Retired Ohio Police Sergeant Timothy Clark shared with BizPac Review a letter he wrote about the arduous job of being a police officer. A job that often goes without thanks or praise — especially in today’s hostile anti-police climate.
Clark describes to the private citizen that what they see is often not the day-to-day reality behind the badge.
Clarke told BPR that he was deeply moved after reading fellow officer Jay Stalien’s raw account of the perils law enforcement officers increasingly face.
Clarke said as a “white man” he can’t experience the extent of Stalien’s frustration — who is African-American — but wants to let him know he is not alone. Clark provided his poignant letter to BPR which we are proudly posting with the hopes it will help awaken minds and soften hearts.
Dear Private Citizen,
Unless you wear a badge, have worn a badge, have a spouse, parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt or uncle who has worn or is wearing a badge….you have no idea what being a law enforcement officer is about.
You see us sitting in a cruiser, stationary in a park with our head down. ‘Sleeping’, you think; in reality we are probably working on finishing a report.
You see us cruising your neighborhood time and again. ‘Overpaid and wasting the taxpayers’ gas money,’ you think; in reality we may be looking for a lost child, or the suspect in a home burglary that happened the next street over just a few minutes before.
You see us walking through bars or driving through a liquor establishment’s parking lot. ‘Fishing for drunks and harassing patrons,’ you think; in reality we’re looking for trouble, which often involves alcohol, or providing an extra presence because of the robbery of a patron the week before in that very same lot.
You see two, maybe three cruisers parked at a restaurant or coffee shop. ‘Goofing off’, you think; in reality we finally had a lull in the never-ending stream of calls for service for the first time during our shift and are wolfing down a meal. Maybe only a partial meal, because we are subject to being called upon to respond to an incident at any moment, lunch time or not.
You see us alongside the road on a car stop, talking to a motorist. ‘Trying to make that ticket quota’, you think; in reality we may be assisting someone with vehicle trouble, giving directions, or handling a road rage incident, which is becoming more frequent with every passing day.
You see us at high school basketball or football games working security, leaning against a wall or fence. ‘Lazy’, you think; in reality we may be combating a bad back, bad knee or bad hip, and leaning against something solid may be the only way to get some semblance of relief. Bad backs, hips and knees are an affliction most cops develop during years on the job.
You see us on foot patrol in a downtown area, constantly going in and out of shops and businesses. ‘Shopping on the job’, you think; in reality we’re building relationships and trust with the shop owners.
You see us talking to a group of young people on a basketball court in a park or on a street corner. ‘Harassing those kids’, you think; in reality we’re trying to make a difference in young lives, trying to show today’s youth that we, the police, are not the enemy, and that they alone have the ability to choose what path in life they will take.
It’s called ‘community-based policing’. You get to know the people you serve and protect so that they don’t only see you when something bad happens. The officers become familiar faces in the neighborhood.
What you, the private citizen, don’t see on a daily basis is the worst of humanity. You don’t see the death, the despair that’s bad enough to make someone want to end their life. You don’t see the abused children, covered with bites from bedbugs and living amidst animal feces while their parent is out drinking or smoking crack, leaving the kids to fend for themselves.
You don’t see us sitting in the cruiser, crying, because we just handled a call involving the death of an infant due to neglect. We’re crying because we have an infant at home the same age. You don’t see us when we’re out at 0300 hours on the most bitterly frigid night of winter, with the wind chill at -20 degrees; we’re looking for the dementia-afflicted elderly woman who wandered out of her home, clad only in a night-gown. We are trying to find her before frostbite and hypothermia end her life.
You don’t see the inner rage when one of your brothers or sisters runs afoul of the law, knowing that, once again, the media and public opinion will paint you all with the broad brush of ‘dirty cops’.
You don’t see the broken relationships caused by the pressures of the job. It takes a very special individual to be the spouse of a police officer, someone with patience and understanding, someone who knows they are the rock on which we lean.
You don’t see the officers absent from Christmas and Thanksgiving family gatherings because they had to work. You don’t see us at our kids’ sporting events and school plays because of the job.
You don’t see or feel the fear and apprehension when we get sent to a call involving a gun and someone who has either already used it or fully intends to, knowing that we, the police, have to respond. There’s no one else, no others but those of us who are sworn to protect the public, knowing we could lose our lives in the process of apprehending the offender.
You don’t see us grieving at the loss of yet another brother or sister of the badge, wondering if maybe, just maybe, our time will be next.
You’re not there at 0400 hours, knocking on the door of a home and knowing you are about to devastate the family inside by telling them their only son, a fifteen-year-old who had snuck out of the home after his parents had gone to bed, had been killed in a traffic crash. You also weren’t there two hours earlier, investigating that accident in the pouring rain, having seen that son’s mangled, unrecognizable form.
You haven’t seen the body crushed flat by heavy equipment in an industrial accident, the victim’s internal organs lying on the shop floor beside him because the sheer weight of the machinery blew them out of his abdomen; the old farmer who hung himself in his barn at sunrise because he thought he had cancer; the young teen on foot who decided to try to cross the tracks ahead of a freight train on a dare… and lost. You didn’t watch the distraught husband, locked in his car, shoot himself in the head while looking you straight in the eye, all because his wife had left him for another man after the victim had been diagnosed with a terminal disease.
You didn’t see the woman, stabbed thirty-three times by her enraged boyfriend, lying dead in a room whose walls looked as if they’d been splattered with red paint…while her three young children were sleeping downstairs on a bare wood floor on Thanksgiving morning.
You, dear citizens, weren’t there to witness those terrible events, those tragic incidents.
We pay a price every day for having been there. Sometimes, for some of us, for the rest of our days on this earth.
So, the next time you see a police officer on duty, try not to jump to conclusions. Think about what you haven’t seen.
…and what we have.
Stalien wrote the letter four months ago when it was picked up by a local church who used it to honor law enforcement.
BPR salutes Clarke, Stalien and all of America’s brave men and women in blue.