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Briefing: How do the lives of law enforcement officers and non-law enforcement officers differ?

Dispatch (Assignment): Spend a few moments in quiet reflection asking yourself why you decided to be a cop. Do you still feel that way today?

On the Street: Young cops/rookies tend to get too involved in calls. Older cops/veterans know better. If you have been on the job for very long you’ve learned how to handle calls. We have a saying, “leave work at work, don’t take it home” A cop who goes on a disturbance call should enter as a disinterested third person, not taking sides. The officer should listen to all parties involved, look at the evidence, make a decision, take appropriate action, and move on to the next call. This is how we are taught to do our job.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Young officers often find themselves in a position where they take a side because they can relate to the victims or the situation. The officer tends to get more involved than they should. Sometimes calls linger in your mind and you can find yourself thinking about it when you are off the clock. You wonder about the safety and well-being of your victim and their family. You think of how you can help or prevent situations from happening again.

This takes a toll on officers and it does not take long for them to realize that an easy way to avoid the pain and heartache is to not get involved. Don’t care, be a robot, just take the call and move on. Joe Friday said it best: “just the facts”. I have found myself thinking, “I’m not here to get involved in your life or your problems, I’m just here to re-establish control and maintain the peace”.

This cold turning off of emotions is actually a natural human defense mechanism categorized as a somatic traumatology. One of the ways we deal with this is by categorizing people and taking the humanity out of the call. People we meet on the job are either a complainant, a victim, suspect, arrestee, reporting person, witness, owner, etc.

Do you find yourself doing this? Have you lost the compassion for people? We can easily de-sensitize ourselves. It’s the same line of thought that hostage negotiators use. They get the hostage taker to say the name of the hostage and try to get the hostage taker to see them as a real person with value. One hostage negotiator I spoke to, before writing this, told me it is the reverse of the Stockholm syndrome.

I used to say, “I’d be a good Christian if it weren’t for all the people I have to deal with”. Isn’t that the point of being a good Christian? Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite the strangers in, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, look after the sick and those in jail. This is what Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31-46.

This brings us the first of two “civilian” topics. We must be ready to minster to civilians when God calls us. I’m not telling you to preach to and pass out tracts to everyone you come into contact with while on the job. I am saying there will be times when the person you are dealing with needs to hear about where to turn for help. Some may just need prayer.

Jesus tells us to be compassionate and love well. Most of us took the job to serve and help others. Satan hates this and he tries real hard to make us forget our calling. I hope this serves as a re-committing of yourself as to why you got into law enforcement. If you did not take the job to help or serve, now is the time to commit yourself to doing it.

The second “civilian” topic is that it is okay to have them as friends. There is a culture in law enforcement that we do not communicate intimately with anyone other than someone in law enforcement. We tend to think that no one, other than someone in law enforcement can understand what we are going through. I hope this is not a reflection on your life and that you can say, “I have plenty of friends outside the job.”

To continue to be strong and to grow in your faith and walk with Christ, you must be intentional on whom you spend your time. I can no longer limit myself to having friends based on their job description. If your spiritual growth and walk with Christ is important to you, you will seek friendship and council based on a person’s relationship with God. I hope you are as blessed as I am to have close friends that love Christ as much or more than I do. Not only do they love the Lord, they are police officers. If you don’t have any friends like that, find some, even if they don’t know the first thing about police work.

Investigational Resources: Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion for them. Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34

Officer Safety Principle: Do you have compassion for the citizens you serve?

from The Book of Proverbs Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!