Standfast 

She remembers a moment in time when she was a child at the beach.  She stood at the shoreline as her chubby legs were surrounded by the incoming tide.  She gasped and laughed as the shock of the cold hit her soft skin.  Her parents clapped and laughed with her as they snapped photos from a square camera.  They couldn’t wind the roll fast enough as their daughter frolicked in the waves.  She looked down as the shallow wave digressed back into the expanse of the ocean.  Her little feet sunk a bit into the wet sand.  They sunk just enough to anchor her in place.  The returning tide seemed to try and pull her out into that ocean.  But she remained.  Steadfast.  

“It’s ok” she reminds herself in a barely audible whisper.  “This is my police department and they wont let me down.”

She takes a deep breath as she takes a long look into her locker before shutting it after a 24-hour shift.  Her eyes are bloodshot and stingy.  Her hair bun is a sad drooping clump, barely holding on to life.  Her war bag is slung onto her right shoulder as she limps through the locker room in a daze.  

This officer is on her 15th straight day at work.  Each day between 12-24 hours.  Yes you heard correct.  Between 12-24 hours.  She has been on her feet most of those hours too.  She had strangers yelling at her face that she was a killer.  She couldn’t hear her police radio much and found herself surrounded a couple of times by thousands of angry people who wanted to hurt her.  

The wave of angry protestors seemed to try and pull her out into that ocean.  But she remained.  Steadfast.  

Bricks and frozen water bottles rained across the night sky.  Some of which cracked hard onto the cement floor around her.  Some of which found their marks on police helmets.  Cups of feces and urine skid across the ground in her direction.  Lit fireworks skyrocketed towards her.  They sizzled by too fast for her to react.  She was lucky to be able to avoid them, but not all of her co-workers were so lucky.  

Innocent store owners mingled in the angry crowd.  They looked on helpless as people smashed and looted their family businesses and destroyed their lives.  What’s worse is that they looked over at the line of officers who were standing not half a block away.  But thats about all they were doing.  

Standing.  

The officers on the line were ready.  They were beyond ready.  This was one of those moments they trained their whole careers for.  They were set.  They saw the sadness.  She.  She saw the sadness.  She saw it in the victim’s eyes.  It’s too bad she was ordered to remain there.  

Standing.  

While evil burned the lives of the innocent a few paces away.  With all of her passion for justice raging inside of her, all she could do was watch.  The officers were held back by indecisive leadership and fearful command staff.  

So she watched helpless as the fires went up.  

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”


Eat Your Own 

Finally a decision was made.  Trying to differentiate the peaceful protesters within the chaos of violence and destruction is next to impossible.  Too many people are getting hurt.  Too many businesses are being burned.  There actually is something the police can do when a protest turns into violence.  They can declare an “unlawful assembly”.  This legal maneuver is not used lightly.  Everything is done to protect 1st amendment rights and non violent protests.  This particular protest was long past the thresholds of anything remotely peaceful.  

“Finally” she thought.  “Finally the are having us do something.”  

It was day-3.  Her lower back was achy.  Her legs were tired from standing.  Her and her team of officers were already surrounded once.  Their police cars were torched as they made an escape from the violent masses.  

The wave of angry protestors seemed to try and pull her out into that ocean.  But she remained.  Steadfast.  

She wondered why it took 3 days to make such an important decision.  Nonetheless she was an obedient officer.  And she was ready for her next marching orders.  

An unlawful assembly was announced and a curfew was set.  Squads of officers congregated around the city, sleepy and overworked, ready to enforce the curfew.  They knew in their hearts that this would prevent innocent people from being hurt.  The people staying out past the curfew were the bad ones.  They were the ones causing destruction.  The scary part is that they were organized.  

In a frenzy of squad formations and rioters running in circles, the police were finally allowed to protect the city.  They arrested many looters posing as peaceful protestors in what seemed to be a never ending game of a dog-chasing-its-tail.  All night, squadrons of officers put out fires, figuratively and literally.  “Slammer vans” raced across the city picking up and dropping off violent rioters.  Detectives worked tirelessly to file charges on all of them.  

Now the city was flexing it’s authority.  

As the sun rose on the city, an eerie calm hushed over the streets.  It only lasted for a moment.  A moment of uncertainty mixed with a quiet peaceful breeze.  Across the city, officers continued nonstop shifts.  4, 5, 6 days straight so far. She was tired and there was no end in sight.  

