And Then There Is This
In police work, the use of the word ‘enemy’ can get you into trouble. But the reality for most of us in this line of work is that the real enemy is often unseen and unheard. Sure, it’s easy to point to the guy that called you all sorts of inventive names when you put on the handcuffs or the woman who suddenly turned on you when you arrived at her house (after she called 911) to shield her from her half-crazed, drunken husband. Suddenly, you aren’t there to help – you’re there to ruin his life. After all, she just wanted the police to scare him – not arrest him – for beating her to a pulp.
It’s not my job to scare people. I’m not exactly an intimidating figure. At 5’2 and 52, I’m a gray haired Lilliputian in a world of large men with ‘high and tight’ haircuts. But in the end, we are all tasked to do the same thing, under the same circumstances. Sometimes you can arrive with a plan and it succeeds. Other times, everything goes sideways like a slow motion carnival ride careening off the tracks. And what follows can be ugly, cruel and wasteful.
Cops are control freaks. There, I said it. And we readily admit it to ourselves but not to anyone else. There are very few jobs where every day brings complete and utter mystery to each moment. You train for the low frequency incidents. You are generally prepared to address the routine but even that annoying neighborhood drunk can wake up one day and decide he wants you to kill him. It’s impossible to control that moment, only pray that you make the right decision.
So the enemy isn’t really a person. It’s the unknown. It’s that instant in which the world comes to a halt, when the sight of a dead newborn in the arms of her mother or the mutilated body of a murder victim causes you to struggle to assign normalcy to something so horrible. When knocking on the door to a quaint Craftsman bungalow with news of a loved one’s death turns your heart into a heap of insurmountable sadness.
For many officers, religion plays an important role in their life. Others reason that a loving God couldn’t possibly condemn so many with such cataclysmic grief. There are a few of us who balance our spiritual lives in the center, trying to find a ‘middle way.’ We hope, we practice, we pray, we negotiate. In the end, the enemy will never destroy that indomitable spirit that lies within the heart. It just takes a little patience to get it right.