive trauma. However, unlike being in a theater of war, it takes place over a greater period of time—unfortunately, oftentimes resulting in the same types of issues.

Therefore, to better illustrate this statement, I would like to give whoever is reviewing this commentary some examples of what law enforcement deals with in the hopes of showing (1) why it is ludicrous for anyone in this country to even contemplate any kind of defunding process, and (2) if anyone out there truly believes that any of these “politicians,” or similar leaning citizens could come close to achieving anything I am about to describe.

Let me begin by telling you that oftentimes when you enter a police academy, the director during his or her introductory announcements will tell those in the academy that after performing your duties throughout your career in law enforcement, you will probably live 10 to 15 years less than your counterparts in private industry. Why, because of the stressors you will face throughout your career. I was a high school teacher and still in my early twenties when I became a cop, and I shrugged that off as did most of my counterparts; we were young and those comments just didn’t sink in.

Examples: (Keep in mind, that not all law enforcement will encounter all of these things, but most will be exposed to many throughout their career. (The examples I am giving you are not necessarily all mine.) Remember, the key here is when I am done, if you still think defunding is a direction we should go, and if that is the case, who will you call when some or all of these things transpire?)

An officer is working a graveyard shift (oh, and by the way, shift work; especially graveyards just in of itself can take its toll), and dispatch tells him to call the station to get information on a death notification. So, they give him the address to respond to. They supply him with the name or names of some family member who has been killed, the circumstances of their demise, and a contact number so they can call to make arrangements. So, when he knocks on this individual’s door and tells this person(s) who is already upset by being awakened by a cop at their front door, who is now going to ruin their day even further, if he is lucky he can give the information and then leave, but many times they grab hold of the officer in tears and/or screaming in emotional pain, and all he can do is try his best to console them.

A detective is at the station and is advised to roll to a location on a suspicious death call. When he gets to the house, he is met by a father who is in tears and pleading for him to help him and his wife. She is walking down the stairs with a tiny infant clutched to her chest. The paramedics are there and have pronounced the child is deceased, but because he is a homicide detective, he is tasked with seeing if this is a S.I.D.’s (Sudden Infant Death) call or something else. The medics have tried, but they can’t get the hysterical wife to release her dead child, so they look to the experienced detective for help. Unfortunately, he has done this too many times before, and he works whatever magic he has that day to get her to give him her child.

An officer follows a motor officer at a major traffic collision in the middle of the night and watches as he, without hesitation, reaches into a fractured vehicle, pulls out the victim’s severed leg, and rushes over to the ambulance to give it to the medics who are working feverishly on that victim in an attempt to save him.

A detective worked most of the weekend on two other cases, and he is about to flop on his bed next to his wife and go to sleep—when the watch commander calls him and tells him to go to a major freeway and take over a case. When he arrives, he can see a highway patrol officer cradling a 2-year-old. He then sees a lone vehicle a distance away that has slid along a cement center divider and come to a stop. When he walks up on the car he finds two dead occupants, a man and woman. His investigation reveals that while the man was driving at a high rate of speed, he shoots his girlfriend in the head, and then sticks the gun in his mouth and kills himself; all the while, their 2-year-old was sitting in the backseat of the car strapped into his car seat.

A neighborhood is up in arms when they find a man hanging from one of the basketball hoops at their local elementary school, and officers have to respond to take care of the crime scene and calm the distraught neighbors.

Two men are executed in a middle-class neighborhood as another jumps out of a second story window and flees to safety. After handling that scene, the detectives pull a thirty-hour shift and sleep in the jail, awaiting one of the suspects to be brought into the station for an interview. (Not uncommon, by the way.)

A detective responds to a call of a deceased man in a motel room. When he arrives, he finds the deceased in the middle of the room on his knees burned to death. (Just so you are aware, that when you work a burned body or a scene with a body in decomposition, the odor is so strong that it penetrates all your clothing, requiring that you trash your clothes. Because I investigated so many death scenes, I had a washer and dryer installed in my garage so I could throw my clothes in the washer and soak the soles of my shoes in a pale flat of bleach prior to going into our home.)

Detectives roll to a possible suicide scene and find that a teenage male had gone up into the attic crawl space of his apartment, placed some electrical wire down through the ceiling, got on a chair, wrapped the wire around his neck, and killed himself—all because he didn’t have enough money to purchase a Christmas gift for his girlfriend.

Are you getting the picture? It goes on and on, death and destruction, watching and dealing with people’s trauma every day. So, again, I ask you? Who are you going to call when you need help: a clueless politician or a cop?

One last thing. Due to the fact, that my partner and I still have ongoing cold case homicides that require our continued input, two of which are finally getting ready to go to trial, and even though I am 73 and he is 72, every time we call the department and talk with one of the officers that we trained in the past, this is what we get. Even though most of them are now sergeants, commanders, or even chiefs, they all tell me their exact dates of retirement.

This is ridiculous. We need these experts to stay on the job, but they are so tired of all the harassment and hostility being projected against law enforcement now, they just want out. The officers I worked with loved their jobs, and unless injury or other health issues took place, they all wanted to work as long as they can, but that is no longer the case. Truly sad.

The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn