retired cop

The 4 Reasons Cops Retire Before You




It’s just not fair that cops retire before me

I’m sure you have heard the old saying “if I had a nickel for every time (insert witty, sometimes arrogant remark here)”! Well, here it comes again.

If I had a nickel for every time someone said how lucky I am to be being able to retire at age 50! I usually respond with a smile and patronize them with “if you say so” or even better ” your’re right, I’m one lucky dog”.

After that I continue the conversation but fall into my own thoughts at the same time.

Initially my brain jumps right to “idiot” or “moron” or “did they really say that or are they just being an asshole”? This all happens within a matter of seconds. As I walk away, my own self doubt creeps into the logical side of my brain and wonders.

Am I lucky to retire at such an early age? Do I deserve to retire at an age well before most are allowed to get their gold watch?

These thoughts quickly vanish as I contemplate the absurdity of these questions.



Here are just 4 reasons why cops get to retire “so young”.

1. Stress

You would think that this one would be a no brainer. There are people out there that think they have stressful jobs.

Unless you are a front line combat grunt, air traffic controller or a sky-diving instructor.

Everyone else, please sit down.

“But you don’t know man, I’ve got deadlines and a lot of pressure on me at my job, why do cops retire before I get to?”

And I get that. I really do.

But C’MON man.

I will spare everyone the same ole we face armed felons and don’t know if we are going home at the end of our shift mantra.

It should be blatantly obvious to everyone. Oh and I’m quite sure if you screw up, or have a perceived screw up, at work it won’t cause the city you work in to riot or change your industries culture on a global level.

Just sayin.



2. Schedule

It sucks.

I’m not talking about the Mothershippers (Cops who work at Police Headquarters).

I’m talking about Cops. Detectives.

The grunts of police work.

It absolutely kills me when citizens ask, and I’m not making this up, if we are open on Sunday’s. This is why I know that there will always be a fantastically wide disconnect between us and your average Joe.

I have worked days and nights, holidays, birthdays, elections, hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms, and high school football games. I have worked 30 hours without sleep and have come back to work 20 more with only 2 hours of sleep in between.

Oh, and then I go to court on my days off.

_______

3. The uniform

I distinctly remember getting into my car and driving to work in full uniform one day. I had been a detective for several years prior to this day and had decided that I wanted to go back to uniform patrol.

I was beginning to doubt my decision with every passing second during my drive in that morning.

I had forgotten how ridiculously uncomfortable it was wearing a bullet proof vest and 30 pounds of police gear. I remember being sore for a week until my body became used to wearing all of it again.

It is nice to see that police departments are now going to outer vests and suspenders. Hopefully this will alleviate all of the back problems that all of us suffer from over decades of wearing the uniform.

My chiropractor would have to agree with this reason why cops retire early.



4. The exposure to unspeakable suffering

Back in the day (Que the rookie eye roll) when I was a field training instructor, one the first things I would ask my new guy was if they had ever seen a dead body. Other than their grandma at her funeral, most had not.

There are things in this world that humans are not meant to see.

Or experience.

Bottom line, cops see bad shit.

As mentioned from reason #1, law enforcement is a highly stressful and dangerous occupation.  New cops arrive in this profession with an eagerness that is almost unrivaled in any other job.

“I’m going to change the world, one arrest at a time”.

Until they see their first dead baby. 

The seduction of becoming a cop and serving the greater good enables the rookie patrolman to overlook the inherent dangers and traumatic scenes that he or she may face or see.

As they become fully immersed in the police culture, the old life they had prior to becoming a police officer begins to fade away. They are forever changed by the things they experience as a cop.

A couple of days ago, an old photo of me popped up on my Facebook feed from a group I belong to. In the photo I had been a cop for about three years. Other than looking ridiculously young, I noticed something else.

I had the biggest smile.

And I think this may be the last photo of me smiling this big.




Some of you have reached out and want to share your story with others. A blog like this one is a great way to reach those who could benefit from your experience and interests. Blogging has changed my perspective and my life.

It could do the same for you.

Here is a video by Gary Vaynerchuk that expresses what I have been saying for years. You get ONE LIFE! If it’s starting your own business, getting your college degree, or starting your own blog, Don’t wait.

Just start.


I highly recommend HostGatorwhich in my opinion is the simplest and fastest way to get you started on your blogging journey. If you have any questions about starting a blog or a website, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly at bart@familysafefirst.com.

 

 

A 23-year veteran police officer, Bart spent time as a patrolmen and a violent crimes detective (specialized in strategic intelligence and research analysis). Aside from this experience in high profile case investigations, he has received training from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in Advanced Intelligence Analysis. Bart also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence (Magna Cum Laude) from Liberty University. As a father of four, husband and law enforcement officer, he wants to share his knowledge on safety with you. Bart is also a contributing writer for Law Enforcement Today.

148 Comments

  • Gene Pearce April 28, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I hear ya brother! I may be getting old but I will never, ever forget my first dead baby call. That caused me to question whether I really wanted to be a cop. My supervisor observed the problems I was having dealing with that experience and did something I never expected, she ordered me to attend the baby’s autopsy. I thought that would be my final hour of being a cop but to my surprise, it actually helped me disassociate my thoughts of a dead baby with what I witnessed on the medical examiner’s table. It’s hard to explain and I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say I never had any problems after that dealing with dead bodies. We definitely worked in a unique job didn’t we?!

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      Great comment Gene. And you are absolutely right. Seeing a dead child is a game changer. I have witnessed many brand new officers quit within their first week on the job because it was something they just couldn’t deal with. Your supervisor did the right thing.

      Reply
      • M/Sgt. Wilson April 30, 2017 at 3:20 pm

        God bless you sir thank you for your service I have 30 years before I can do it I’m 21 years into it and I hope and pray I make it the last minute because I am tired

        Reply
    • Rick Monteverde April 29, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      I worked a trade on my first Christmas, because I figured, I would have plenty of years later, to make up for this day… During briefing, I (the rookie on this day) was told to clear and relieve the a.m. shift sergeant, who was out on a death call,,, a 70 year old (old to me then) passed away in his sleep,, he lived with his daughter and her family… I can still point out the house,, and the position I found him in on the bed.. and its been almost 40 years

      Reply
      • Bart Proctor May 7, 2017 at 9:47 am

        Rick, you are not alone. I have also worked many a Christmas which included many death investigations.

        Reply
    • chrystalannhart April 30, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      been to an autopsy in beginning nursing career and seen few “incidents” working pediatrics and I understand your message thanks for your service as well as thanks to your family for being beside you

      Reply
      • Bart Proctor May 7, 2017 at 9:46 am

        Thank you Chrystal. This article has definitely evoked deep seated emotions on behalf of the law enforcement community.

        Reply
    • Tony April 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Good article Bart. Baby autopsies are a definite game changer. Not sure I would have ordered one of my troops to go to one if they weren’t handling it well. I went to a few for guys that couldn’t. I think it is being front row to such immense suffering that does it. The resulting social disconnect, hyper vigilance, and zoning out cycles cause a lot of stress in life. The dead did not bother me as much as the severely injured but still alive did. That point where you know they are dying and there is nothing you can do for them. That always was much worse for me.

      Reply
      • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm

        Excellent perspective Tony. I also have a hard time with the living versus the dead. The one thing that always gets to me are broken bones, especially compound fractures. For some reason those are much worse for me..

        Reply
      • shelleypc May 1, 2017 at 10:22 am

        I can understand that. For me as a nurse I tell everyone. Death does not bother me, grief and anguish do!

        Reply
    • Anonymous May 1, 2017 at 11:18 am

      I think you need a new supervisor.

      Reply
    • Mark E. Young May 2, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      I know how you felt! I was in my 3rd year in as a patrolman on a morning shift. I responded to a two vehicle MVA on a major highway in the county I worked in. I was the first on scene. A small Honda Civic had made a left turn on the divided highway in the path of an on coming semi truck. The truck struck the Honda just behind the passenger door of the Honda at aprox. 40 mph. The Honda was cut in half from the impact. The driver of the Honda was a young 21 year old mother of a four month old little girl. The little girl was in her car seat in the back seat of the Honda. The mother was taking the baby to her mothers house just a few hundred yards down the street she had turned onto on her way to work. That morning the sun had just came up over the trees along side of the highway. She was traveling east into the bright sun before making her left turn. From what I gathered, she more than likely was blinded by the bright sun light and did not see that the truck was closer than it appeared. The front portion of the vehicle came to rest about twenty yards from the intersection into a gully on the opposite side of the highway. The rear half came to rest in the grassy center of the divided highway. The truck part of the semi was stopped in the enter most lane of the highway just past the intersection. When I arrived the dust was still in the air. I saw the driver of the semi still sitting in the truck with his door open. Several vehicles were stopped at the intersection. I saw several people over at the front section of the Honda and were on their knees holding the female driver of the Honda. When I exited my vehicle, a lady was running up to me and was pointing in the direction of the back half of the car. She stated she was behind the Honda in the left turn lane at the time of the accident. She stated she knew the young girl and her family and she could not find the baby who would have been in her car seat. At that time the driver of the semi yelled out to me and pointed down under his vehicle and stated the baby was under his truck.
      Well you can guess what that meant. The child and her mother were both killed on impact. The father of the young girl had just arrived at the intersection on his way to work that morning. I had turned 30 the month before this call. I had never seen anything like that in the three years with that department. It has been 25 years now and I still see that horrific image every time I close my eyes at night. I now have two daughters and a three year old granddaughter and a 4 month old grandson. Some times when I hold them I can’t hold back the tears as I remember that day! I am now retired at 52. This is the first time I have spoken about that day to anyone other than my family and coworkers. I though I was a tuff guy mentally before that day. I have seen a-lot of death over the years, but nothing has come close to that image. I was told a few years ago that the driver of the semi had taken his own life a year after the accident. Before I arrived at the accident, he was the one who found the baby under his vehicle. Thank You guys for your service to your community’s! And for this blog! God Bless!

      Reply
    • P.K. Harding May 2, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      I still pray for my dead babies. I had nightmares several times a week for almost 3 years about dying/dead children after my first one (Kathrine). Those night terrors were later replaced by dreams of gangs trying to kill me, which I only occasionally have now that I’ve been retired for twelve years.
      I have a great deal of respect for officers who serve these days. It is a terrible climate for them, their communities are much less supportive of them, and it’s much more dangerous these days.
      God Bless them all.

