The Electrical Wire and the Police Car

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You never know what’s going to happen next at this job.

One night I was dispatched to a simple non-injury traffic collision. Should be easy, right? What could go wrong? I walked out to my car, started it up and headed toward the call like normal.

I started driving eastbound when I saw two bright flashes in the sky. The first thing that came to mind was that someone had just struck a pole. Most people would think a transformer blew, but I’m a little more pessimistic and assumed a pole had been struck by a car, because it happens a lot where I work. It’s like the poles in my city are giant magnets and the cars get pulled into them like a tractor beam pulling in a space ship in Star Wars.

A minute or two later, I came up to a railroad crossing that had its red lights flashing and arms down across the street. I sat there for a little bit, but there was no train. I figured the railroad arms had something to do with the flashes I had seen in the sky. I knew of a way to get around the railroad crossing so I made a U-turn. I then took a side street so I could get to the next major east/west street because I still needed to get to my call. This particular street I was about to travel on was in an industrial area and had two turns.

I drove into the pitch black of night, with the only light coming from my head lights, which reached out to the darkness ahead of my car. The street turned left and then right before straightening out again without a car in sight. I cruised at about 30 miles per hour when I suddenly saw something hanging across the road. It looked like a ghostly gray rope that had been strung from one end of the street to the other. But it wasn’t a rope or something I imagined, it was an electrical wire! The wire was only five feet off the ground and it had blended into the night like a camouflaged fish in the ocean.

I slammed on my brake as hard as I could and said, “S@$#%$!!” My patrol car then struck the wire, which then got stuck underneath my light bar. I pushed as hard I as could on the brake, but the car wasn’t stopping as fast as I wanted. As it slowed to a stop, I could feel the tension from the wire on my car. The car was stopping, but it just felt different. At the time I did not know the top of the wood pole had just snapped also.

When the car finally stopped, I saw a wire that was now wrapped around the top of my car to the bottom like a Christmas present. The only difference was there wasn’t a red bow on top of this package and there was no Santa Claus.

My driver window had been down and I was surprised how big the wire was. Maybe it looked bigger because it was only inches away from my head. The wire went straight across the middle of my window, which meant I couldn’t crawl out even if I wanted to. Not that I would’ve because electricity should be respected and feared at the same time. I looked over at the passenger window and saw the same thing.

Of course, this was not exactly what I had been expecting when I took my detour. In fact, I never imagined this ever happening to me and it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t either. I needed to get on the radio and tell dispatch I was stuck, but this wouldn’t be a normal radio transmission. This sort of thing doesn’t happen every day and I started to wonder if it had ever happened to anyone.

I picked up the microphone and I had to make sure I sounded cool on the radio because that’s what guys worry about, right?

With nerves of steel (just kidding) I said, “784.”
“784?”
“784, I just hit a wire.”
“A wire?”
“Yes, a wire. I’m stuck.”

I gave my location and I asked for the power company to respond. A sergeant got on the radio and asked that the fire department respond also. I said to myself, “Good idea, but we better not need the fire department.”

Other officers arrived on scene, along with the sergeant. I think everyone wanted to see what I had been talking about. What a sight I must’ve been, sitting in my car with this electrical wire wrapped around me like a fly caught in a spider web.

About 30-40 minutes later, the utilities worker arrived and told me there was no more power going through the line. I had used the time wisely and wrote a report while sitting in the car. I might was well kill two birds with one stone.

The worker wanted me to back up a little, so I reversed a few feet and stopped when he told me to. He then used bolt cutters to cut the wire. The utilities worker then had me back up again so he could get the rest of the wire untangled from the rear tires.

There was a large warehouse across the street from the downed wire I had hit. This was a distribution center with trucks coming and going all the time. After I had gotten out of the car, a man identified himself as the driver of a semi truck and trailer that had collided into the pole. The driver told me he had been backing up to park along the west curb, which was across the street from his work. That was when he felt the collision and then that the power went out.

The driver, who was now a hit and run suspect, knew he had struck the pole and decided to move the truck to a different spot. The driver unhooked the trailer and left it. He then let another person drive the semi truck away to a different job. After the power went out, all of the workers from inside the warehouse went outside. He decided to blend into the crowd as he stood in the parking lot. He did not tell anyone about the collision, nor did he call the police about it either. A few minutes later I struck the wire. He claimed he had no idea the wire had been hanging across the street. I’m not sure if I believe him or not.

