As you go through your life people come in and out of it all the time. Every now and then someone pops in, even if for a brief period, that just impacts you.
During nearly 2 decades as a police officer, I, as most cops do, went through several “stages”. Even though I was a little older than most rookies, I still had the same “training” after the academy to go through. The training that only time, other officers that cared, and the occasional trip to see “the man” can give you.
One stage is the “what the hell have I got myself into” stage. Where you wonder what the hell you were drinking or smoking when you accepted the position.
The next stage is one of “I am THE MAN”. Where your genitals are clearly worn on your hip and the upper left of your shirt. You are it. You are the one in charge. This is a dangerous stage because along with this mightier than thou attitude comes a feeling of being invincible. This is where cops get their feelings and sometimes their bodies hurt. Or killed.
The next stage, and the one I am actually proud of and one that started rather quickly compared to some (shortening the previous stage dramatically I am happy to say). This is the stage when you are still a crime fighter. You are still out there mixing it up with the criminals, but its no longer personal. Its just a job. You don’t get angry at the people you arrest. You sit back and realize that under different circumstances this could be you. Or that you could be sitting in a bar drinking a beer with this guy just as easily.
No you aren’t “friends” with them. But its far less adversarial. You realize most (not all) are people too. They have wives and kids and husbands and grand-kids. They are just making bad decisions. Or the best decisions they can given their current situation.
The last stage is just before retirement and a criminal can damn near jump in your police car for you to take him to jail and you get pissed.
What I want to write about is after retirement. When you realize you have spent a great deal of time in your career judging people, when in fact, all you should have been doing is judging their actions based on the law, tempered with humanity. Its this last part that is lost on most younger police officers. The humanity side of the house.
About a year after I retired from the police department I went to work in the private sector for the first time in nearly 32 years.
During that time, I met a man that has impressed me from day one.
If I based it on appearance alone, I would have completed a Field Interview Card on him, called in the encounter and probably gauged him to be a criminal.
After I talked with him for a short period I was pretty sure he was a criminal who just happened to know a little bit about computers.
When he indirectly worked for me I was convinced he should be in a state prison somewhere.
None of this is based on his actions. Just the impression and “gut” feeling I got.
The more I got to know him, the more I realized how wrong I was. Well mostly. He was a criminal. Past tense. And he talked freely about it with me.
We struck up a unique work friendship that was probably the most unlikely. Former cop. Former criminal. We had a good working relationship.
Later it went on to a friendship on Facebook where we could see each other’s daily commentary. Mine mostly bull shit and a little chicken shit and horse shit thrown in for good measure.
His, all about his family. His kids. His wife. The ins and outs of his family growing and being together. It was NOT what I expected.
As time went on, we went our separate ways but stayed in touch via Facebook. I’ve watched his kids grow up and him get promoted and from all appearances doing well.
He volunteers and runs a soup kitchen. Fought some battles with the justice system to get rights restored. Successfully. Raises his kids with values I could only wish most people had. Has integrity the likes of which I have rarely seen in my lifetime and can only hope I have.
I am proud to call him a friend. I am even more proud to call him an example of how everyone should be. I am absolutely impressed with every aspect of this man’s life. And were it not for his past, he may not be where he is today.
I doubt there is anyone in this world that I have more respect for. He has taught me more in the 2 years or so that I have known him, than I learned going through all those stages of police work.
So for those of you in law enforcement today. Just starting out or fully involved in your career. Not everyone you meet is a “bad guy”. Some may have committed an offense that is criminal and you must do your job. But that doesn’t make them a “bad guy”. Just a bad decision maker at that moment in time. Don’t ever lose sight of that and if you have get it back. It will change the way you look at life. As this man, has changed the way I see it now.
Some of you will know who this is. I am not saying. But to you Sir, thank you. You have no idea how much impact you have been on me personally.