      Reply
      • Bart Proctor May 2, 2017 at 9:56 pm

        Thank you P.K. Hopefully your nightmares will go away with time. I hope mine do.

        Reply
    • Matthew May 3, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      I encountered a similar situation and responded to a baby that had drowned in a pool almost 14 years ago. I arrived on scene and saw and knew there was not much I could do to save the baby. I gave CPR until EMS arrived which literally took forever because of the location. I still to this day have the article from the newspaper and will never forget what I saw and what I tried to do to make the situation better for everyone. Nothing compares to it and you have to tell yourself that you did everything that you could to save someone. It’s amazing how police can become immune to the things they see. Great article.

      Reply
  • Travis Metcalfe April 28, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Yep..Dead babies are the worst…I only saw pics of a baby that died inside a closed car (summer in Mesa Az) and they still haunt me …..

    I went back to patrol after a few years in Dets and my first week back I responded to a child drowning call…I knew the address..it was a friends 18 month old grandson…he was out of the water by the time I got there but was too late…I just started CPR when Medics arrived and took over…I knew there was no hope but had to try…

    Been retired 7 years after 30 years…Wow…think of those 2 calls often…And like I said…I wasn’t even at the scene of the car call but his expression on his face in the pics….silent scream, panic in dead eyes…

    First time I have actually wrote this down…feels good to get it out….maybe should have talked to someone about it…but back then it was get 10-8 ASAP…there are calls holding…

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 28, 2017 at 11:47 pm

      I believe that on a deeper level I was drawn to start this blog for the very reason you speak of. I never discussed or spoke about this stuff with anyone. Except other cops and you know how that goes. Thanks for sharing Travis. Have a great weekend.

      Reply
    • Audrey Glemba April 29, 2017 at 12:39 am

      Hey Travis, you always did good. I’m sorry for the suffering you have had for so long and I understand it well. I’m always here if I can help.

      Reply
  • Richard April 28, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Child porn: NOBODY should have burned into their mind, the sound of a crying two year old in the course of active sodomization. I did not realize the full impact this had on me until I offered to change my first granddaughter’s diaper and it all flooded back to me. I had to take a good 45 minutes on the back deck to collect myself after that. Likewise, attending the autopsy of a SIDS baby whose family I was friends with. Or to know the actual weight of the brain of people we have had conversations and coffee with during the course of our patrol days. These are all things that the general public simply CANNOT wrap their minds around. Neither should they- but for the grace of God, there go we & our bretheren.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 28, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      I had the occasion to work a couple of those cases and you are right. Some things you see in this job you can’t un-see. If you get a chance check out my PTSD article. Have a great weekend Richard!

      Reply
  • Dave Teem April 29, 2017 at 2:18 am

    We lost one of us today to self inflicted gunshot wound. He had seen too much, silently endured to much. He had been looking forward, no with or drugs, just too much for that moment.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      That is just such a damn shame. It doesn’t have to be like this. Thanks for sharing Dave.

      Reply
    • Lambo April 29, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      In the Illinois area there is a LE emotional support program called Operation Shattered Star, I don’t know how far the program reaches but a good friend believes this an awesome and worthwhile program. It could help your house with the suffering of losing one of your own.

      Reply
    • Dawn Kirk May 2, 2017 at 11:32 am

      So sorry for your loss.

      Reply
  • Craig April 29, 2017 at 2:30 am

    My first infant death was a call on Christmas Day, in a bassinet….

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      That’s terrible Craig. But we can all relate. Hang tough brother..

      Reply
  • Richard April 29, 2017 at 6:11 am

    If your PTSD article was in a police magazine, I may have already read & printed it. Good article if it’s the one I’m thinking of.

    I occasionally think about the “unfairness” of that case. The child was undeniably THE victim…but to a certain degree, I (we) have been a victim as well. That is to say, the suspect in my case got time-served (about 3 weeks) and three years probation for possession of CPI, on the other hand, have a life sentence of those images in my head.

    I look back over my career and wonder how some guys do this without a relationship with God.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      I think we all have had cases that didn’t turn out the way we wanted. I have had murder cases dropped which still bother me. Thanks for sharing Richard.

      Reply
  • James Teel April 29, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Thanks, Bart. I retired yesterday after just over 28 years on the job. After I reached 50, I knew I was done. I spent half of my career as a fatality crash investigator. There are things that aren’t just burned into my mind, they’re seared in. I’ve also never known weekends off like “normal” people. Sure, I’ve had one weekend day off, but never both of them. It’s time to let someone younger take the helm.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Thanks James. It is definitely a young mans profession. Enjoy your retirement!

      Reply
    • Kevin Hussey May 1, 2017 at 4:04 am

      I retired after 40 years Police service in UK. 15 yeras of that as a Traffic Sgt investigating fatalitys. Yesterday a software developer said I was lucky to have been able to retire (early) I had to stifle what I wanted to say. New neighbour. These people fortuantley for them will never have to see what we have seen. I am glad for them thats the case. Lots of cooments here that hit a cord.

      Reply
  • Robbie Baron April 29, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I hope you’re not serious that that’s the last picture you smiling brother. That doesn’t sound healthy. I’ve been lucky in my ability to leave work at work. I’ve a psychological ritual in that I never put on my uniform until I am about to leave the house and I take it off as soon as I get home. This allows me to clearly separate work from home, I’ve always found this works well for me. I was also lucky enough to switch to a general detective unit shortly after my son was born, so I haven’t been to a dead kid call since I’ve had my own.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Thanks Robbie. I do smile. And laugh. The old photo just struck me how big my smile was back in the beginning.

      Reply
  • Ed Pyrcioch April 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

    You are so right Bart. I spent 32 yrs with the Chicago Police Department as a Patrol Officer, a Tactical Officer, A Gang Crimes Officer, and a Homicide Detective. The good thing is the brain has a way of blocking out a lot of the bad things and experiences we as police officers have seen and experienced. I loved the job, but I am glad I am now retired. It takes its toll on you and your family. There were also many funny things that we experienced and great friendships made that we have to this day. A front row seat to the greatest show on earth.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Truer words have not been spoken Ed. I remember a retired Chicago cop once told me that “we don’t get paid for what we are doing right now, we get paid for what we might have to do”.

      Reply
      • Ron Jackson May 1, 2017 at 4:18 pm

        That retired, Chicago cop probably read that quote, from a Fire House wall.

        Reply
  • Dave April 29, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I was able to retire after 29 years of active service and accumulating 1 year of sick leave. My career started at the age of 21, I worked patrol division for the first 11 years in a municipal department, 12 hour shifts, 7a -7p 2weeks 7p – 7a 2weeks, Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, school functions all were missed unless they fell on the days off. Snow, hurricanes, floods, riots aka college celebrations all took priority over the personal life. Law Enforcement is not a “job” it is a career that takes precedent over most aspects. after the municipal job I went to the state level and had a slightly better schedule but now worked rural areas by myself, rely upon myself to lake it home. 18 years later i got to retire as a sergeant. Now I am in the private sector dealing with regulatory issues, there is stress but nothing like when you are in uniform. The private sector has very few incidents where it is critical to someones life, dealing with life changing events are extremely rare. I no longer deal with the fear of being shot, contracting a contagious disease, dealing with the public who cannot figure out how to handle their problems and no longer going to the victims who refuse to get out of their situations and continue to be victimized. I miss the people who worked with me but never have second thought of the administration who always treated you like you were guilty of any crazy accusation against you. Yes I got to retire, at 50 years old but I bet i did one hell of a lot more than those who work much longer before getting to retire. Just think you could have taken on the challenge and walked the line and you would “maybe” have made it, but you probably would not have sacrificed the stuff that the officers and their families do. Oh by the way, after 15 days of retirement I am back working in the private sector….I have seen both sides….

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for the comment Dave. Have a great weekend!

      Reply
  • Charles April 29, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Great article. I’ve got 28 years with my current agency, and about 4 months to go. Saw many bad things, but the dead infant haunts me more than any of the others–including shootings I’ve been in. I hope that my fellow retired brothers and sisters enjoy retirement as much as I plan to…never looking back; attentive to God and family, and ready to golf, fish, hunt, read, build things, and travel. The next chapter is well deserved, and there is no guilt, or animosity, toward those who will never understand anyway.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      Well Charles, I am now jealous. Enjoy your retirement and thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Lisa Smith April 29, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I am the wife of a 25 year and still going LEO who has worked the roaf, done K9, taught bike patrol, did 8 long years of undercover narcotics and is now criminal investigator looking at possibly retiring next May. I have been a nurse for 25yrs and am grateful that we are able to come home to each other and talk about the tragedy and triumphs we see everyday. It always feels good to get it out and know we can count on each other to listen. However, I know there are still things that haunt my husband.. the difficulty he has sleeping, nightmares he won’t discuss, fear that the informants that trusted him will get out of jail and harm his family, constantly watching, looking over his shoulder, always the protector. People have absolutely no idea what you all experience. My son has joined the ARMY and I fear he will live this same lifestyle we have, but we are ever so proud of him. Thank you all for your dedication, sacrifice and service to protecting us all. My prayers are always with you and your families.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Thank you Lisa for your candid comment. Nursing is also a profession that clearly should allow for an early retirement in my opinion. Good luck to your son!!

      Reply
  • Jeff Ficht April 29, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    When u talk about stress I completely agree that’s the number one factor. However, I believe it’s stress from within the agency. The deadlines they have (I am a Detective) and the politics that go with it. I will deal with a felony many times over with less stress. JMO.

    Reply
    • David Ratay April 30, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      I agree. I did 27 years on the road and retired March 1st. My beloved public, as a group, can cause stress, but the people I worked with and for caused me the most stress. And those are the ones that should know better…I don’t have too many regrets but I am glad it’s over. I’m 54 by the way.

      Reply
      • Lance Miles May 1, 2017 at 6:05 am

        Total agreement on where the stress comes from. I am getting out after only 17 + years. I have worked my entire career “underground” Detention and Correction. I have been out to assist on a suicide. I have seen many evil people and been in several fights. The worst part though, is the lack of support from above. That and the dept. I am with and have been for the last 10 years is a dead end place.