As for the car I was driving that night. The light bar had been damaged on top of the police car. The wire had also scratched and smeared the decals on both front doors. Not too bad considering what had just happened.

Immediately after it had happened, I felt safe because I had been in the car. But it was a weird feeling knowing I had an electrical wire wrapped around me and there really was no way to get out. Of course, this isn’t something most people have to worry about when they go to work. Up until that night, I never worried about it either.

This just goes to show you that anything can happen on this job.

Did the blind, drunk guy just shoot at us?

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My first Saturday night working with Rich went down in history as a night we will never forget. There are lots of nights you never forget, but this one was different…….

We were basically strangers when we were partnered up for the first time on this particular Saturday night in July of 1996.

A few hours into this shift we had hit it off and we were having a good time. That was when we were dispatched to a house for a “keep the peace call.”

We spoke to a woman, who said her boyfriend was in his sixties and had locked her out of the house. Did I forget to mention he was blind, drunk and had a gun? He hadn’t threatened anyone, but she was worried about him because this was unusual. Is it ever normal when a blind, drunk guy with a gun locks you out of the house?

We knocked on the front door and rang the doorbell, but there was no answer. I then checked the door and found it was unlocked. WTF? If she had checked the front door we wouldn’t even be here.

I opened the door and saw an empty living room. I called out the name of the person who was inside and announced police, but there was no answer. It was dusk and there were no lights on in the house. The approaching darkness and the haunted house like silence made the scene that much more ominous. I’m surprised a bat didn’t fly out.

I called out again, but still no answer. Rich and I stepped into the house, but there was a weird feeling about this. We were still too new to the job to have a true cop sixth sense, but something didn’t seem right. We walked to the left and made sure no one was in the living room. Then we walked to the right and there was no one in the dining room or kitchen.

As we walked through the house I turned the lights to make it easier to see. Plus, we always find confront in the light compared to the dark. We called out his name so many times he had to have known we were there unless he was deaf too. Our voices had been so loud with each announcement, he knew we were there. The main question was why wasn’t he answering like people normally do?

My Spidey Sense was going off now as I looked over at Rich and said, “This doesn’t feel right.” Rich said he felt the same thing. We agreed to leave the house and call for another officer and a sergeant. This wasn’t a normal call anymore. Not that it had started off normal.

The sergeant arrived and seemed annoyed he was there for this. I think he wanted to leave, but we told him how this call had turned into a “check the welfare” instead of a “keep the peace” call. We all walked back inside with him holding the old brick style cell phone. We called out the man’s name again, but there was still no answer. The quiet was now a reminder that something was wrong here. He was either dead or waiting for us.

There was a doorway from the living room to the hallway where the bedroom was. This open hallway door was adjacent to the bedroom door where we believed the man to be.

The house phone started ringing as soon as the sergeant used his cell phone to call in. I was  able to hear the phone get picked up in the bedroom and then hung up as the ringing stopped. This happened twice. Now we knew this man had heard us and for some reason he was playing games.

The sergeant stepped into the hallway and knocked on the bedroom door as he called the man’s name. He announced we were the police and to come outside to talk with us. The sergeant then stepped back into the adjacent doorway with me.

I then heard quick footsteps going toward the door and the sound of a gunshot. I stood there for a moment trying to process what had just happened. Did the blind drunk guy just shoot at us?

The sergeant stood there for a brief moment before he yelled, “Get out!” We had only been three feet away from the bedroom door and getting out was the best idea I had heard!

I started heading toward the front door with the sergeant right behind me. Rich was coming around the corner from the kitchen. We headed toward that door like it was black Friday at Walmart and we were trying to beat the crowd for a $10 sale on the Playstation.

Just as I put my hand on the screen door, another shot went off. Holy crap, right?

Rich and I went left out the door and jumped over a small block wall. As I looked toward the house Rich said, “He shot through the f@#$% door. He shot through the f@#$% door.” It was then that I realized that the suspect had shot through the bedroom door.

I felt the need to say something funny to break the tension, so I told Rich, “F%$@# this. I’m going back to days.”

The suspect slammed the door shut and then another shot went off. At first I thought he had killed himself, but that wasn’t the case because the suspect called 911 and reported he was blind and had shot at burglars. Really?

