“This is me at 21 years old. This is the day I graduated from the Detroit police academy at 4:00 p.m., went home and took a couple hour nap, woke up at 9:30 that night and reported to my first tour of duty at the 12th Precinct for midnight shift. Look at that smile on my face. I couldn’t have been more excited, more proud. Armed with my dad’s badge that he wore for 25 years on my chest, one of my mom’s sergeant stripe patches in my pocket, my lucky $2.00 bill tucked into my bulletproof vest, a gun I was barely old enough to purchase bullets for on my hip and enough naive courage for a small army, I headed out the door… my mom snapped this photo on my way.
The next 17 years would bring plenty of shed blood, black eyes, torn ligaments, stab wounds, stitches, funerals, a head injury, permanent and irreparable nerve damage, five ruptured discs, some charming PTSD and depression issues, and a whole lot of heartache. They brought missed Christmases with my family, my absence from friends’ birthday get-togethers, pricey concert tickets that were forfeited at the last minute because of a late call and many sleepless nights.
I’ve laid in wet grass on the freeway for three hours watching a team of burglars and orchestrating their apprehension, I’ve dodged gunfire while running down a dark alley in the middle of the night chasing a shooting suspect, I’ve argued with women who were too scared to leave their abusive husbands until they realized they had to or they would end up dead. I’ve peeled a dead, burned baby from the front of my uniform shirt, I’ve felt the pride of putting handcuffs on a serial rapist and I’ve cried on the chest of and kissed the cheek of my dead friend, coworker and academy classmate even though it was covered in his own dried blood and didn’t even look like him from all the bullet holes. I know what a bullet sounds like when it’s whizzing past your ear, a few inches away, I know what the sound of a mother’s shrilling scream is like when she finds out her son has been killed in the middle of the street and I know what it’s like to have to tell a wife and mother of three that her husband was killed in a car accident while on his way home from work.
Smells, pictures, sounds and sights are burned and engrained into our minds… things we can never forget, no matter how hard we try; things that haunt our sleep at night and our thoughts during the day; things that we volunteered to deal with so that you don’t have to. Things I don’t want my sister, little cousins or YOU to even have to KNOW about.
I never once went to work thinking, ‘I’m gonna beat someone tonight.’; ‘Hmmm… I think I’m gonna kill someone tonight.’ I DID, however, go to work every night, knowing that I was going to do the best I could to keep good people safe, even if that meant that I died doing so.
We ALL need to start being more understanding and compassionate toward one another. Violence doesn’t cure violence and hate doesn’t cure hate. I’ve seen and experienced both sides of the spectrum since I left the PD and I get it. I truly do. But this all has to stop.
Are cops perfect? No. Are there bad cops? Yes. But please… understand that the vast majority of police are good, loving, well-intentioned family people. They have husbands and wives and children and parents and pets and cousins and mortgages and electric bills and lawns that need cutting, just like you. They have hearts and consciences. They aren’t robots, they’re not machines and they just want to help keep the wolves away from the sheep. I KNOW there’s people who don’t deserve to wear the badge but they’re SO VERY few and far between. It breaks my heart to see all this hatred and anger flying around. All it’s doing is encouraging more of the same.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for listening. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that if you hate or don’t support one side or the other, to unfriend me and never speak to me again… I hope those are the people who come straight TO me. Because I’ll be more than happy to hug you and pray or meditate with you. I’ll be more than happy to listen to your concerns and let you vent and empathize with your feelings. But then I’ll encourage you to help me find a solution to end all this nonsense because if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. Love to all of you. ALL OF YOU. We’re all SO much better than this.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Merri McGregor.