        Reply
        • Ranger Moore May 7, 2017 at 11:34 pm

          We (Officers) can all understand, I too have had the exact same feelings towards the job. It took several different Sheriff’s, LT’s, SGT’s etc.. before I came to a place where I am very happy. The big problem was that it took 23 years for this to happen. I now have 25 years with the same department. Its to bad that I didn’t start my career in this manner. I believe that (we) Officers were taught the right classes BUT in the wrong order. The classes I take now, teach me about stress, awareness, health & over all wellness dealing with other supervisors and personal relationships. These are the first things we should all learn. I was like so many, SWAT, shooting, k-9 and the rest of the action stuff. I wish, just ONE GOOD LEADER would have taught me more than being hard charging. All I can do now is help lead others in a better direction so the younger officers have a much better chance because the job is getting crazy. God Bless

          Reply
  • Andrea McLellan April 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Fantastic article. For 12 years I humped a Shamu then spent 10 as child abuse detective. Retired on my 50th birthday. Couldn’t do it for another day. I’m 61 now; still have the recurrent nightmares but finally getting “my humanity” back.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks Andrea. “For 12 years I humped a shamu”..?? If this is police talk it’s one I’ve never heard of before. But it made me laugh.

      Reply
      • Tanya April 29, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        He drove a black and white

        Reply
        • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 2:44 pm

          Thanks Tanya. We never had black and whites. We had light blue and white and now just white.

          Reply
          • davep326 May 1, 2017 at 3:39 am

            People just do not get it. They say we volunteered for this type of work. Yes, we did, but very few if any of us really knew at the time exactly what we would experience. Even after being retired for 11 years after a 32 yr career, I still see things that civilians do not see, I check rooftops, check people on the street for suspicious bulges where there should be none, and my body is still working late tours. Police work is the only job where you can’t afford to lose a fistfight. Your family can never be sure that they may never see us again when we leave for work. There aren’t many jobs that cause as much stress. Divorce, alcoholism, suicides, bad backs and heart problems are just some of the perks that come with police work. I’m not looking for, nor do I want, any sympathy. I just want civilians to understand that police work is nothing at all like normal jobs. Looking back, I have to say that I loved my job, but if I was a young guy these days, I would really think long and hard before pinning on a badge and strapping on a gun. Your only backup on the street is other cops. Those are your only friends; not even politicians back up the police from the slanderous attacks that we have been enduring for the past 8 years, or so.

      • Chris christensen April 29, 2017 at 3:29 pm

        I am guessing Shamu, “whale”, is the old classic Caprice. Pushing patrol for “12” years. I have heard that term lots. We had the old Vic’s here but I would have loved a Caprice with the LS1 Vette engine. Whoa fast. The new cars are nothing like those classics.

        Reply
        • Dwayne Morrison May 2, 2017 at 6:56 am

          Hi Chris, I’m a front line LEO here in Australia and have been so for the past 31 years. I currently run a Highway Patrol and I remember when Holden Australia built left hand drive Caprice sedans for the US LEO market. We were and still at present running the Holden SS sedan with the now 6.2 litre V8, until they stop manufacturing Holdens over here in October 2017. Sound tough and go well. We were all jealous of the US Caprice as it had cup holders in them. All our cop cars don’t have them, they put switch gear in the area where they are ? Anyway, fantastic reading through all the posts and I concur with everyone’s experience. It’s no different over here. The same stresses and policing issues with Command outweighs the stresses bought on by dealing with crooks, 10 fold. I’m 55 and hopefully I’ll see out another 5 years and that will do me.

          I’ve been battling PTSD for the last 3 years ( possibly more, but been in denial !!! )
          I’m still here solely due to my beloved wife and a fantastic Psych and understanding work colleagues. This Doesn’t include Command as the lip service that has been and still is given is very obvious and the pressures that are placed on members are unrelenting.

          My wife has also been a front line LEO for the past 24 years and between us too may bad stories to recount, but everyone of us can recount them.

          Questions I have been asked and also of myself are WHY do WE keep doing what we do to the detriment of our families and ourselves?

          WHY, because that’s what we do ! We take care of everyone else and forget about ourselves??? Take care out there guys.

          Great article Bart and some very honest and revealing comments.

          Great insight to what WE do and experience as a LEO. Hopefully the Non LEO’s reading this thread will get more of an understanding of what it takes to be one of us.

          Thank you.

          Reply
          • Bart Proctor May 2, 2017 at 7:23 am

            Thanks Dwayne For the kind words. My brother has lived in Australia for the past 21 years (Canberra) and his wife was once a psychologist for the AFP. You guys seem to be way ahead of us here in the US when it comes to having these types of services readily available without the stigma. Take care Dwayne and good on ya.

  • John Hargraves April 29, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    The vast majority of calls for me were fun, exciting, and interesting. There were some, however, that kept me awake at night. One of the worst was a call where a 4 year old was beaten to death and her baby brother was beaten and had cigarette burns on his penis. The house was a flop house for about 6 meth freaks that all either partook in or witnessed the abuse without doing anything. How we managed to process the crime without just executing the entire group still amazes me. Retired at 54. Miss the camaraderie, don’t miss the BS.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks John. Your honesty is much appreciated. A lot of us really have no one to talk to about the things we have seen because everyone is so totally engrossed with their own lives. I remember a question posed to me at the wife’s family dinner a few years back.

      One of them asked me if anything interesting had happened lately on the job. I mentioned a dead 7 year old girl I was working and was immediately scolded for talking about something so depressing. They don’t ask me about work anymore.

      Reply
      • Judy mottern April 30, 2017 at 2:28 am

        Only cops can talk to other cops, those are the only people that understand me.The first dead body I ever saw was in the trunk of a vehicle.The neighbours were complaining about a smell at the house next door.Nobody had seen the neighbor.he had mail in box, news paper on pourch……we opened trunk and what did we find, the man that lived there, had no hands, no feet and no head…..that never bothered me.

        Reply
  • Mike Killingbeck April 29, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Wow, nailed it! I’ve read a lot of articles about retirement, the effects of the job after retirement and the like but I never felt like i totally identified with them. Your article is dead on and I have to thank you for it. I feel like I wrote it myself. I spent 25 years in a suburb just outside Detroit. 21 of 25 in uniform working afternoons. The remainder of my time was in SOU and DB. The dead bodies are one thing but being exposed to the pain and suffering experienced by their loved ones visits me most. I loved my job and was very aggressive. At the risk of sounding arrogant I will say that I was a “good cop.” Always in the think of it. If it happened between 3p-11p I was there. I caught bad guys. I’ve been retired for just over a year now and believe me it was “time to go.”

    It pisses me off when friends comment about “nice being retired at 50.” At the same time I understand that they dont understand because of the excellent job I and all my brothers and sisters in blue did/do on a daily basis. It funny how it seems like they (non-cop friends), cant believe that I have no plans to go back to work. If you did the job like I did the job, you would understand.

    Thanks for the article Bart.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 29, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Wow, thanks Mike for the kind words. Writing in a blog style allows me the freedom to speak in a more conversational tone that is more relate able. Enjoy your much deserved retirement!

      Reply
  • Mike Thiac April 29, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    A point I’ve made about this job to many people, it requires a certain detachment, if you will, to the suffering of others. It sounds morbid, but if you don’t have it you will go insane. Seeing a crackhead die from an overdose and knowing he may be a piece of shit, but he was someone’s kid. And he’s dead before 30. Seeing the dead body of an infant. Having to comfort the family of the deceased, complete strangers, but they need comforting. And you must get a statement from them on something they want pushed from their mind. Seeing an elderly woman robbed for the 20 dollar necklace that was given to her by her dad.

    It does get to you.

    Reply
  • Jeff Robbins April 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Great article that the public needs to see and digest. I worked a large and small agency in patrol, detectives and SWAT. Finished up the career as a supervising probation officer.

    My concern that I want to bring up is that I have read many comments on articles that discuss underfunded police/fire public safety pensions around the country.

    Most of those comments are from private sector workers and most of them seem envious and are hostile to the current defined public safety retirement pensions and actually complain that PS employees get to retire so early while they labor on into their 60s and beyond since private sector defined pensions are diminishing.

    Many of these comments suggest that public safety servants should get a 401K type retirement like they do in the private sector, and balk at any tax increase to cover the longer term under-funded PS pension issues because it comes out of their ‘pocket’.

    401Ks are risky and Social Security is underfunded and could sustain cuts in the future. Many fiscal conservative politicians would love to abolish Social Security completely and are on-board with cutting PS defined pensions.

    Meanwhile these same people cant praise the ‘thin blue line’ enough.

    Reply
  • Pat Taylor April 29, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Bart, thank you for writting this, I am an 18 year officer, I have been shot on duty, I have take someones life on duty, and been on the scene of so many shootings, murders, suicides, and fatal car crashes that I have lost count, I work in one of the most dangerous large cities in the U.S. and you are right my non-police friends thank me for my service but have no clue of the physical pains from the fights I have fought for them and others I dont even know, I watched my dad who was also an officer drink himself to death and die at 56 years old because of the crime scenes in his mind, I am lucky that I dont have the problem that he had, but there are problems, the public we serve sleeps well at night while we wake every 2 hours or so for the dreams we have, or to change positions from the pains that have no cure, how many times have you heard I’ll have your badge, my reply you could not handle it even if I gave it to you. Thanks again Bart.

    Reply
  • Rick McKnight April 29, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Absolutely bang on with the article and reasons. Did 32 yrs in major Canadian city, and have been retired for 10 yrs now. How many times did I hear that it wasnt fair that I could retire at 51yrs old. I knew inside I had earned it and have never looked back. Miss it, yes, but its a different work environment now. Still get together with old comrades and work friends to re hash old stories……funny how its always the funny stories that get told. We all STILL keep the bad crap inside. Unless you have been there you have no idea, is so true. Always remember at any sort of gathering when I was a young and new officer, everyone wanted to hear stories, so the funny ones where told, and people laughed and said “and you get paid to do that”…..that’s when I would then say, “yes but let me tell you about last week when I had to sit with a dead body waiting for the coroner and body removal service for a whole shift, and it was in a third floor walk up, in August, with no air conditioning, and the body had been there for about a week……just pass time watching the maggots……that’s when people went quiet and changed the subject…..thank you..another drink please.

    Reply
  • Dean Vosler April 29, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I have been retired for six years after working over 28 yrs. The last 12 as a detective. I decided it was time to retire while witnessing one of hundreds of autopsies. Yes babies to the elderly murder victims. I had just lost my cocker spaniel the day before and it dawned on me that I felt more for my dog than I did the 34 yr old male overdose victim. Then the city decided to cut our pay, force us to pay more into the pension system and insurance. The final straw was one of the City Commissioners statements that he thought we should use volunteer police officers rather than paided police. Assholes like this are protected by us and have no clue what training and dedication it takes to perform the job. I retired on my 60 th birthday to take care of my dying wife and to protect my pension and medical insurance. Would I recommend the job to a young person, no. Did I like the work, yup.

