A former Detroit police officer wrote a moving post on Facebook in which she described how tough it is to be a police officer and called for an end to violence in light of the Dallas shooting last week.
Merri McGregor, from Harrison Township, Michigan, shared a picture of herself as a 21-year-old the day she graduated from the Detroit police academy. Her mother took the photo of her smiling as she walked out the door for her first night shift.
She was wearing her father’s badge, which he wore for 25 years, she had her mother’s sergeant stripe patches in her pocket, her lucky $2 bill tucked into her bulletproof vest, a gun on her hip, and “enough naive courage for a small army.”
But her law enforcement career wasn’t so easy.
“The next 17 years would bring plenty of shed blood, black eyes, torn ligaments, stab wounds, stitches, funerals, a head injury, permanent and irreparable nerve damage, 5 ruptured discs, some charming PTSD and depression issues and a whole lot of heartache. They brought missed Christmases with my family, my absence from friends’ birthday get-togethers, pricey concert tickets that were forfeited at the last minute because of a late call and many sleepless nights.”
McGregor then went on to describe the kinds of incidents she faced throughout her career which began in 1998, according to her LinkedIn profile, “things that haunt our sleep at night and our thoughts during the day.”
“I’ve dodged gunfire while running down a dark alley in the middle of the night chasing a shooting suspect, I’ve argued with women who were too scared to leave their abusive husbands until they realized they had to or they would end up dead. I’ve peeled a dead, burned baby from the front of my uniform shirt. I’ve felt the pride of putting handcuffs on a serial rapist and I’ve cried on the chest of and kissed the cheek of my dead friend, coworker and academy classmate even though it was covered in his own dried blood and didn’t even look like him from all the bullet holes. I know what a bullet sounds like when it’s whizzing past your ear, a few inches away, I know what the sound of a Mother’s shrilling scream is like when she finds out her son has been killed in the middle of the street and I know what it’s like to have to tell a wife and mother of 3 that her husband was killed in a car accident while on his way home from work.”
McGregor then wrote on how she went to work not thinking about hurting others, but saving them.
“I never once went to work thinking, “I’m gonna beat someone tonight.”; “Hmmm…I think I’m gonna kill someone tonight.” I DID, however, go to work every night, knowing that I was going to do the best I could to keep good people safe, even if that meant that I died doing so,” she said.
The former officer asked people to start being more understanding and compassionate to one another.
“Violence doesn’t cure violence and hate doesn’t cure hate. I’ve seen and experienced both sides of the spectrum since I left the PD and I get it. I truly do. But this all has to stop.”
“Are cops perfect? No. Are there bad cops? Yes. But please…understand that the vast majority of police are good, loving, well intentioned family people. They have husbands and wives and children and parents and pets and cousins and mortgages and electric bills and lawns that need cutting, just like you. They have hearts and consciences. They aren’t robots, they’re not machines and they just want to help keep the wolves away from the sheep. I KNOW there’s people who don’t deserve to wear the badge but they’re SO VERY few and far between. It breaks my heart to see all this hatred and anger flying around. All it’s doing is encouraging more of the same.”
McGregor’s post has been shared over 100,000 times on Facebook. People commended her for her strength and thanked her for her service.
In a another post on July 12, McGregor said she was surprised at the attention she received.
“Never thought I’d air my private PTSD and depression issues to the world but maybe it was for the best. I can’t do that job anymore, sadly. I’m not strong enough anymore, physically or emotionally, and I’m comfortable enough to be able to admit that now,” she said.
Badge of Life, a group of active and retired police officers, medical professionals and surviving families of suicides from the United States and Canada, has studied suicides among those in law enforcement. The organization found that in 2008 there were 141 police officers who committed suicide, 143 in 2009 and 126 in 2012. In the last six months of last year there were 51 police suicides. More officers die of suicide than from gunfire and traffic accidents combined, the organization says.
An estimated 100,000 police officers have PTSD, according to Badge of Life.
However, the numbers are not conclusive.
“It’s impossible getting accurate numbers on PTSD,” said Ron Clark, who says a national study on PTSD should be done.
He added that it’s hard for officers to reach out for help because of the profession’s “macho, suck-it up mentality.”
“Police officers have feelings,” says Clark, “They have a tough job to do.”