Now he was a liar with a gun. I wish you could’ve seen the look of disgust and shock on my face when dispatched broadcasted this over the radio about the suspect’s 911 call. He might have been an dumb in my eyes for what he had just done, but he wasn’t stupid. Within minutes he had come up with the defense for shooting at the cops. Again, nothing about this call was normal.

After a brief stand off,  the suspect finally came to the door and was taken into custody.

I was upset because he had tried to kill us. We could’ve walked away and let that woman back in the house. Maybe nothing would’ve happened. Our only intention had been to make sure he was okay because his girlfriend had been worried about him.

We went in to help and make sure everything was fine, but instead of a thank you, we got a bullet shot at us. I was feeling a little under appreciated at that moment.

Right after he had been arrested, we were told an officer with the California Highway Patrol had been killed in a neighboring city. The actual location was only a few miles from where we were.

A weird feeling came over me while at this call. A little while ago I had been three feet from a bedroom door when someone had shot through it. Rich had been down the hall from that door. Now I heard an officer had been shot and killed a few miles away at about the same time this had happened to us. The anger of the moment then turned to something else.

How were we chosen to live and not the other officer?

I think I had a feeling of guilt even though I had never met him or knew anything about him. It wasn’t like he was 2,000 miles away and we learned of his death on the news. He had been at a Chevron gas station parking lot only a few miles away from where I had been.

I wrote the report while sitting in the car as forensics processed the crime scene. Then guess what Rich and I did after we left the house? We went 10-8 (in service) and were dispatched to another call like nothing had happened.

If this happened today, I’d like to think the sergeant or watch commander would make sure an officer in a similar situation would take a break for a little bit before going 10-8 again.

Rich and I still have this conversation about how we never should’ve been sent back out immediately after clearing that call. It wasn’t like we couldn’t handle it or needed a hug. But maybe a few minutes away from police work would’ve been best. Times were different back then. We still laugh about how tense we were on the next call, but that’s another story…..

By the way, something good came out of that night. A lifelong friendship was created on that summer night in 1996 when two strangers shared a police car together for the first time.

A few years after that night, Rich stood beside me as best man at my wedding. Then later, we baptized our children on the same day as godparents to each others child.

Tonight, eighteen years later, I sat in a restaurant and looked at our two families having dinner together and was filled with pride.

Just remember, this job isn’t always about the tragedies and the negativity. It’s about life long bonds and friendships.

Code 3

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Driving with lights and siren is one part the job that has become second nature after all of these years. As a traffic officer, it’s not uncommon to go Code 3(lights and siren) numerous times in a shift. It’s just part of my work day.

The first time I drove Code 3 was something I will never forget. It’s not for the reasons you’re thinking though. It wasn’t about driving fast, going through red lights or even driving on the wrong side of the road.

I remember it because of what I saw after I arrived at the call……….

In the spring of 1995, I was in the fourth week of my training, when I was given the key to the police car for the first time as an officer. It was one thing to be a new officer in the passenger seat, but it was an entirely different experience to be in the driver seat as a Boot (new guy).

One morning at about 7AM when we were dispatched to a 901T (injury traffic collision) in the southwestern part of the city. I don’t remember the exact call details, but I knew it was my chance to drive Code 3 for the first time. This was a big deal because kids dream of this and adults wonder what it’s like to be the one going through the intersection with the lights and siren, whether it’s a police car or fire truck.

I turned to my FTO and asked, “Do I go Code 3?” He was an older officer in his fifties, who had been on the job for thirty years. He nodded his head approvingly and replied, “Go ahead.”

I activated my lights and the sound of the siren wailed as I started toward the call. I remember thinking to myself how cool it was because this is what police officers do and I was finally doing it.

I tried not to drive too fast since this was my first time and I didn’t want to make a mistake in front of my FTO (field training officer). I can’t remember how far I drove, but I got to our call in one piece.

I parked my patrol car and saw three vehicles in the middle of the street, which looked like they had been thrown into the middle of a playroom by a two year old. The cars were smashed up and I couldn’t figure out how they had ended up like that. The damage to all three vehicles didn’t make sense and it looked like a war zone.

That’s when I saw a man and woman lying in the street. The man’s entire face was covered in blood, which dripped off of him like a rain soaked plant in the Amazon during a downpour.