    Reply
  • Gary April 29, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    The sound a rope makes when you cut it and there’s a dead body hanging at the end of it.

    Reply
  • David Holmes April 29, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    It’s a great article.. as a Patrol Officer I had two back to back SID’s..as a School Officer I then had a cluster suicide by a group of three close High School friends (one was an Officers son, one hung himself behind my school), another student suicide by shotgun (I identified him), several students who died in accidents or medical reasons, a staff death, a students mother who died while I was holding her (car accident near the school) one adult suicide I cut down, two adult suicides by shotgun, one adult suicide by drowning (walked into the river), and the usual unattended deaths, and my Police Sgt died by friendly fire in a shoot-out at a Housing complex (I evacuated him from where he fell)..after 34 yrs I retired.. I have high hopes that someday I’ll feel clean again.. and my friends kid me about having a pension.. I guess I see their point..

    Reply
  • George April 29, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    I still remember my first suicide. A welfare check request from out of town family. We discovered the subject hanging inside his garage. He had been there for a few days. My partner and I couldn’t get far enough away from the house, until the detectives and a JP arrived. I think the whole neighborhood could smell it. Every now and then, that “whiff” of air comes creeping across my olfactory subconciousness.

    Reply
  • Randall April 29, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    I am in year number 36 of the investigation of or the supervision of investigations into physical or sexual maltreatment of children, child fatalities, child pornography, and child exploitation, both online and not. Surprisingly, I manage to leave it at the office, but there is not much I have not seen at this point.

    Reply
  • R. Churchey April 30, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I remember a Sunday morning unknown trouble call . When my rookie partner and I got there a hysterical woman was near the front door screaming and crying, pointing towards the hallway
    I went down the hall while my partner tried to calm the woman. I found a dad doing CPR on his 18 month son. I pushed him aside to continue CPR even though the baby had lividity and had been deceased for awhile.
    I arranged for an autopsy. The most troubling thing about the call was watching my partners reaction to the autopsy room, as he had a son the same age. If I think about the call and close my eyes I see the baby’s face being peeled off his head. That is the image that has stayed with me, and I have been on the job since 1975 in two states. Saw many other horrific things, but nothing remains that vivid when I remember.

    Reply
  • Cubs Win! April 30, 2017 at 12:34 am

    1029 days left to go, I work in a major metropolitan area in northern Illinois. I’ve seen lots and done lots, I’m proud to be “the police”. I’m sad to say I’ve attended too many police funerals. The memories of watching so many police officer’s children and widows cry as the officer’s flag draped coffins pass the ranks with the sound of bagpipes wailing will stay with me forever. All the death we see, all the suffering we witness first hand will haunt us forever. All the troubled and damaged kids, tainted for life by their own loved ones through physical, emotional and all too often sexual abuse. Meeting those same victims years later on the other side of that interview room, the kids who have grown to become predators themselves. I’ve had some victories and some failures. There is always “the one that got away”. However I’m proud to have had the honor of serving with excellent coppers working tirelessly on all those cases that resulted in the incarceration of the predators and the killers who are safely rotting away in the penitentiary. As a police career comes to a close we look for the escape. The cottage, the fishing boat or the reclining chair….the opportunity to relive the weekends, holidays, birthdays and sporting events that we missed. Time with family, kids, maybe grandkids. Many cops by this stage are separated, divorced or struggling to hang on to the spouse strong enough to endure the insanity we call an occupation. 20 years on this job is a long time to live this way, 30 years is almost an eternity. When people say “oh why do you cops get to retire early and get a pension” I smirk and think because the average life expectancy of a retired police officer is about 7 years. Get out when you can folks and live to collect. We’ve earned it!

    Reply
  • Dan M April 30, 2017 at 12:48 am

    “Only” 23 years here, all but 2 out on the road. Tens of thousands of vehicle stops, investigations, calls for service, crashes, you name it. Violence and evil and misery on a daily basis. It may not be combat but we never get rotated out. Through all that I can’t recall what I had for breakfast I can still see the face and remember the story of every fatality that I experienced.

    Maybe that too will fade post-retirement. Find me in a few years and I’ll let you know.

    Reply
  • Mike April 30, 2017 at 4:12 am

    After a well fare check of a 79 year old female, who had not been seen or heard from for 10 plus days, I found her laying in her bed and my partner couldn’t handle going inside the house. She had a dog who after 10 days without food did what any animal would do and began eating the only viable food source in the house. She stuck with me for a good 3 months. When the funeral home came to pick her up I had to be inside and when they moved her she popped and the smell that filled the entire house…wow. To this day I carry a special protective mask for signal 7’s to keep the smell out.

    Reply
  • John April 30, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I recently retired with 26 years of service. I still remember the first death of an infant. Early in my career a two year old drowned in a fish pond and when I arrived the mom was attempting CPR. I took over until fire rescue arrived but the child could not be saved. At the time my daughter was th same age and all I could think of in my mind was that was her dying in my arms. I know it sounds stupid but that was what my mind was trying to tell me. I cried for days, felt like killing myself, but got help from the department for treatment. It took a long time to get over. I don’t share this story often but want to thank all of you who shared in this blog because it helps me reading the stories and knowing I’m not alone.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Thanks John for being so open. It takes guts, especially cops, to open up about what has effected them on the job so deeply. If you ever need to talk to someone just message me. Take care.

      Reply
      • Donald Gill April 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm

        I was sitting on a exam table when my doctor came in. He got within 10 inches of my face and looked at me with “that look” and said “retire now, you’ll get at least 10 more years of living, if you don’t you will be dead in 2″. I teared up, yeah tough guy that has seen and done everything as a veteran cop for 36 years. I did not want to quit, retire, my people needed me but had to let go. Retirement didn’t go well. Drinking and bunch of other crap to destroy myself. I started to write about everything I did as a cop and filled up my computer with memories I didn’t want. It saved me! I take four pills for my health problems and the fifth pill is writing. Find your fifth pill and you will find help. Another thing I did was move from where I worked cause when I always drove around I saw ghosts. I’d point to a parking lot and say to the wife ” bought dope there” or ” got in heck of a fight over there”. Yes, the nightmares will linger and when you hear sirens you look and listen and wish you still were in the fight. I come from a family of cops, I being the first. Sometimes I feel guilty for those that followed me but now much pride for them that did. I tell them to retire as soon as they can and then their last call will be to save themselves, you deserve it. Been retired 5 years.

        Reply
  • John O April 30, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Bart, thank you firstly for serving all of us.i was not on the job myself, but both my father and my favorite uncle were in NY in the 70’s and 80’s. Unc did 40 yrs between NY and the Fla, Dad was out after 14 on a disability. Very few thinks shock or upset me, but some of the things those guys both saw in their time on the job…I can only say DAMN.Hard to figure out how they kept it together. There are far more of us out here who support what you do, then there are who think you are corrupt and brutal. The people who oppose you all have an agenda, and really, their opinions don’t matter.The politics suck though. However, the majority of us feel as long as there are good guys out there like you,who run toward trouble and violence the people out here can sleep soundly at night. God bless you, your family and everyone who puts on a vest and a holster before they go to work.Everyone I know, support all of you fully, and always will.

    Reply
  • Everett Thrall April 30, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Hey Bart……Just wanted to add my “two cents” and let you know that I really appreciated your article – Having retired from Atlanta after 20 years and then continuing to work with a local county and town department for another 15……I finally hung it up several years ago……Of course, I think with all of the recent emotions running so negative against our brothers who still struggle with the day to day challenge to enforce the law, it is a different world on the street now……I am 70 yoa now and my heart goes out to these guys and gals in blue……Bout all I can do to support is keep a Blue Live Matters bracelet on and a Support your Local Police sign in the front yard……More to the point, Yes, the tragedies we witnessed on a daily basis and the mental physical stress our bodies endured certainly does add up……10 years of my tour I worked High Crime Foot Patrol in Midtown Atlanta……today I can only walk about 100 yards before having to take a break…..YET God I still miss it…..I really do!!

    Thanks again Bart for bringing a smile to an old guys face……and thanks to all of you guys and gals out there trying to keep us safe….God Bless all of you!!!

    Reply
  • Gary April 30, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Here’s a nugget to pass along to the next generation. We had a check the welfare call one day on a guy who hadn’t been seen in over a week. It was summertime and very hot. No air conditioning in the apartment. Flies swarming at the door. We make entry and the smell hit us like a pissed off linebacker. I was a young officer at the time and the older officer behind me grabbed me by the collar and dragged me out of there and closed the door. The old officer told me we already knew the guy was dead, so why hurry.

    He called the fire department. I was confused by this until the firemen arrived and the older officer asked them to fit us with their air tanks and face masks. Made sure the face masks had a good tight seal and we went back inside.

    We found the guy in the bath tub with a shotgun. He had put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. It was a mess, but that job was a lot easier without having to deal with the smell of death. I never forgot to pass that along to every rookie I trained after that.

    27 years. Over and out.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Thanks Gary. For the exceptionally stinky ones I use this trick; take a pot from the kitchen and put some water on to boil. Add ground coffee. Works like a charm. Obviously maintaining integrity of the scene of course.

      Reply
      • Shilah May 1, 2017 at 8:34 am

        My husband is a funeral director; when he has to do a ” difficult ” ( i.e. smelly ) removal, he puts Vicks vaporub under his nose. It seems to keep out most (sometimes all ) smells. In EMS we use minty toothpaste, same purpose.

        Reply
  • GREGORY KRAL (Miami-Dade Police Department, 1983-2008) April 30, 2017 at 9:44 am

    SUPERIOR ARTICLE. I might also add, as I’m sure all retired crime fighting cops are eager to do, that the often less than milquetoast administrative support wasn’t conducive to a ‘healthy productive crime fighting career’. I’ve been in fatal shoot outs and been shot, however; over time, I experienced more stress from the drama created by our version of the Cambridge Apostles at Headquarters. My career, all of which was spent in Uniform Patrol (predominantly in Dade County, Florida’s highest crime areas) and SRT (our full-time SWAT team), spanned over 25 years. I worked during the so called “Paradise Lost” years in Miami. I am very proud of the lives saved and criminals brought to justice, as well as other accomplishments, by my brethren crime fighters and myself, however; I’m relieved to be retired. Godspeed and best wishes BART PROCTOR from a buoyantly retired Miami-Dade Police Officer.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Thanks Gregory. You should consider starting a blog because you are obviously an exceptional writer. Sign up through my Hostgator link and you will see how easy it really is to start one (and yes I get a couple of bucks for each sign up). Have a great weekend!

