The job of a police officer is a tough one. And officers have to deal with lots of pretty unpleasant things. Things like long unforgiving hours, swing shifts, double shifts, low pay in some areas, uncomfortable clothing, puking drunks, drug dealers, prostitutes, gang members, murder, suicide, sudden death, fights, knives, death of partners, flying bullets, and more. It’s not a normal life. Not by any means.
But the life of a cop that’s seen by the general public is the public side of law enforcement. Private citizens see officers patrolling the streets or directing traffic, and they see detectives on the news as they investigate crimes. They see the blue lights, the uniform, the handcuffs, and the guns. What the everyday citizen doesn’t see is the cop who’s doing his best to maintain a normal family life. A life outside the world of cops and robbers.
Sure, other careers make it tough on a family, but how many people have to answer to a child who looks into their eyes and says, “Mommy, I saw you on TV last night. Daddy said a bad man shot at you. Then you had to shoot at him. Did he die?” I’ll bet not many people on the outside of law enforcement hear those words from their kids. And that’s just one thing that’s a bit different in a cop’s world. There are many, and they are challenging.
A cop’s job is performed as if they’re on a stage with everyone from the community looking on. And that creates it’s own special set of troubles for a police officer. People are quick to judge officers for the actions of their kids. Yep, when a cop’s child does something goofy it’s an automatic reflection on the officer’s policing skills.
For example: “Look at that kid over there. See how he’s misbehaving. If his father can’t make his own child behave then how in the world can he be effective as a police officer? We’d better keep a close eye on that cop. In fact, let’s talk to the mayor about this guy.” This is the type of thing that’s seen and heard nearly every day, and it’s something officers must deal with on more than one level. First, they should recognize that they’re parents just like everyone else. And that they’re parents with normal kids that do normal kid stuff. Things happen.
Therefore, officers should never force their kids to think they should adhere to a special set of rules simply because mommy and daddy wear a uniform. Sure, everyone has to live by rules and abide by the law, but a cop’s kid is still a kid. They shouldn’t be made to walk on eggshells because the parent is a police officer. I know I was guilty of this a few times. I can remember telling my daughter to stop doing trivial things because it could make me look bad to the public, or to my peers.
Cops also have a tendency to put their families second to their jobs. It’s really easy to become so wrapped up in a case that you forget about the ball game, or the piano recital. Officers really should remember that they’re not irreplaceable. The city will survive if they take a little time to attend Jr.’s science fair. It’s okay.
Cops should never “use their badge” to get little Lulu out of trouble. Instead of calling on fellow boys in blue to let your kid off the hook for trouble they’ve somehow managed to find, a cop parent should be supportive and help the child work through the problem. Learning how not to make the same mistake twice is important. So is learning the consequences of a bad decision.
I was a single cop father raising a teenage daughter who absolutely lived to play softball, and she was good at it (most stolen bases, a consistent batter with tons of HR’s, etc). I made a point to attend every single home game and most away games, even if that meant me showing up in full SWAT gear, a class A uniform, or T-shirt and jeans with holes in the knees during my undercover days. Sure, there were many times when I left the stands running to my police car because someone had been shot, or something similar. But I made the effort, and I think my daughter knew I was trying to be a good dad. I wasn’t perfect by any means. In fact, there was a whole lot of room for improvement, but…
Fortunately for me, my daughter was a great kid and understood my cop-wackiness. She even put up with my cop-type interrogation tactics. However, she voiced her disdain several times when I’d raked her over the goals attempting to get a confession about a party she’d attended, or if the guy she’d been seeing was a pot smoker.
She knew I was nut with a badge. Sometimes I’d rant and rave and she’d just stand there, and when I was done she’d smile and walk away, leaving me wondering which of us was the adult.