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”

She closed her locker once again.  This time it was the start of her shift as she donned her police uniform then walked towards her battered police car.  

She opened her news app on her phone and read several articles about how the mayor will not press charges on the rioters and looters who were arrested for curfew violation during the civil unrest.  She canted her head and blinked a few times trying to understand.  Why give the violent criminals who destroyed the city a chance?  It was beyond her understanding.  Her sentiments were the same as with many of her fellow peers.  Like many other officers, she shrugged it off as she drove back into the chaos of downtown. 

“Hey did you hear the latest?”  The officer sitting shotgun lifts his phone so that she can read it.  “Our chief is telling the public that he is going after us!  He’s going to look at all the footage and come down hard on the officers!  What a joke, huh?”

She doesn’t say a word.  She sits quietly and tired in the back seat of that police car and stares at the destruction.  Literally, the writing is on the wall.

“Fuck pigs”

“All cops are bitches”

“The only good cop is a dead cop”

Her eyes begin to put two and two together.  The pieces of the puzzle are clicking in place but the illustration on the puzzle itself does not make sense.  Did she just hear correctly?

Step-1: Curfew.

Protect business and innocent protestors from violent groups by implementing a curfew. 

Step-2: Arrest.

Organize your police force and do your job.  Arrest violent curfew violators in order to prevent further damage to the city.  

Step-3: Inaction.  

Change your mind about filing charges on those arrested because perception is somehow more important that seeking justice for the victims of ruined businesses.  

Step-4: Eat Your Own

Publicly announce that the police department management who ordered officers to make these lawful arrests will instead begin an investigation towards the officers themselves.  The same leaders that yelled “Charge!” have essentially decided to punish their subordinates for following their orders.  

The message was starting to get fuzzy.  Was she supposed to protect?  By doing her job will she lose her job?  Who will protect the business owners?  Was this police department filled with justice seekers?  Or was it filled with politically motivated witch-hunters who would eat their own?  Should she even care?

She took a deep breath…..

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”


Satanic Media

Her tired eyes watched another day come and go.  Middle fingers in her face.  Bullhorns loud in her ear.  Laughter at the sight of vandalized police cars.  Signs being held up that called for her death.   

She never felt so hated in her life.  

As most cops do, she was able to shrug off most of the hatred.  But she’s only human.  When she got home to her bed for her 3-hours of sleep, she flicked through her cell phone.  It was clear that the media had zero intentions to show the police in any positive light.  Again, this was something she was accustomed to.  

The wording used for headlines were so heavily loaded.  News broadcast after news broadcast kept repeating that the police were attacking “peaceful protestors”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But that did not matter.  

Perception was controlled by the media.

The video snippets that showed her and her fellow offices using force did not show the actions leading up to it.  Zero consideration was given to an officer’s right to defend themselves.  They showed as many police swings as possible, but they did not show any of the police victimization.  The graffiti on the walls calling to action violence upon the police never made it to mainstream media.  

“Why would the media do that?” she thought.  But before she could find a conclusion to her own question, another news headline popped up with the same vilifying remarks towards police.  The fingers were now completely being pointed directly at her and her co-workers.  

As she laid in bed, she went to a place where everyone goes to blow off some steam these days, social media.  Immediately she was sickened by the abhorrent posts and memes against the police from people she thought were her friends.  Immediately she began typing a long rant.  She would show them!  This post would make it obvious who the villains were.  

As she typed furiously into her phone, a text appeared.  Teams of Internal Affairs officers were monitoring officers for any social media posts that seemed inappropriate.  Disciplinary action would follow.  Officers in uniform are not to make any political statement, and the police department was taking a proactive approach by way of discipline.  

That was it.  She was completely and utterly muted.  She had no free speech rights.  She deleted the long post she was so passionately working on.  The she flicked through her feed as sleep slowly overcame her.

“National Kill-a-Cop Day”

“Antifa Threatens to follow police home”

“Another officer is shot and killed”

The headlines were endless as she slowly succumbed to her slumber.  But not before she told herself….

“It’s ok.  This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”


Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

It was day blah-blah-blah.  She was assigned to the security detail for the mayor’s house.  Maybe this day would be the day her mayor would say some comforting words in support of the police.  I mean, her chief was too busy trying to resuscitate his political career which had become a disaster with one simple statement.  If anyone was not going to give the troops some words of encouragement, surely our mayor would.  

Right?