      Reply
      • GREGORY KRAL (Miami-Dade Police Department, 1983-2008) April 30, 2017 at 11:38 am

        Thanks Bart. My former English teacher must be rolling over about now. I will definitely think about the blog after a couple of cold ones this afternoon. Once again, Godspeed and best wishes from a brother crime fighter.

        Reply
  • Vicki April 30, 2017 at 10:05 am

    First, I have to thank Law Enforcement for their service, and you Bart as well. You are the ones we call, even on Sunday, to assist us – the Child Protection Investigators – who are on the front lines working these horrific heinous crimes against children. The dead, broken and battered and abused children. The horrific cases of Domestic Violence. So I thank you.

    We are the forgotten ones. The ones with the same PTSD, secondary or vicarious trauma. The ones where there is no protection of the Union or Workers Comp when diagnosed after working the same horrific cases.

    They talk a big game, “take care of yourself”, resliliency and self-care. But at the end of the day we are replaceable, expendable, and unprotected. When we work a bad case, 100+ hour weeks when it’s bad, the nightmares, the explosive family making threats, on and on – we are expected to keep going. We get to keep working with the people who commit these vile acts after the fact, long-term.

    We don’t get time off to get help professionally and be “cleared” back to duty. When we do take time off or seek treatment we are labeled as weak and get the “maybe this job is too much for you.”

    Child Protection workers rarely make it to “retirement.” And, what we see stays with us a lifetime.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 11:21 am

      First off Vicki, thank you for writing your response. And I agree, you guys do see your fare share of horrific scenes and trauma. And I did see where you advised that you had messaged me but I never received it.

      And thanks for not sending me a wall of text (it took me a second to figure out that you are a blogger Ha)

      Reply
  • Patrick Beaty April 30, 2017 at 10:49 am

    My 23 year career ended with my 4th knee injury and Surgery. Eventually a total knee replacement and problems with my back. During my early years we didn’t have tasers so I had to depend on a good right hook and sleeper choke hold. I never lost a battle but have to admit I have had my ass handed to me more times than I would to remember. Every day when I wake up I am reminded of the toll my body took protecting and serving my community and my country.
    Semper Fi.

    Reply
  • Jon April 30, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Good read! I retired after 30 years. After retirement, I ran into a kid who had been in Iraq for one tour (8 months). He proudly extolled that he was receiving treatment and disability from the VA because of PTSD. He saw one dead body while driving down a roadway! You have got to be kidding me! I have seen my officers shot at and I have seen my officers shot, I have been shot at more times than I can count and I have returned fire, killing two. So after thinking about PTSD and doing a little investigation I came to the conclusion that I, and I would say most every cop that has worked a major metro area for a significant period of time, has some form/level of PTSD. After several years of retirement I still have nightmares, loose sleep, I am suspicious of everyone, I don’t like crowds, etc, etc. One call, but in no way my worst crime/murder scene, involved three teenage boys the Saturday before they were to start their senior year of high school. They were playing video games in a bedroom, you know one of those “bedrooms” you can barely fit a twin bed in, and they had gotten hold of a bottle of cheap “raspberry ripple”. Well, also in the bedroom was a pistol grip 12 gauge shotgun, stored action open but with ammo in the magazine. Video games, are or were (I’m too old), only allowed two of the boys to play at a time. Well, that left the third boy idle time to find the shotgun. As fate would have it the third boy, not in a safe way but in a jovial way, pointed the shotgun in one boy’s face at a distance of maybe six inches, saying he wanted to play next. In the same moment he racked the slide forward with his finger griping the trigger. Boom! The shotgun goes off, as does the boy’s head. Lucky me happens to be just around the corner. When I got there, mom who had been in her room, was sitting on the floor, cradling her son’s headless body, rocking him and humming lullabies. I can still smell the shotgun round and hear the sound of the blood and flesh dripping off the walls and ceiling. Mom never acknowledged me. What do you do?! How do you process that crap and go on to the next call about someone’s neighbor’s cat shitting in their rose garden. Really?!?! Oh, and then I want to complain because the officer didn’t seem concerned with my problem. I just left mom where she was, secured the shotgun and waited for the cavalry at the end of the hall. I pushed a car for 20 years as a deputy and sergeant responding to at least one major scene every shift, 4 days a week, and that call is one I still remember almost every night. I have forgotten more than I can remember, at least consciously, and I do not want to remember. So, that is why we get to retire at 50.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Thanks Jon for your thoughtful and engaging response. Looks like you had your fill. Teenage boys and firearms are always a recipe for disaster.

      Reply
    • Shilah May 1, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Sir…my heart goes out to you. You have more than earned not just a pension, but rest.
      …..i hope there’s some way you can get ptsd therapy; you earned it, and i humbly suggest that it can help. A good friend (combat vet) finally got “nightmare therapy’, sfter years of nightmares. It involved him recalling, verbally, his worst nightmare, then writing out a new & innocuous ending and reading it aloud to himself for 20 minutes just before falling asleep. Eventually he did dream the new ending, and that one went awsy & stayed away. He then went on to deal with the next one in the lineup. Every person is different and i’m sorry i dont know what will help you, but i do know you deserve help, and its out there somewhere. I kmow there is something that will help. You deserve peace.

      My dad came back from viet nam with ptsd that was never treated ( unless alcoholism counts). Please try. You deserve good, you deserve peace. You bravely got the Bad Guys off the streets, and i give you my heartfelt thanks. Now, theres one last job: get the Bad guys out of your head. They dont deserve to be there, they deserve to be forgotten.

      Reply
  • Adam April 30, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Great article! First dead body I saw was even before I had a badge and gun. I was taking a co-op class in college and would ride along with police in my hometown. One afternoon we got a call of a missing man after a family dispute. Later that night the family called back. The husband (and father) went into his woodshed with a hunting rifle and bit the barrel. It looked like something out of a haunted house. His face was split open and looked like a star fish and his brains were lying on his lap.
    Now I’m a border patrol agent and have come across a few dead bodies in the desert. The worst part about them is you always smell them before you see them and that stench is something I’ll never be able to forget. However, I will take finding a million of these dead bodies rather than a dead kid or baby. I know it’s part of the job but I think that would destroy me.

    Thank you to every one of you for your service. Stay strong and watch your six!!

    Reply
  • Steve Broome April 30, 2017 at 11:35 am

    My very first DB call was as a reserve in a small town and it was a 15 year old girl who had put a .44 Ruger to her head to end her life in her bedroom. Mom, dad and her siblings were all downstairs watching tv and dad found her. My first dead baby call came a few years later when I was working full time for another department. The call came in at about 0500 and dispatch told me that it was a baby who was not breathing. I got there and mom was holding the little one. It appeared that the baby was deceased but I wanted to give the baby to the paramedics who were just a couple of minutes behind me. I had to use a small amount of force to get the baby as mom was not going to give it to me. I gave the baby to the paramedics and they immediately started cpr as they exited the apartment. The ME later determined that the baby died from SIDS. I certainly hope that no other first responder ever has to go thru an experience like that!!

    I hope that any officer who finds that the stress of the job is adversely affecting their lives, will talk to someone and get some support. There are way too many officers taking their lives and yet things do not have to end that way!!

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor April 30, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Thanks Steve. A lot of us here have had similar calls however they are unique, like yours, to each individual officer. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  • John April 30, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    22 year veteran here and I have a few calls that literally haunt me. Off and on nightmares for years now. I had an E.R nurse do a ride along with me and started by telling me ” believe me we have seen everything in the E.R”. We responed to a call where a young mother died of a heroin overdose and somehow her two year old daughter survived for three days. Refrigerator open and thawed food everwhere .The child thought mommy was sleeping and snuggled with her stinking body at night. The girl had taken the needle from mom’s arm and played doctor even sticking the needle back in mom in different areas. Nuse could not stop crying. She conceded they actually don’t see everything.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 1, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      Those nurses are a salty bunch. I have the utmost respect for them.

      Reply
  • DJ April 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks for your words! I retired in 2004 at 48 1/2 after 25 years..worked the jails, patrol, detectives (including child abuse and sex assaults), promoted and finally retired as a Lt.
    I’m asked all the time why retire so young? Because I woke up one day and just couldn’t do it any more. I had reached my limit. Hubby had 31 years on so we retired the same day. Miss the fun stuff. Don’t miss the bad, but like many others who have commented, I remember those calls like it was yesterday. We loved it…we survived it..and now retirement is grand. Our plan? Be retired longer than we worked. I’m half way there!

    Reply
    • Shilah May 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

      I love your plan ! I have several cousins & friends in LE and it does take a toll. Good for you. I wish you many good years.

      Reply
  • Four Reasons Cops Retire Before You – Wisconsin Precision Concealment April 30, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    […] The 4 Reasons Cops Retire Before You By Bart Proctor April 28, 2017 […]

    Reply
  • Ron Faldik April 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Just as bad or maybe worse is being a Firefighter/Paramedic…..No rest ever when you go in for that 24 hour shift

    Reply
  • Scott April 30, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Hit the nail on the head. Great Article. My first day on the job I’m sitting in the COP’s office filling out forms when a triple fatal call comes in. Two ladies run a stop sign and get broadsided by a tanker carrying acid. The whole thing catches on fire and the ladies and trucker are burned to death. I’m thinking….Holy shit what am I getting myself into! 28 years later my beat partner is shot and I’m the second car there. He dies in our arms…… the 17 months before I turned 50 and could retire seemed to last an eternity.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 1, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      Thank you Scott. I think we all thought the same thing when we started. Enjoy your retirement!

      Reply
  • Marilyn Woodall April 30, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Your smile is part of the permanent makeup that keeps you going Bart. You use more muscles to frown than to smile. You will know when it’s time to retire. Your articles are greatly appreciated as you are a walking book of knowledge that the world needs more of.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Marilyn, you will always be my number one fan. You have been here since the beginning and supported me in this undertaking. Thank you!