With a pleading look, he extended his bloody hand up to me as he begged for help, but not a sound came from him. It was as if he had just been punched in the stomach and there was no air left for him to give.

Time seemed to stand still. There was not a sound around me as I stood helplessly over his bloody and broken body, as he gazed up to me with eyes that I can still see after all these years. It was at that moment I remember saying to myself, “What did I get myself into?”

I then looked at the lifeless body of the woman lying in the middle of the street. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is horrible.” One of the drivers was a 17 year old girl, who stood on the sidewalk with her arms crossed as she cried. She had the look of disbelief as she took in the scene that was in front of her. I remember feeling bad for her because this was shocking to see and she was part of it. Her car had struck these people, who were now lying in the street.

The morning sun had been low in the horizon when this girl had driven upon a collision scene while on her way to school. She had not seen the original crashed cars or the people standing in the street.

After things had settled down, I assisted with traffic control while the traffic officers arrived to investigate the collision. I remember wondering how they could make sense of the carnage and chaos that was in front of me.

Four years later, I would be that traffic cop at the collision scenes, trying to make sense of the chaos, while handling the call with the confidence that comes with experience. With that experience, I’ve gotten used to what once shocked me on my very first Code 3 run. Back then I was an idealistic, wide-eyed, 23 year-old Boot, who didn’t know anything about this job.

Now each night, I load the patrol car with my gear, wondering what chaos the next Code 3 run will bring me. With certainty, I can fondly look back on how far I’ve come in the last twenty years, in this journey and adventure called police work.

The Academy Orientation Night.

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My academy experience literally took a wrong turn before it even started. I tremble at the thought of what might have happened to me if luck had not been on my side on academy orientation night.

The plan for orientation night was to be there early. My goal was to get there and be a blade of grass among the rest of the lawn that was made up of the 52 recruits of class #119 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy.

I left with plenty of time from my apartment in Tustin Ranch. What could go wrong since I had been to the academy before on one prior occasion. I knew where it was and who could get lost on such an important night? ME!

I knew how to get there from my police department, but I had never driven there from my apartment. No problem, right? Surrrrrrre.

Twenty years later, I still don’t know how I got lost. The old academy location was off of Newhope south of the 22 freeway in Garden Grove, CA. What a terrible location compared to where the academy is now.

I still can’t tell you which way I went. I couldn’t even tell you which streets I had been on. All of that extra time I had from leaving early was ticking away with every wrong turn, along with my career because there was no way I could be late to this.

If I was late, there was no way of being that blade in the grass anymore. I’d be that dead patch of grass the sprinklers don’t water with a gopher hole in the middle. My ass was grass if I didn’t hurry.

Normally I don’t stress out. I like to think I can keep my cool in any situation. Not this day. Not this moment. I was in panic mode as each minute got closer to the start time. My mind was racing and it was filled with thoughts of being late and getting blasted by the academy staff. Being late to the orientation night of the police academy was unacceptable.

Each red light made things worse. Then, as if a police angel had been sent to save me, I saw a motor officer on a car stop. When do you ever see a cop when you need one?

What I sight I must have been. I was 23 years old with an academy haircut, who was wearing a shirt and tie. In a hurry I asked, “Where’s the academy?” He was a Garden Grove officer and I’m sure he had a good laugh about me after with his friends, but it didn’t matter right now. He was nice about it and I’m sure he saw the urgency of my question. He gave me directions and I ran back to my car. Orientation was at 6:30PM.

I raced into the academy parking lot and parked. I got out of my car and walked as fast as I could because every second counted. It was 6:28PM and I had made it. My heart was pounding as I walked in just ahead of another recruit. The entire academy tactical staff was in the hallway against the wall between me and the room I needed to be in. That hallway looked ten miles long at that point.

I had two minutes to spare, but it felt like I had a huge target on my chest, back, head, legs and every other part of my body as they looked at me with menacing eyes and fist that seemed to be clinching with every step I took.

They stood there moving side to side like football players on the sideline during the national anthem at the beginning of the Super Bowl. They probably had just gotten done watching the opening scene from the movie Full Metal Jacket too.

After a quick introduction with the families of the recruits, we were sent to our classroom. One by one we filed into the room and stood at attention. There was a phone number written on the board. I ended up sitting on the right side of the class, about the fourth row back. Not bad. At least I wasn’t in front. The only problem was the guy sitting next to me. He was the same recruit who had walked in behind me when we were almost late.

