As you know, picking the Human of the Week is a chore for me. Before I talked to Jeff I had decided that I would pick law enforcement as the collective Human of the Week. After I talked to Jeff, I wasn’t so sure. I spent an emotionally difficult week thinking about this story and not knowing who would get it. Last night, my husband read my blog (who knew?) and while I was in bed, he walked by and said “Hey, nice job on the blog this week”. I started sobbing. I knew then that law enforcement would understand; Jeff should be the HOW.
So there he is, doesn’t he look cute? Human of the Week. Quite an honor there, Jeff. You are now one among many random people that I Photoshop a crown onto. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Well, maybe not so random read Beyond Officer Down and The Aftermath to find out why Jeff has gotten all dolled up for you. Here’s the funny thing, Jeff isn’t getting this crown for what he did. He’s getting the crown for talking to me. I like to think I am a cross between Dr. Phil and Barbara Walters and somehow this was a cathartic experience for him. Maybe not. Maybe Jeff just wanted to share what happened in the hopes that it would open some eyes, promote a little more tolerance and forgiveness and, help someone who is going through the same thing. Or maybe he thinks I am a famous blogger, who knows?
At the ripe old age of 38, Jeff’s been through a lot. Multiple shootings, marriage, parenthood and life in general. Not coming from a law enforcement family, some would wonder where his dedication comes from. The heart. It’s as simple as that. The only story that was harder to write than Jeff’s was Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children. Why? Because I have a hard time wrapping my head around people like Jeff, and not just because he likes Moose Tracks ice cream. He’s solid, steady, and loves his family. Nice quiet home with a daughter receiving her Associates and HS Diploma simultaneously, a fabulous stepson and a mini-Mia Hamm – he heads out into chaos every day not knowing what it will bring. He chose the least popular path.
He’s not a hero, a bad ass or a rock star. He doesn’t like or want awards or accolades. He.Is.Doing.His.Job.Period. People have a hard time seeing that. We all want heroes, they are only in the movies. He doesn’t have a cape, a Batmobile or a bullet-proof chest. Heck, he doesn’t even have his old Mustang anymore.
Jeff joined the military at 18 because he thought it would be fun and exciting. Since it apparently didn’t meet his expectations, he went for something much more exciting – a street crimes unit which enabled him to do all the tough things you didn’t see on Adam-12. He got more than his share of excitement. In December he’ll finish his Master’s Degree, his kids are growing up, and he’ll be keeping his wife busy so she doesn’t worry about where the kids are.
In the meantime, Jeff is trying to figure out how to teach someone to cope with a shooting. How can he make it real enough so that they will understand and be better prepared than he was? How can he help them understand how it will affect their families and their future?
What he can tell you is the best therapy is getting help from the people who have been there. Learn about PTSD, know it will happen. If your next call out after the shooting is at the same time of day, in the same weather and no one answers the knock on the door, you will relive every moment of your last call. You need to be prepared for that. It won’t hurt to have a list of resources available to you. Your department may not be ready for what you will need, prepare yourself. When the shift is over, you will go home alone in more ways than one. Be prepared. Odds are, you won’t be in an officer involved shooting, but never say never. You are your most important asset. You need to wake up the next day and continue your life. Your family will still need you. Make sure you can still be there.
Aside from seeking psychological help, make sure you are tactically sound. Be aware, follow protocol, know what to do if all hell breaks loose. Most importantly, watch your back. Things can go south at any time, take advantage of all the training that is out there. Don’t become indifferent.
If you aren’t a law enforcement officer and you are reading this, same goes for you. Don’t become indifferent to the PEOPLE that are doing their jobs. Do me a favor, make a mental note to look at an officers face the next time you see one. What do you see? Wrinkles? Freckles? Worry? Happiness? Just another person. Think about that. Next time you are stopped, know that he/she isn’t being a dickhead. Treat them kindly, as you would treat your neighbor, not as a threat or an inconvenience. You’ll be surprised how far a kind word and a smile can go.
Today on the way home an officer was walking down the street, my 9-year-old stuck his hand out the window waved and yelled “Good job!” My first thought was “Oh no, what is he up to?!” Then I saw the officer smile and wave. My son was thrilled and said “Policemen are so nice”. He’s right, they’re not so bad.
Oh, by the way. I said Jeff was a bit reserved and dry. I heard him laugh yesterday, turns out he really is just a regular guy.