      Reply
  • Jake April 30, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Giving CPR to a small kid when he’s been dead for 15 minutes, hung himself after being teased at school. Bothers me worse than involved shooting, violent death and the steady flow of overdoses

    Reply
  • Jamie Thompson April 30, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    After 20 plus years in the law enforcement world, I completely feel everything that everyone has written here. Although I now work in the upper echelons, I can vividly remember every death call, every accident scene with deaths, every suicide call, every homicide call, and every autopsy I have ever attended. Early on in my career when I started as a 21 year old patrol officer, I had the occasion to respond to a car vs. 18 wheeler, wherein a father and five year child were injured and trapped in their vehicle. The father’s legs were pinned under the dash. The child was in her child restraint seat. I stayed with her until the ambulance arrived, holding her hand and reassuring her that everything would be okay. She was fine. Talkative. Scared, but otherwise appeared to be fine. She and her father were extracated and transported to the ER. As I was mopping up the crash scene and finishing my report, the ambulance driver called me and told me that the little girl had passed away at the ER. Being in a smaller municipality, I had to follow up the investigation at the hospital. Seeing the child that I had just talked to minutes earlier, now laying dead on a hospital cot changed my life. I never told anyone that they were going to be okay again. Worked many tragedies after that, but that one is always with me. Thanks for your blog.

    Reply
  • David Durkop April 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    I attended an autopsy of a 22 day old baby the week before last. Do you think that many people would trade places for an early retirement? I started in 1977 and retirement is nowhere in sight for me. Early retirement is a fantasy for many police officers.

    Reply
  • Edward D Murphy May 1, 2017 at 12:55 am

    This is my 30th year. This afternoon I was sent to an active shooter in Lajolla, 8 down , shots fired. It was code 4 before I arrived. I’m glad. I have no desire to see any more suffering. I’m actually better off if the victim is deceased. The chaos of bleeding victim and witnesses can be much more stressful.

    Reply
  • Lisa May 1, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Thank you for your service. And thank your family for being at your side. Please consider adding 911 dispatchers to the list of stressful jobs. I did 25 years as a dispatcher. We are the first contact on the scene. We aren’t physically in danger but we live right there with you when you arrive on scene. We hear you over the phone and radio when you start cpr or request another unit as we hear gunfire and anxiously wait to hear your voice again. I probably don’t need to tell you all the scenerios that a dispatcher was right there with you. We share the same schedules too 365 , 24/7. Thank you for what you have chosen to do. You made my job easier by being willing to go into those scenes. Please consider giving your dispatchers a nod of appreciation.

    Reply
  • Ed May 1, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Bart, the first thing I noticed about your blog page was the family photo. I just want you to know how much I appreciate that!!
    All “First Responders” have been exposed to things that the general public never will see or hear and because of that, we cannot rightfully expect them to understand us. That’s exactly why we are more comfortable talking with other’s in our field…. they won’t criticize us for how we feel and they actually DO understand the internal battle we deal with.
    BOTTOM LINE: All of us have been “forever” changed by our experiences. Knowing WHY I feel what I do gives me comfort because I know it is a price I have paid to do a job that most people would never do themselves.
    OLD MAN ON THE JOB: LOL…. I was the old man right from the beginning!! Since the age of five, all I ever wanted to do was be a motorcycle cop. The opportunity never presented itself until I was 38 years old. After a huge spiritual change in my personal life, the door opened and I went through it. Although I was much older than many in my academy, I believe I had some advantages over them….being a Vietnam veteran and general life experiences of working with people.
    Out of my 25 years in law enforcement, 23 of them were on the motorcycle squad…a life long dream!
    I was old when I started, but I was really old when I retired; 63 1/2 and absolutely ready to “get out of Dodge”!
    This past Saturday, I reached my “Five Year Mark”….the average life span of a retired cop. I am thankful to have beat that average.
    A YOUNG MAN’S GAME: I know that physical age has an impact (and some of my friends who are still working are starting to see this for themselves…snicker), but I believe the biggest factor is “years of exposure”. The more years of dealing with it, the more exhausted we become mentally….we simply don’t want to deal with it any more! I never read the news paper and sometimes I can’t watch the news or go to specific places because it causes me too much internal stress. Bad dreams are fewer and further in between thankfully.
    LIFE LESSONS: I very quickly learned how frail life really is, no matter what the age! We are always one heart beat away from eternity! Appreciate every moment and opportunity….it may be our last! Fight the temptation to withdraw from society and look for opportunities to help others…..especially other LEO’s !!! I will ALWAYS be there to help…no matter how old I get and I will always “Have their six” no matter the cost to me.
    ONE LAST THING: I fully believe there are two big points that all of us need to embrace. 1.) Be sure your life is based on who you are “outside” of the job!!! Keep it separated! Yes, I know, it will always influence who you are, but never make your job your life!! Above all else, I strongly encourage everyone to have a serious relationship with God; the only thing that keeps me semi-normal. Then your family should be next….NEVER put your job over them! 2.) Your job should never be about stats!!!!! No matter how hard you work, the reality of it is, you will never change the crime rate in your community and if this is what you live for, you will feel so empty when you retire. Dirt bags will always be dirt bags!! BUT…you CAN make a difference in individual lives! Focus on helping those individuals who will listen to you and never lose your compassion for those who are innocent victims. That’s where the game changer is.
    God Bless ALL first responders, and thank you Bart…..Bro Ed <

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 1, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Wow Ed. Go to my site and sign up with Hostgator and tell everyone your story. Great insight and wonderfully written.

      Reply
  • Robert Kays May 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Great article. I’ll be retiring at the end of this year from the California Highway Patrol. Having started my career in law enforcement in 1981 a lot has changed, but a lot remains the same. All of us in public safety see things we should never see and, unfortunately, can never forget. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 1, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Have a great retirement Robert. 1981 really, put your paperwork in now and enjoy the rest of your life brother!

      Reply
  • Brian May 1, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Bart. Great page! I retired at 42 after 20 years on the force. I’m in emergency management now. I had pretty much run the gambit of all the nasty things cops have to see and encounter, and thought that I could handle most anything. That was until one cold snowy Nebraska winter night, I was driving down I-80 and spotted some tire marks through the snow off the shoulder and over an embankment. I parked my cruiser on the side of the interstate & followed the tracks through the snow to find a vehicle wrapped around a tree. Inside the car was a 18 year-old girl in very bad shape. she was cold, bleeding and trapped in the car. I radioed for help but knew that it would be sometime before anyone could get there in the given the location, weather and road conditions. She asked me to stay with her, and I assured her that I would not leave her side. She told me her name and that she was a student and on her way home from Lincoln to Omaha for Christmas vacation. She was drifting in and out while I tried to keep her talking. She started crying and asked me to hold her hand and begged me not to leave. I didn’t, and she died a few minutes later with me still holding her hand.
    I tell you that story because up until this point, I had always seen death in the aftermath, when the pain, fear and despair was over. I had never been a “participant” in the process before. I think this particular incident affected more than any other in my career, and I have thought about it a lot.
    It was just a stroke of luck that I just happened to be driving by at that time and to see the skid marks through the blowing snow. To this day I can only think that God put me there at that place, and at that moment because he did not want this girl to die alone.

    Reply
    • Ed May 1, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Absolutely Brian !!!! It wasn’t by accident that you were there for her! I have been with three or four friends when they slipped into eternity…..so many mixed emotions and forever etched in our minds. On the positive side, like I shared earlier, it helps us to realize how frail life is and the need for us to be there for others when possible, before we reach the two minute warning in our own life. God Bless you for “listening” to yours instincts.

      Reply
  • Rev. David Crabtree May 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Your comments are spot on Bart. Now, I am not a LEO but I married into a family of them and have many friends who are. What I am is a combat veteran, so I have seen mans inhumanity to man on a large scale. After hearing my relatives stories, I am not sure that the difference, other than the location, is so much greater between the streets of home and the fields of battle in this way. Death, whether from the guns of an foreign enemy or from the guns of a gang member, is still a horrid affair. That of an innocent child just makes it worse. I also think that the mentality of a eager young officer, as you wrote, and that of a eager young recruit are rather similar. I know that it takes a very short time after seeing the results of battle, for the recruit to realize that though it may be the only way to deal with the problem, it is still a horrific way. You get sick, you never forget, and in a certain way you become immune to it for a while. All combat veterans are prepared for the horrors of war but we all want to feel safe and secure when we are at home. So we place our faith in the Law Enforcement Community to do that and, no matter what you hear or read, we thank you for your dedication and service.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Thank you sir for the kind words and perspective on this issue.

      Reply
  • Mike Zannitto May 1, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    I am not by no means tooting my own horn here. I am a 20 yrs LEO, medically retired from an on duty back injury.
    I have a unique background and skill set. I am a combat medic/veteran from the gulf war and have been s licensed nurse for more than 25 yrs.
    I have seen death and destruction and it never gets easy. People ask me all the time why I do the jobs I have done. My response is, I am all about serving others and helping those who cannot do for or help themselves.
    I know God has a plan for me and my calling was just that.
    God bless all those who serve. My message to those who doubt or have a negative outlook on law enforcement, I give them this, we all come from the human race and put our pants on the same way as everyone else. Do not be so quick to judge unless you fully understand the sacrifices we make every day. Some of will not ever see our families again, some of us will never have a family, some of us will lose our families but yet we all still go to work and make the country a safer place live n survive.

    Thanks for listening.

    I am starting a non profit Veterans and First Responders for a Better America.

    Vfrba2017@icloud.com

    Mike Z

    Reply
  • Ron Wray May 1, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Good article Bart. I retired from the Canadian Forces, where I served as an infanteer and later an MP. I served at bases all across Canada, Cyprus, Lebanon, Bermuda and worked along side numerous police departments including the RCMP, CSIS and the US NIS. Certainly not the same depth of experience as most civil police forces but rather law enforcement with a twist. Some experiences I will never forget.

    Reply
  • Mike Clark May 1, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Doesn’t matter where you were on the job, you always have the same interactions with john q citizen. 32 years I was more than ready to get out. The one thing that I dreaded the most was if I was going to have another dead child on my watch. Their faces still come back to me in my dreams. I can’t sleep all that well due to numerous injuries on the job. I would still do it again, but you’re right about smiling with only 3 years on. I used to feel, ” Wow they pay me to do this!”