Here was his chance.  A public forum with everyone watching.  At the end of a 10-minute speech, her mayor told the world that he thought his police force were killers.  

Shock and silence filled her heart.  She watched the excerpt a few more times just to make sure.  There was no denying it.  It was the icing on the cake.  How much worse can it get?

Then she looked up.  In the distance a dust cloud rose from the ground and into the sky.  It came from thousands upon thousands of protestors who now were on their way to the mayor’s house.  They surrounded the mayor’s home.  The officers were pushed further and further back until they were nonexistent.  

The wave of angry protestors seemed to try and pull her out into that ocean.  But she remained.  Steadfast.  

The mayor’s support for police became clear.  It’s nil.  In fact, he made several points to say how he was against the police.  Then he ordered those same cops he thought of as “killers” to protect his home and his family.  

And well, they did so.  They did so without hesitation because they are hard working and obedient public servants.  They still believed in what they stood for, protection of life and property, even for the criminals themselves.  Even for the ones that hated them, like their own mayor.  

Again they held the line.  

Again they were taken over. 

Again leadership failed them. 

She was becoming used to this.

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”


FRESH OUT OF MILK

She got home at 11:45 PM.  With a 3:30 AM wake up time, she barely had enough time for a shower.  Nonetheless she quietly tiptoed into her daughter’s room.  The door opened just enough for her head to take a peak inside.  With the ambient light she was able to see the blanket on the bed.  Her daughter loved to sleep completely wrapped inside of it.  “Like a burrito, mommy” is what she always said before bedtime.  She saw one side of the blanket slowly lift, then slightly drop.  She knew she was under there.  She smiled and quietly closed the door.  

She missed her kid.  It’s been over a week since she has seen her daughters face. Text messages just didn’t cut it anymore.  

She walked over to her fridge.  The beam of light squinted her eyes.  She looked inside and let out a slow breath that puffed her cheeks like a blowfish.  “I have to go to the market” she said out loud to herself.  But she had no idea how or when she’d be able to.  

She begrudgingly sent a text message to her sister. 

“Hey sis. I know you’ve been doin’ tons for me but.  Would you mind going to the market for me tomorrow?  There’s no milk or eggs.  I’ll leave some cash on the table for you”  <send>

Online Zoom classes with her daughter’s teacher did not pause because of the civil unrest.  

“Oh and let her teacher know that I won’t be able to help her with the homework until…..just tell her it’ll be late.”  <send>

She didn’t expect a text back.  Not until the morning. 

She sat on the couch and opened her cell phone.  She noticed her close friends posting anti police rhetoric.  Immediately she closed her Facebook app.  It was all starting to get to her.  

She’s not had much more than 4 hours of sleep per night for over a week.  She has not worked out either.  She’s been on caffeine, sugar and fast food for over 7 days.  Facebook says her friends hate her and worse of all, she hasn’t seen her daughter’s face in more than a week.  

She put her numb face onto her palms and rubbed her tired eyes…

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”


POLITICS TELL THE TALE

“Work sent that email about our overtime.  You have got to read it!  Pure bullshit!”  Her co-worker shook his cell phone in the air as he warned her.  

She sat down with her squad for the day and opened her department email from her cell phone.  Apparently, the city decided that they were not going to pay them for all of the extra work they have been putting in.  She threw her hands up and looked at her co-worker from across the parking lot, “Can they do that?”

“Blue Flu!” he fired back as he bent over and feigned a cough.  She smiled and shook her head.  Then she read the email again, just to make sure.  

The chatter in the hallways was loud.  

She hears an unknown voice say, “The mayor is defunding us.”  That meant all of their salary rights that have been contractually guaranteed were now on the chopping block.  She could not fathom why her mayor would call them killers then take away from their livelihood.  

It did not make any sense.  None at all.  

Soon after, the headlines became comedic.  They were outright circus like!  

Police TV shows cancelled.  Even kid shows with animated police dogs…cancelled.  Legoland removed all of their police items.  Monuments around the country are taken down.  

The circus was becoming bigger and bigger.  Was she the only one noticing it?  


THE VIETNAM WAR COMPLEX

Like many in the profession of law enforcement, she wanted to be a police officer since she was a kid.  She wanted to help people.  What is more exciting than to help the innocent by chasing down criminals and saving the day?  Not much, really.  