The door closed and the category 5 storm hit. Someone from the staff yelled out, “Who was late?” Should I raise my hand and single myself out? I had two minutes to spare and we all know the last two minutes of a football game take forever. That should count for something.

Then we heard, “Who called for directions?” For a moment, I thought the motor had called the academy to tell them about me. Then the recruit, who was next to me, raised his hand. Within seconds, every Tactical officer was around us and yelling at him. They went on and on, which made me glad the heat was on him and not me. Good thing I hadn’t put my hand up.

One of the Tac officers then told all of us to write down the phone number that was on the board. Every head looked down and we started writing on the notepads that each and every one of us had brought. Everyone, except the recruit next to me. The same guy who had called for directions.

He whispered to give him some paper. I tore off one piece from my notepad and gave it to him really fast like a note being passed in high school. The only difference was certain death for being caught.

As we started to write the phone number down this Tac officer yelled, “This is the phone number to the academy. Call it on Monday to quit!”

As our orientation went on, the Tac officers yelled at different people for different things. They told us to write various things down, which we did. The guy on my left still had that single piece of paper I had given him and he was running out of room fast. He was writing in the margins and on the back. It was almost comical how small he was writing.

At one point, a Tac officer walked up and said, “Let me see that.” The recruit handed him the paper, which was starting to curl on all four corners because it had soaked up so much ink. They then found out he forgot to bring a notepad like we had been told. All the attention was then on him again and I was able to survive the rest of the orientation night.

Later on in the academy, I had plenty of chances for the heat to be on me, but not on this night.

Looking back, it’s funny how things ended up working out, but I also know how I lucky I had been because of the cop with the motor wings, who had been there when I needed him. Next time you get a ticket from a motor, give them a break. You never know when you might need him or her.

And finally, I have a message for that Station 32 motor, if by chance he ever gets to read this…..

THANKS! I owe you Starbucks.

The Death of a Child

A child’s death is never easy for the first responder, who has to experience it up close and personal. A friend at work related this personal and touching story about her experience at this type of call.

When she was sixteen, her 2-year old brother suddenly passed away. About eight years ago, this officer was working patrol and in her mid-thirties when she and a sergeant were dispatched to a call involving a dead child.

When she arrived on scene, she saw the child’s body in the bedroom and was instantly filled with the painful memory of her brother’s death all those years ago. The agonizing memory was made worse by the child’s family being there, which reminded her of how her mother had felt.

In that instant, the memory flashed into her head of performing CPR on her brother’s lifeless body as she tried to breathe life back into him. The memory of him lying in his coffin also flashed into her head like a bolt of lightning striking into her heart.

The officer had to get out of the house because she needed to separate herself from the situation. Distance was her friend and the only thing that was going to help her at this moment. Distance from the death, pain and grief that this house symbolized to her. She told the sergeant about her brother’s death and that she needed to be alone for a few minutes.

She quickly got out of the house and sat alone in her patrol car as she cried. She had no one to talk to at this painful and personal moment, which had just flooded back into her mind after seeing the dead child.

After a few minutes she composed herself and was ready to go back in. I asked her, “What did you do?” She replied, “I went back in. I had to handle the call.”

She went back into that house, which had been an emotional trigger and did what we’re supposed do. That was to be strong when others needed us to be.

All first responders have gone through similar emotions at one time or another while at work. Our job is not to stand by. Ours is to be strong, despite the tragedies we have experienced at work or in our personal lives.

This is what makes the first responders special. We are still doing the job that has to be done even though our emotions might be fighting an inner battle.

Stay safe

A story from another cop

I wanted to share a story from one of my co-workers, who sent me a message after reading “The Drowning.” He wanted to remain anonymous.

This officer’s very first call out of training was a medical aid involving a 40-year old male, who was in cardiac arrest. The victim had gone jogging while on vacation in our city. The officer went on scene and gave chest compressions for a few minutes until paramedics arrived. The victim survived and the officer was given the department’s life saving award in his first year.

Below is a quote from him about what happened later:

 

While this story had a happy ending…it too set me up for some rather tough calls.