    Reply
  • Capacity Gear May 1, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Retired on disability cause of back problems and open heart surgeries… i feel so bad for the next generation cause this whole “public service entitlement” BS has pervaded our society to the point that (in N J anyway) retirees HAVE TO PAY FOR THEIR OWN BENEFITS– AFTER 30 years!
    Meanwhile Prudential gets $500m of pension $ cause of Christie. They took a great job and totally destroyed it– no public support unions selling out… and people forget that LE is the glue that holds this paper thin veneer of “civilization”
    Together

    Reply
  • Kim Merrill May 1, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I thought that I was prepared for what faced me as a cop. I was 29 years old, spent 4 years jumping out of helicopters in the Navy and had 5 years of college. Boy was I wrong. I learned so much and saw so much in those 26 years.
    The great human beings that shone like a beacon while handling tragedy. The children who were so innocent and suffered so much. The broken people who inflicted so much damage on others.
    I thought that I would not be affected by it. How wrong and naive. I find myself crying when I recall the SIDS baby that I held 35 years ago, or the young girl raped by her step father while her mother held her down or the ………..
    YOU KNOW if you wore a badge and signed on. YOU KNOW the toll. YOU KNOW so much more than what the private sector knows, but YOU do pay a price. Would I recommend this to others?
    Yes, but be aware it will exact a price and you will pay it. YOU will be different at the end. But YOU made a difference in ways others cannot.

    Reply
  • David Hornburg May 1, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Im 47. When I have to “use force” a.k.a. throw down and have to fight somebody I know I’m going to pay for it for a few days. Unfortunately the people we usually end up having to go up against are foolish 16 through 23 year olds. In THEIR physical prime. I use my mouth a lot more then my night stick if i can! And when I used to not call for other officers, now send me a young buck who wants to tussle! retirement is looking very good.

    Reply
    • Ed May 2, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      LOL!! That’s called wisdom!!! The “majority of the time”, how you treat and talk to someone will dictate how it’s going to go down. Of course, the new kids on the block will likely not realize that until down the road. With our agency, if you get hurt on the job and cannot return within a specified amount of time, you are terminated!!! That cuts down on the chases and fights….call K-9 and aviation!

      Reply
  • Sam Birchill May 1, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    All I can think is how do you call your wife from the emergency room at the hospital at 9:30 at night and tell her, “now don’t worry honey. I had a little accident and the doctor says that I should be okay.”

    Reply
  • Danny May 1, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    My first dead baby call was 30 minutes before EOW on my birthday– a newborn crushed between 2 sleeping parents.

    Reply
  • Sgt ret Bill Vogt MD STATE POLICE May 2, 2017 at 8:53 am

    My first deceased child was a 2 year old that was hit by a car. I tried in vain to do CPR on the little child. I remember kneeling in the road trying to breathe life into the child while others just drove around us. The second was the death of a pregnant woman her mother and the unborn child. The accident was so severe that the unborn child was ripped from the mother. There was so much blood from the victims that it was like a river running down the road. I have more stories but it is to painful to talk about them

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 2, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Thank you Bill for sharing. I have an almost identical story to your mom and unborn being struck by car. I am overwhelmed by all of the stories that everyone is sharing here. In all honesty, I didn’t think anyone would read this article when I first published it. Peace be with you Bill.

      Reply
  • Jeffrey Sellars May 2, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Well written and a good read. I do have one thing I would like to point out. The term”Mothershippers”. I am one of those guys now but prior to, I spent 22 years as boots on the ground. My point is, all of our administration worked their way up through the ranks to get where we are now. We have not forgotten where we came from and have experienced everything you referenced in your article. I have 25 + years in and the damage has been done both physically and mentally.

    Reply
  • pjb May 2, 2017 at 11:49 am

    A nice read. Thanks. I have one question maybe someone can help me find a decent, polite, but firm answer to. I was recently out with Non-police friends that I ride mountain bikes with. During a conversation I mentioned that a police officer that I had attended a training class with had been killed on duty in the state he worked in. I did not really know the officer, had only attended the same training and exchanged cards, etc. This guy in our group; TJ, said well he knew that job was dangerous when he took it. I get this a lot. People always say that to me. “You knew that job was dangerous when you signed up for it.” I always think to myself…yes, well that’s true, but does it mean we have to die like dogs on the side of the road or shot? I never know what to say, even after 27 years of being a Trooper. So, I have been waiting for him to crash a little on his bike so I can say..”well, you knew mountain biking was dangerous when you got on the bike.” But this does not feel right to me. Any help brothers and sisters??

    Best- PJB

    Reply
    • Ed May 2, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      My personal opinion: (1) Non-LEO’s have no idea what LEO’s go through and it cannot be explained to them. I wouldn’t even attempt to explain it if that was their attitude. (2) Change who you hang out with. Stress is a big killer in our profession. You don’t need to add to your stress listening to people who don’t get it. The first funeral escort I did was for a friend from our academy. He was shot under the arm pit of his vest on a domestic. If someone displayed that attitude when I talked about that funeral, I would simply slip away to another group without being confrontational. It’s a waste of breath trying to get them to understand.

      Reply
  • Robert May 2, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    It is interesting and insightful you mention the ‘smile’. ‘That life’ sure can take the spark out of life. After fifteen years off it is still difficult to achieve a ‘rich’ smile, though, I admit, the birth of a grandson has resinstilled belief in the goodness of this universe. Fight the good fight!

    Reply
  • Mike Ketterer May 2, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Bart, many officers that made comments to this post only mention the stress of just the job itself. However, many times it’s a combination of the job and your personal life that adds up. Many times it’s a failed marriage or relationship or money problems. Many of us think we’re tough and can take it, but in all actuality we do what we can to get through it.

    My first year on I took upwards of 15 fatal accidents. While on break in, during my FTO period of 45 day, first night I took a burn fatal and made my first next of kin notification. You never can forget the smell. The morning of my 30th birthday, I took a solo vehicle accident involving 4 kids who’s vehicle landed upside down on a guardrail. When we got to the scene at 4:30AM, I saw an 18 yr old African-American girl lying in the wash out curb. She turned her head towards me and said, “Please, my God help me”. My department at the time required me to be a certified EMT. When I lifted up her hoop dress to see where she was bleeding from, I found both of her femoral arteries had been severed and I was sprayed with blood. I all totaled, there were 3 fatalities (2 of which were decapitations) and one where I found his torn off right hand and it was later reattached. The girl that I worked on died 3 days later as she had both legs amputated. I made my 2nd next of kin notification.

    As I said above in the first paragraph, personal stress can be added. I was going through a divorce at the time and about an hour after I started an overtime shift, I got a call from my mom and she informed me that my father was diagnosed with bone Cancer and was given 9-12 months to live. About 15 minutes after my moms call to me, I observed a car from the opposite direction, rolling over as it crossed a 30 foot wide center divider. It came to a stop upside downin the fast lane about 200′ in front of my unit. I end up finding out that a small girl a year and a half old, was thrown for her seatbelt, yup a seatbelt. A woman to me she had the girl, I immediately started infant CPR. I had a civilian grab my radio mic and tell the dispatcher to start an air unit for the girl. The child was pronounced dead in my arms. I refused to lay the child down on that dirty highway until the coroner took her from me.

    During my career, I was only offered counseling 3 times while being involved officer shooting investigations I truly believe, most departments do not offer help to those who need it. It should be standard in every agency!

    Sorry for the length.

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 2, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Thank you Mike. You are right. Personal problems outside of the job can be a big factor in adding stress to an already stressful job. I wrote a candid piece on my blog detailing an extremely tough year halfway through my career. Godspeed Mike and take care.

      Reply
    • Ed May 2, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      You brought up another good point….counseling. I’m guessing that many who could use it probably do not seek it through their department for fear of reprecussion. Even though we are told it won’t affect our career, how many trust management enough to follow through?

      Reply
  • Todd Wheelan May 3, 2017 at 10:12 am

    AND, if they are lucky enuf to last 25 years!!!

    Reply
  • Angela Gibson May 3, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Bart,
    My husband is a retired officer who now states to everyone that he works at being a recovering police officer. There has never been a truer statement.
    During the course of his career he was either the lead investigator or worked on over 505 death investigations.
    He suffered a heart attack, two pulmonary embolisms and now has a life long sleep disorder but to this day will say he loved his job and was fortunate to have been able to help people during the worse point in their life.
    Regards to you and yours,
    A recovering police officer”s wife,
    Angela

    Reply
    • Bart Proctor May 3, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Wow that’s a lot. I stopped counting at 200. In 1998…

      Reply
  • Terri May 3, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    The hardest for me (now that I know better) was a clerk at a store that suffered a gunshot wound during an armed robbery. I had him sitting up, he was looking at me and trying to breathe. I kept telling him it was going to be ok, he was still breathing and that help was on the way. FD got there (in what seemed like forever)… and then just walked away…and left him. It was my first experience with the “death rattle” and I didn’t understand that his brain and body were not communicating that he was actually dead. I never forget him, or the sound or the feeling that I wasn’t able to help. It’s been over 17 years.

    Reply
  • LT..James V. Sharkey (Ret) May 4, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    I retired in 2010 after 28 years. But I almost gave it up a couple of weeks out of the Academy. On my 2nd week I was allowed to patrol on my own. It was a big town and me and a Sergeant were working on this particular Sunday. I was really enjoying driving around being on my own when this call comes in. “Shots fired, people down at XYZ bar”. I happened to be within a mile of the place when the call came in. So I went, arrived, went into the bar and found four people shot, 3 down on the floor bleeding but alive. The bartender had a head wound but looked like a glancing wound. I attended to the wounded as best I could until rescue squad members and additional police from surrounding towns arrived. I then took the bartender outside and was putting out a car and person description obtained from the bartender when he suddenly points over my shoulder and says “There he is!!”. Everything from that point on was total muscle memory. Instantly I had dropped my walkie, had my pistol in hand, turned and was firing on a man who was firing at me. I felt his first round go past my face. Felt like a hot sand blast, then felt another sandblast at my right hand as I was drawing. He emptied his pistol as I was firing on him. He went down after my third round. Everything was in slow motion and it was like I had telescopic vision. I never felt recoil from my pistol and fired three rounds from a revolver and never felt the trigger pull although I knew by count how many rounds I had fired. There was a lot more that happened in those maybe four seconds of time. He lived and I later found a bullet hole in the jacket I wore that day and a graze wound in my right hand.
    There was the extreme addrenilyn dump over the next week. Diarerria, sleepless nights about what could have happened. Things like, suppose my rounds hit a civilian, suppose I had hit a baby , on and on.. I was struck with extreme fear over the next year and had to force myself into my car. This was 1982 and no one would think to have me seek help especially me. It was one of the roughest years of my life filled with fear and doubt and unable to talk with anyone. Every once in a while the Chief would ask, ” You ARE alright, correct?”. And of course I had to answer of course, no problem. Finally I spoke out to a Sergeant during a night shift about everything, over a year after the incident. Somehow, after that conversation, the fear was gone and I could go on. As I rose in rank over the years, I set in place MANDATORY counciling for all Officers for ANY tramatic event. And they needed a signed clearance from
    a mental health professional before going back to work. This took the pressure off Officers who needed help but wouldn’t get it on their own and made a world of difference to many Police. After 28 years of seeing dead and dying people, drunks, violent mental people, autopsy’s and all the Crap we all identify with, I retired. And I love the peace but now suffer from all those injuries over the years we all get. . I moved far from the area I worked when I found that going down all those streets and remembering every incident that happened on them was becoming a problem. I was 56 when I retired and I do so love when some idiot says how lucky I was to retire early while I am young. 56 might be young to some, but they were what I call city miles. Lots of damage and wear and tear.

