As law enforcement officers, it is hard to ask for help. Usually someone else is asking for us to come and help them. Officers often become guidance counselors, therapists, fighters, consolers or even healers. We become guidance counselors when people have lost their way in life and are heading down a wrong path. It could be a mother who is hooked on dope, a father who can’t stay out of jail or a child who starts out as a small-time shoplifter and who we want to prevent from becoming a career criminal. We become therapists when we arrive on a domestic violence call and are tasked with solving a family argument or fight. We become fighters when a suspect doesn’t want to succumb to our authority, is emboldened by things they see on the internet and decides to fight us, or when an inmate decides not to follow orders to come out of their cell, but rather to square off and invite us to enter their cell to extract them. We become consolers when a loved one has lost a husband, wife or child in a horrific tragedy that will shape their lives forever, and we are their only shoulder to cry on or outlet to vent to. We also become healers when called to administer CPR on a citizen while their entire family looks to us to save a life because they are too frozen to act.
But what about when we are the ones who need the help? Who are you willing to talk to about your problems? We are all trained to identify the indicators of pain in citizens and suspects, but rarely do we look for those same indicators in our brothers and sisters in law enforcement. And typically, we are too proud, too macho or even too stupid to ask for someone else to help us. In my almost 20 years on this department, I have seen things that stay with me to this day. I have had my own 2-year-old daughter at home while at work I watched a little girl who was the same age die from SIDS in the hospital as all of the staff worked to save her. I have seen death and pain in other people’s lives that can’t be forgotten. Thankfully, I have a beautiful and wonderful family at home to support me, but I have never really talked about this with my brothers and sisters on the force. Maybe we all need to realize we need to talk to people a little more and look for kind and reassuring words, not only in our families at home, but also in our families at work.
There are probably hundreds of fellow officers on this department abusing prescription drugs or alcohol. And usually, one of us knows that our brother or sister is having this problem, but we don’t want to get involved because it is difficult to address. But acting now — and I am not talking about IAB or a supervisor — could save their job or their life. We owe that to one another for all we have been through and will continue to go through.
Suicide among law enforcement professionals is on the rise, but it doesn’t have to be. Soon after you receive this issue of Vegas Beat, we will find ourselves in the middle of Police Week. There is a long list of names on the memorials in D.C. and Carson City representing officers who made the ultimate sacrifice for this job. But there are also several thousand more who have taken their own lives as a result of this profession.
Don’t be too proud to reach out to a friend, a co-worker, a boss or even any of us at the PPA if you just want someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on about things going on in your life. This may be kind of a “Debbie Downer” article, but I think it is important to highlight this issue facing all of law enforcement and to say that you’re not alone and you’re not the first to feel the way you do. Because while we honor those brave men and women who died for this profession, we also can’t ignore those who died because of this profession as well as other issues they faced. Never be too big to ask for help from anyone.
I thank each and every one of you for doing the thankless job that you do. While several may yell at you and spit on you and disrespect you, remember, we do this job to protect the innocent from the evil. And although the innocent may be silent in their support, they support you nonetheless.