With the advent of tragedy elsewhere and in Dallas particularly, observers are again focusing on the role of law enforcement in civil society. As happens with any subject in free discussion, opinions in the marketplace of ideas exist in a range from reasoned, through the uninformed, to absurd.
I’m just a guy who writes novels, but those titles result from of a lifetime of experience in a variety of environments, ones allowing me to present a storyline in plausible presentation. The details of where and what, put gently, are none of your business. A certain, significant amount of my store of witness, however, involves law enforcement. Particularly, familiarity with personalities who thrive, or at least function, in an entirely distinct existence from the overwhelming majority of the citizens they choose to serve.
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) are, because of their unique vocation, insular. One can attempt to understand or empathize with them, but you will not entirely succeed without stepping into that world. Until you are in, proven, and accepted, you are out. They are, as a stressed and intense breed, largely adverse to judgment by anyone whose perspective cannot encompass their existence as humanity’s garbage collectors.
Citizens cannot be aware of the children hurt or dead in accidents, abusive situations, or incidents of predation the officer at their driver’s window might have witnessed, memories with too little time passed in the interim to accommodate. Few of the unsworn have seen the expression of surprise in the dead eyes of a suicide, or smelled the odor of decomposition emitted by a body in an enclosed space, a plume that finally wafted into public to alert a neighbor. They likely have not been ready to kill another human being and had to decompress their physiology to continue doing their job.
LEOs reside in a very real world, where one cannot easily sweep aside actualities in favor of comforting beliefs. That lack of emotional cushioning can make then brusque, and direct, and even dysfunctional if uncounseled. Callused cynicism at times traps their perspective in a dedicated pessimism preferring a rare pleasant surprise to being caught unguarded.
They need continuous interaction with good people outside of their own bubble of perspective, and the nature of what they do denies them enough of it. In social settings, they are subject to hearing stories of supposedly undeserved citations. They watch people drink too much who might be planning to drive away from the venue into circumstances they have seen evoke tragedy. Afterward, they often choose instead to interact only with their own kind or set themselves into a cycle of isolation.
They are never free from their oath of office and duty binding them to uphold the law, and the responsibility fallen with the weight of a cast bronze badge dropped into the palm of their hand. They see things most people will never need to endure, and those visions chase them even after they manage to fall asleep after twelve hours on the job. Three days might follow to adjust their circadian rhythms for the next rotation on the shift schedule.
They remain people. Some of them are good at what they do because they were delinquents once, never caught or adjudicated, and so remained eligible for civil service. They are heroic, pathetic, brilliant, flawed, broken or absolute train wrecks just like the rest of us. They retain human weaknesses in an always-judging environment, one unforgiving of the least display of frailty, and the trial endures while they serve.
Law enforcement is also as political a job as can come along. LEOs wield the power of government entrusted to their office, and the appreciation of power increases as one ascends any hierarchy. After a point, the same organizational tree can lose touch with the concerns of those on the street, whose interaction with the citizenry comprises the face of the department. Political concerns at times outweigh the practical and add to the stress of the job already dangerous in armed people.
It is precisely the ever-present dangers inherent in their existence that should be in the forefront of anyone’s mind as they interact with law enforcement. They have a plan to kill you, because they are mindful of the law enforcement officers who themselves have been hurt or killed by people of all extractions and from all walks of life who turned on their brothers and sisters. No LEO plans on taking out a citizen at the beginning of any given shift. Every one of them, however, fully intends to go home once it is completed.
There is a growing, fundamental lack of respect in today’s society. Respect erodes with an increasing sense of entitlement stemming from the ease with which we survive. Our essential inabilities, supported by technology, modern conveniences, and the long supply lines of a first-world existence, at times make the best of us impatient and frustrated. Sometimes, the condition progresses past the point where compensating influences can keep everyone alive. Too often, a law enforcement officer is there when or after the narrative fails, the false premise collapses, and things finally go bad.
I understand them. They are members of a paramilitary organization with insanely constricted rules of engagement. At times, in the minds of their superiors, the reward for overcoming the odds against their survival is to fulfill their career as a human sandbag shielding their chain of command against incoming public opinion.
They continue to inspire, hold my admiration, and at times frighten me. Life is always the same, once you commit yourself to clarity. A clear vision will arrive at the end of days in any event, and is best adopted at the beginning of one’s journey. What comforts we can garner along the way proceed in one way or another from knowing this.
Choose to love, -DA
In production news, Ritter’s next is nearly two-thirds through primary editing and on schedule for a late-September release. On deck with him in this title is a portion of Terry Bradley’s back-story, prior to his appearance in Boone’s novels as Director of National Intelligence. You may also look forward to meeting Lucia Dorotea Crnjak, a young journalist and Bosnian caught in the maelstrom of 1995 with the rest of her emerging nation. The story woven around them, I promise, is one no reader will forget.