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  • Charles JM May 5, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I spent 34 years as a Police Officer. I have seen my share of dead bodies and carnage. Nothing worse than a call for a dead one that has been in 90 degree heat with flies coming out the eye sockets and mouth. Just saying. You block it out but it never really goes away.

    Reply
    • LT..James V. Sharkey (Ret) May 6, 2017 at 9:58 am

      Right, I had one of those. An elderly lady that lived by herself. Wasn’t see for over a week in July. She liked to keep her windows closed because she was always hot. Some as we gained entry the smell hit us like a brick wall an immediately closed my throat. The flys were like a horror movie and later after the M.E. released the body, I had to help the funeral home guy they sent move the body. She was sitting in a chair and as soon as we lifted her up, her skin broke open and rottton fluids came flooding out. That was over 20 years ago and I can still smell it. I had to throw my uniform away after that one.

      Reply
  • Rob. S May 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    My first was to witness 3 juveniles in a stolen vehicle that struck a telephone poll.. We couldn’t get to the vehicle because of the live wires and we stood there as they all burned to death… But a 3:00am death notification to the parents of a teenager that has been killed in a car accident is also on top of that list in my opionion…

    Reply
  • John Sand May 16, 2017 at 1:50 am

    I did 29 years. I can still remember my first murder suicide and I was on 3 scenes when I lost brother in blue (2 shot & 1 drunk driver) also a few other gruesome scenes. My last week on the job I got a stinker in a house in South Florida. As the ME was taking him out he basically exploded in the doorway and covered them in some really smelly gore. Never seen so many people start to puke at once.

    Reply
    • Ed May 16, 2017 at 9:34 am

      John, you just reminded me of a “Stinker” I went to in a trailer park during the Florida heat; neighbors hadn’t seen the resident in about a week. After circling the trailer with the park manager (flies in the windows, etc.) he was able to crack the back door and see the man lying on the living room couch….it was very obvious that he has passed away right there. Then we broke into the front door and I started my investigation,
      My immediate supervisor, whom I highly respected and would take a bullet for, came to the scene but absolutely refused to go inside!!!!! He couldn’t handle it…..he drove away while I was laughing my bootie off!. But the funniest part was, the ME’s office came to pick up the resident and it turned out that the assistant was new on the job. He was gagging right from the start and I was getting so tickled over it that I couldn’t contain myself…I started messing with him!
      As they were placing the man in the body bag, this kid dropped the man into the bag and ran outside throwing his heals up!!!! I had to run to my car and cover my face with a towel so the others from the trailer park couldn’t see the tears running down my face from laughing so hard!!!
      About to weeks later, I had another one and this time when the ME showed up, the new kid wasn’t there. I found out he quit!!
      Two lessons here: NO ONE can possibly understand our sense of humor unless they have been in our shoes or have been a first responder themselves, and the average civilian will never understand the way we think.
      Example: I’ve just started the hobby of metal detecting within the past two weeks. I went to a park and found a buried pocket knife with the blade open. The FIRST thing I thought of was “it was probably a murder weapon”! We have been forever changed my friend!!

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  • Joe May 25, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I’m so glad a friend of mine posted this article on her FB page today. I’ve read as many comments as I can for now, but I’ll finish the rest this weekend. Right off the bat, I can tell you that my God it is so comforting to know that there are other retired cops out there who feel and see and experience the same things I do. I’m not married and I have no kids—because I married my job. I also have the unique satisfaction of being able to say that I worked careers in the four major public safety occupations (Firefighter, EMT, 911 Supervisor, Police Officer), and I am so very proud of that. I had great reasons for changing to a different career each time, and looking back on things now, I’m glad I did it. No regrets. However, now that I am 51 years old and retired on a disability for almost 19 years now, something happened to me several months ago that took me by surprise. I feel like I’m going out on a limb here describing it, so please don’t laugh. I’m not sure why I even said that, I know you won’t. I guess I’m just searching for someone who was a cop and knows “cop”, because we are a different breed, no doubt about it. But during my various careers, I have seen so many things that, as mentioned by others, a human being should never see. I got through all of those things fine, and I thought it didn’t bother me at all. Well, big mistake on my part. Those horrible things that we’ve seen and never did anything about it (such as counseling or a debriefing after the event) are all coming back now on their own, whether I like it or not. I’m told it’s PTSD and it’s just delayed in my case because, as a first responder, we do not fall apart at the scene! We are the people who come in with the lights and siren on, and everyone looks to us to save their life or someone else’s life. So many things are swirling in my head as I type this, and I haven’t thought about these things in YEARS. But here is how these memories all started coming back again, completely surprising me and really messing me up:

    I had been out running errands and did some late-night grocery shopping. It was around 11PM and I was sitting at a stoplight at a 4-way, lighted intersection, and directly in front of me was a black and white patrol car for the city that I live in. I thought nothing of it, however, my mind did start to wander a little bit as I thought about, “What if?”……”What if I never got hurt and I was still working PD?” But then the light went green and my mind went back to normal. However, several seconds later, the PD unit in front of me lit up the car in front of him (so two cars in front of me). It looked like it was going to be a good stop where a search would probably turn up some dope (you LEOs know what I mean when I say that the car looked good for that type of thing). But what happened next happened so fast and I am still trying to understand what happened. When the officer in front of me lit him up to make the stop, I reached for the Unitrol to turn my ambers on and tell dispatch, “I’m with him”. I was figuring he would want to search that car, so I’ll stop and provide cover while he searches the vehicle. All of the things that I just described did not happen over a long period of time—-it happened over a period of probably 1 to 2 seconds at the most. Just like they say your life flashes before your eyes? Well this stop and what I was going to do flashed before my eyes and within an instant I snapped out of whatever the hell it was that just happened, and I kept on driving past the car stop and pulled into a nearby vacant parking lot. I just cried my eyes out. I was bawling, and I was saying to myself that I don’t understand what just happened! I’ve been out of uniform and out of a patrol car for 19 years—-why would I, just totally out of the blue, start to reach for the lights and microphone so that I can provide cover? WHY??? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out or understand—-why did I do this?

    Ever since it happened, I’ve had all sorts of old memories come flashing back to me. Most of the memories are of really bad things that happened, and I swear I thought I forgot about them long ago. One incident was a traffic collision on a quiet Sunday morning. I was first on-scene (as PD), parked my car with the lights on to give me some safety at the scene before fire/medics get there, and everything looked pretty normal. It was obvious that one vehicle (a mini-van) ran a red light and was t-boned by a Honda Accord. I saw what appeared to be both drivers just standing on the sidewalk as if they were going to exchange information—-totally routine, nothing unusual…..until I got closer and noticed several people crying. I’ll spare you the rest of the details but I was finally told by someone, “There was a baby in the mini-van”. What do you mean there WAS a baby in there? Where is this baby now??? It turned out that the driver of the mini-van (the father of the baby) had just dropped off his wife (the mother of the baby) at church, and he was rushing home to watch a football game. The baby was sitting in her car seat, but she was not buckled into the seat itself. Also, the car seat was just sitting on the bench seat in the back—-it wasn’t even buckled down. So at the POI, the baby became a projectile and went flying out of the driver’s window. The van landed on her head. I am about to say something very graphic and it involves death and an infant—if you do not want to read about that, PLEASE stop reading now. You do NOT have to read this—I just want to give fair warning because I don’t know who, besides cops, will read this. But as the van landed on her head, it instantly created a large opening on the top her her head and the two skull fragments separated (as did the skin) and her brains went flying/squiring all over the place. I DID NOT KNOW THIS AT THE TIME. If I did, I would not have walked where I did. Once I realized I had lots of little pieces of human brain from a baby stuck to the sole of my boots, I must have turned white because I could feel my blood pressure dropping and all of a sudden I felt very dizzy. I did not pass out, thankfully, and then in what seemed like 10 minutes, my backup units arrived (it was more like 30 seconds—you know how that always feels like it takes so long, even though you hear the sirens coming!). I was on-scene for about 2 hours, and by that time our Major Accident Investigation Team was there, and I was cut loose. Calls had been pending for a long time, so when I placed myself in-service, I was immediately sent to the pending calls, in order of priority. My first call was a 211 silent at Bank of America (silent hold-up alarm). I remember it so clearly—-handling the call solo and my frame of mind was on another planet. Good thing it wasn’t an actual bank 211 in-progress or I would have been screwed.

    I know this is a long comment. Sorry. I just need to hear from others if you’ve ever had a similar kind of breakdown where you can’t explain it. The thing about the officer making a stop in front of me and then me very temporarily thinking I’m the cover unit—-that just seems crazy. I don’t understand it, and this is the first time I’ve written it down. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if someone has comments or advice, I’d love to hear them. Thanks much for allowing me to be here and to write this out.

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  • Ed May 25, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Joe, you are not alone and probably most cops can identify, even if they choose not to admit it publically. I’d be more than willing to correspond with you if you are interested….Skyhawkva@aol.com
    Bro Ed <

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  • Brian May 26, 2017 at 12:29 am

    I knew I had trouble smiling, but never really gave it much thought. Things that make most people smile don’t seem to phase me. I was talking to my sgt the other day (Christian Martin, and he posts a blog every Friday), and we were both amazed in how much we were affected by our many years in, and how similar our personal experiences, feelings, and behavior are. Although we all have our Cumulative PTSD to some degree, it’s comforting to know none of us are alone. Seek your peers, because we will always be the ones who understand each other. Be there for your brothers and sisters, because they are who will be there for us.

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