A couple months back I got the same exact call at a home in the canyon. I was first on scene and the wife led me upstairs to her 40 year old husband, who was in full cardiac arrest.

I frantically started chest compression thinking it would be the same result as the jogger. But it       was not…he died on scene. I will never forget his wife screaming, crying and falling to the ground.

Some calls leave marks and if ignored they become scars.

Thanks for sharing….I think you’re onto something that can help a lot of cops.

The Police Car

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The Police Car

The car is your traveling office. It’s a vehicle that is handed off from shift to shift with little or no rest, similar to the person who drives it. It’s worn and stained seats reflect what the driver has seen and been through with little or no support when they need it most.

The car is your shelter from the heat, rain, wind, cold and everything else mother nature wants to throw at you. The car can also be your happy place. The one place you can sit and just be alone. The car is your escape. The one place where no one can bother you for a needed break until the radio disrupts the silence.

The car is a place where life long bonds are formed with the partner who shares it with you.

It’s your way of escape from the last call, the last idiot, the last crash, the last tragedy or the last dead body.

The car is a friend that won’t betray you. It takes you to danger and it rescues you from it.

The police car is where you have to settle disputes over the phone between your kids or your spouse while you’re at work.

It is a symbol of trust and fear. Trust by those who need us. Fear by those who are doing something wrong. The car restores order at the sight of it as it rolls in hot to chaos. The car can save you, but it can kill you if you don’t respect its speed.

The black and white transports you to the dark side of humanity where the lowest scum live and prey. It takes you to the saddest stories and the worst things in the world. It takes you to places a normal person can’t imagine with the highest high and to the lowest of lows.

It’s part of an emotional roller coaster with twist and turns that very few will ever know because they are not part of this world.

The police car is the one symbol that brings smiles to the faces of children as we drive by. It doesn’t matter if the child is rich or poor, speaks English or not. They all joyfully yell out “Police” when they see it.

And finally and most importantly………..

The police car is driven by the Good Guys

The Drowning

 

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The other night I was parked in the rear alley of the police department when I heard dispatch broadcast a medical aid call over the radio reference a possible drowning. At first, I wasn’t sure where the address was, but a quick check of the computer showed it wasn’t far from where I was. I was on the phone at the time and told my wife I’d call her right back. I then drove off with lights and sirens.

As I drove off, I had prepared myself for a positive ending. I didn’t expect anything else because the last drowning call I had involved a child, who had lived. I raced to the address and arrived as I saw a woman waving her arms at me in the street. I exited my car as she pointed to the house and said, “He’s in the back.” I ran into the house and went straight to the backyard where I saw him on the concrete pool deck with people around him. He was a 16 year old. The entire backyard was dark, even the pool didn’t have a light on.

I hurried to his side, expecting him to be breathing because people shouldn’t die on you like this. Not on me like this. We’re the good guys and we’re supposed to win.

The look on his face told me a different story than I expected. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. I touched his chest and was shocked by the sliminess that I felt. The chest did not rise, nor did I feel a heartbeat.

I then started giving chest compressions as I waited for the fire department to arrive. As I pushed down on his chest, I kept expecting to the kid to wake up, cough or do something. I hadn’t prepared for death tonight. It seemed to take forever for help to arrive, but it was probably a minute before another cop went on scene. I touched the kid’s neck to check for a pulse and felt the same sliminess that had been on his chest. I wanted to feel a pulse so bad that probably I imagined one was there as I asked the other officer, “Do you feel a pulse?” He replied, “No.” Crap!

I kept pushing down as I did the compressions, still waiting for a positive outcome. The compressions finally stopped when the paramedics arrived and took over. It had been dark the entire time and I didn’t know what the sliminess feeling had been on his chest. It wasn’t until after the firefighters had used their flashlight that I knew it was vomit.

As the firefighters started working on the kid, I walked over to someone and asked where the bathroom was so I could wash my hands. I washed them twice. Once for the slimy vomit on my hands and probably the second time, to wash the death off of them.

I walked back outside and watched as the firefighters continued CPR. I wondered if I had done enough. I wonder if my chest compressions had been deep enough. If I had done all I could. I watched each chest compression that was done by the paramedic and I compared it to how I had done it.

I spoke to a witness and took his statement before leaving. I stood out front with two other officers as we talked about the call. Before I left, I learned that the kid had been pronounced dead at the hospital.