Lot’s of kids want to be cops.  They smile, stare and wave at the police as they drive by.  They have toy police cars and play cops-and-robbers.  When the children finally get old enough to reach those dreams, they understand and accept a level of negative perception towards them.  It simply comes with the territory.  

As officers navigate through their careers they each find their own place.  They are mostly proud of who they have become and of the work they have done.  They speak openly to their families and friends about all of the crazy things that happen on the job.  Photos of their academy graduation and plaques decorate their walls.  Their social media profile pics have a cool picture of them in uniform.  They take pride in the good that their profession does for society.  

But when an offensive attack on an officer’s identity jolts their idea of the very person they are, that positive self identity, one of a humanitarian, somehow becomes Satan’s work itself.  When every facet of your life in law enforcement is suddenly turns into evil, it shatters their mirrors of self perception.  All of a sudden their self-identity is suspended in this no-mans-land.  

The results manifest themselves differently in each individual.  

Does she keep her anger at the public for not understanding?  After all, what else does she have to hold on to?  Does she hate herself in order to be accepted?  Is she allowed to still be proud of what she does?  Should she feel guilty for her actions as a cop?

What if she ultimately does not fall into any of these confusing emotions?  Is she then as bad as the “killer officers” the public perceives her to be?

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”

In the mid 1970’s, there were no welcome back parades for Vietnam War Veterans.  Soldiers who had valiantly fought for their country returned and were literally spit on.  Soldiers with survivors guilt after seeing many of their friends die unspeakably agonizing deaths came home to middle fingers in their face.  Many soldiers who left behind their beautiful homes, wives families returned home to nothing as their loved ones had moved on.  They came home, now alone, to signs calling them “baby killers”.  Vet benefits were practically non existent.  There was no understanding of their “shell shock” today known as PTSD, and they were left to fend for themselves.  Young men left to battle by their own two feet and returned on wheel chairs to a national ideology of guilt and shame towards the Vietnam veteran.  

When it comes to the identity of a group, especially a group comprised of individuals who passionately feel their duty is to protect their country, one can’t help but to wonder about these parallels.  There is a strong similarity between the aftermath of an ostracized Vietnam vet returning home from war to a society who has completely shunned them, versus the aftermath of a cop returning to work and putting their lives on the line to protect a society that wants them abolished.  

This identity complex is much too real.  And it is one that is not fair to law enforcement personnel across our country.  


SHE IS OPTIMISM

Individuals in law enforcement have a simple task.  Protect life and property.  When social movements and protests threaten those two things, there is a small group of individuals who sacrifice everything to make sure life and property are safe guarded.  This group is our nations police.  

They are the difference between chaos and order.  

Our officer in this story has her personal opinion on all of the social issues involved.  But at the moment people are being hurt and businesses destroyed, it is not about her personal opinions about this country’s history of race inequality.  It is not about who took a knee.  It is not about the right to protest.  It is not about the reason behind movement itself.  None of that matters to her when the line is crossed from protest to violence.  

I write today inspired by a conversation I had with a friend and co-worker who I simply refer to as “She”.  This piece also encompasses emotions I’ve gathered from countless conversations and group text messages.  

She.  

She told me how she was feeling kind of depressed and couldn’t shake it off.  “I’ve been working two weeks straight and it was tough.  But what got me and many of us through it was each other.  We pushed each other through it and when it ended, it was hard to deal with he reality because the reality was worse than we expected.”

As I finalized this piece, I was falling asleep to a rising sun after a long graveyard shift, I received a simple text from her.  She mentioned how she felt stuck.  But then she surmised,  “Leaving reality behind and focusing on the good that still exists.  

My comrades have been physically drained.  They have been emotionally abused.  They’ve been muted.  Even robbed of their salaries!  Robbed of their identities.  They’ve been ordered into the fire by commanders who slowly and pathetically stepped back into the safety of the shadows.  They’ve lost friendships.  They’ve even missed time from their children.  

Yet still….

They continue to focus “on the good that still exists”.  


SHE

Through all of the madness and muck, she continued to push forward.  

“It’s ok” she reminded herself.  “This is my police department and they won’t let me down.”

She recalled those precious moments on the beach with her parents one more time.  

She looked down as the shallow wave digressed back into the expanse of the ocean.  Her little feet sunk a bit into the wet sand.  They sunk just enough to anchor her in place.  The returning tide seemed to try and pull her out into that ocean.  

But she remained.  

Steadfast.

-Tom Ludlow

“Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”

Wayne Dyer