I got into my car and drove to Starbucks for a drink. As I drove away, I could still see the kid’s face in the dark as I gave him the chest compressions. The first thing I thought was, “I don’t want to see that when I go to bed.” Every cop knows what I mean because they have all seen the faces of dead people when they have closed their eyes at night.

As I stood inside Starbucks, I was in a funk. I looked around at the people inside as they went about their lives without a care in the world. None of them knew I had just kneeled beside a dead kid, with vomit on my hands, as I tried to save his life. None knew I had a moment of self doubt, wondering if I had done everything I could.

I took the drink and walked back to my car, stared at my computer screen and pushed the 10-8 button, putting myself back into service. Part of me felt weird when I pushed the 10-8 button because now it was time to move on to the next call, which was dispatched to me within minutes. Death is part of the job, but this felt different tonight. I felt bad for the family, who would soon learn the news of a child who would never come home. As a father, I could never imagine that, but the phone call would soon come to those poor people.

I handled two more calls after that and was still in the funk. At each call, I dealt with people who had no idea what I had just seen and done. I completed the calls and then went back to the traffic office to do paperwork. Within a few hours, I felt better because I had been busy with stuff that needed to be finished.

As I walked out to go home, the watch commander stopped me and asked about the drowning call. We talked about it for at least a half an hour. I told her how the call had come out and what I had done at the scene and how I had felt afterward. She was very comforting and told me a story about how she and another officer had saved a woman’s life with CPR, but who died three months later. She also told me how she had been invited to the funeral by the family, who had been so grateful to them for what they had done.

She told me some details about the call that I did not know about, which had been learned after I had left the scene. I walked out of the building feeling rejuvenated and feeling better. My thirty minute drive home had no feelings of self doubt any more as I listened to George Lopez on a comedy station. I walked in the house grateful to see my family safe. I climbed into bed and played a game on my phone for a few minutes to relax. Thankfully, the kid’s face did not appear when I exhaustedly closed my eyes at 5:30AM.

I really think talking with the WC before I left helped me feel better. Her comforting words probably chased away the image of the kid’s face, that surely would’ve been there when I closed my eyes for bed, had she not caught me in the hallway before I left.

The next night I spoke to friends at work about the call and I felt better inside. I even got an email from a lieutenant to call him. We had only spoken on calls or during training and we had never had a phone conversation before.

I called him up and he told me about a call he had twenty years ago. He said, “I once pulled a kid out of a pool.” He told me a very personal story about how the child had died despite his efforts to save him with CPR. He told me about the self doubts he had immediately after the call and the feelings I had afterward were normal. He told me about how he had felt at the scene when the sergeant basically told him to suck it up and how he went 10-8 right after that call. He told me how he felt all these years since that drowning and to talk about it with other officers to help get it out of my system.

Another friend told me about a fatal they had driven up on while still in training. Their description of what they had seen was very vivid, despite it happening 19 years ago. It was nice to see other people at work with similar stories and how they felt afterward.

And finally, my role on this drowning call was best described to me by another friend at work. In the past, my role at fatal collisions had been as an observer. On the night of the drowning, I had been a participant and that’s what made it different. Bingo!

With the help of my peers, I am happy to say I have not seen the kid’s face at night, nor have I had a dream about it. This incident has made me wonder how many of my co-workers have had similar incidents and feelings, which were just bottled up inside?

It was a good lesson after all these years to talk about it with your peers because they have all been through it,

The Badge

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What does “The Badge” mean?  What does it represent? The Badge means different things for many people. Sometimes it depends on your point of view.  I can’t speak for every law enforcement officer, but I can tell you what it means to me.

The Badge is the one symbol of trust and truth. Without trust and truth we have nothing. The Badge is the line in the sand between good and evil. It is the symbol of respect by some and hatred by others. It is a symbol of help and compassion, but also strength and firmness.  It is the symbol of courage and emotional baggage because the person who wears it sees the worst that man is capable of.

The Badge is the greatest responsibility bestowed upon a person because lives depend on it. Our society is based on laws and rules, which mankind is bound to break and not follow. The person who wears The Badge has been given the power, responsibility and the ability to protect the weak and innocent from the predators that prey on them.

The Badge is what holds society together and the person who wears it is the first line of defense.  I have the honor of wearing The Badge and I am proud to do so.