Showing posts with label Author: J. Ray. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Author: J. Ray. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Truth behind the Badge: Who Are We-Part One

The Truth behind the Badge:

            Who Are We-Part One

    I sat and read the words of an essay written by an officer who did the job for ten years.  I see the things going on around the country, things that spread into the world, went global.  The truth is that everybody who ever pinned a badge on a uniform shirt, everybody that ever raised their right hand and swore to uphold the laws and everybody that ever ran into a scene or situation that most would run away from has a story to tell.  These stories are no doubt going to bastardize being a cop and some of them will do the same to law enforcement and public service.  They will be written with the best of intentions, to share the side of the system that is less talked about, to share those stories untold by the men that wear the uniforms; that wear or wore the badge.

     A few months ago, after over twenty years in the law enforcement community, I found myself at a point where I had suffered enough.  I no longer had an upside to being a member of what once was a brotherhood, a family.  In my twenty-three years, even as just a college intern, I have seen nearly every example of what to do, right or wrong.  I've seen good men tested, bad men get ahead and many others enjoy the perks of being from the right town, drinking with the right boss or coming from the right background.  I found myself on the receiving end of many beatings at the hands of the accused, accused of things I was innocent of, a few I was not so innocent of and somehow managed to persevere in one of the most rewarding environments I'd ever stepped into.  It was, as I look back, rewarding.  It was rewarding, then slowly, over time, I was forced to see the ugliness of men as it began to turn into perhaps the most toxic part of my life for a lot of years. 

     With all the time I had, seeing what the world has become in just a few short months, I like many am seeing the stories of good and evil.  I'm wondering how the system ever becomes better as its' champions and detractors stand firmly on the extreme sides of left and right.  The smartest thing I have heard, is it all starts with discussions.  Maybe, by getting the toxicity out of our systems, sharing our feelings as human beings that have been exposed to this increasingly toxic system, we can all steer towards a better world.  Therefore, with that in mind, I will share my experiences both good and bad.

     Why do they do it?  You can watch all the videos and all the news coverage in the world.  The question is not likely to be answered by the videos because its' a minority of people that are being shown in the videos.  For that, you would have to go take a poll.  I can only give examples from the few that I remember.  One, a particularly weasel was trying to follow his fathers' footsteps.  It is a nice intention to honor ones father but the ideas he had about people were so far off that either daddy came home from nights on patrol and filled the kids head with hate because of the things he saw as a trooper or the kid was a bullied child using his new found authority to exact his revenge. 

     I remember the kid.  He was a young buck, full of exuberance, living and breathing for the job.  When we worked together in the nineties into the early part of the new millennium he could be a fun one to work with.  Occasionally I would have to rein him in; occasionally I would shake my head in confusion.  I'd find myself both disgusted and bewildered by the young man.  At first, we were corrections deputies.  Like most guys that wanted to be cops, the stress of being locked up with the inmates proved too much for him.  I will never forget his famed statement, "I'm glad you're here tonight.  When you're not here I have to treat these people differently."  I, at that moment, knew the kid shouldn't be there because if he needed someone my size to do business "his way" his way wasn't the right way to be.

     As younger people working in a jail facility, especially back then, many of our duties were less than officer like.  We would have to bounce back and forth between ancillary duties and the duties of securing the inmates.  On one of those nights, I drew kitchen duty in our small jail.  I was preparing breakfast while we held a rather obnoxious drunk in the holding area until he sobered up.  My partner, we'll call him "B", comes into the kitchen and shows me a container of peanut butter.  It was apparently the peanut butter from the transient drunks' pack.  B, in his youth, decided to punish the drunk by urinating in the man's peanut butter.  Disgusting, right?  Teaching a younger generation of officer is a hard job and as much as you can guide, instruct and try to teach the next generation of officer you cannot teach maturity.  Growing up, becoming a man with a gun on your hip, is a thing the military specializes in, not local small town police agencies or sheriffs' departments.

     Even after this young officer left the county, it wasn't the end of my work experiences with him.  Like many young officers, moving on to a small town is the next step.  Especially when the larger towns will not hire you because you have invested nothing into a college education, a requirement in most of the larger metropolitan police agencies and state patrols.  Fast forward to two-thousand and four, this young man had been working in a small town we affectionately called A-town.  I had decided to try patrol, having been my long-term goal from the time I went to college to then in the story. 

     Now, he had a few years of patrol experience so when I went to work in A-Town as a part time patrol officer I was going to ride with the younger guy for a couple of days.  Day one went all right.  Day two, we were sitting in an insurance parking lot.  I actually get my current insurance from an agent there today.  As we're sitting there, going over a couple of things he could show me from the patrol side of law enforcement, suddenly and without warning B starts yelling and pointing at a car that was driving in front of us.  "Get him, get him he yells." 

     I lit that car up and chased it maybe a hundred and fifty to two hundred feet.  My first car chase was short-lived and very anti-climactic.  When we pulled over, I asked him, "What did you see?"

     What did you see turned into an attempt at telling me three dozen vehicle code violations.  Most of the violations were things that nobody would know other than a state trooper.  In a town full of what the chief called "Traffic Nazis" these guys thrived on traffic violations just praying for something bigger.  If B had been paying attention, it was festival time in little A-town and these guys were moving parts from a garage on one side of the main drag to a spot down the street as the put together a demolition derby car.  They actually appeared to be traveling around fifteen miles an hour or less, carefully doing what the needed to do so they could move the parts, get the car together and take part in entertaining the town in just a couple of days. 

     The driver and his passengers, they were all polite, wondered what they had done and provided me with their insurance card and license.  Knowing what the reason for our stop was, I found it to be a ridiculous reason to cite anybody and seriously questioned why the training officer found it such an imperative that we pull this car over.  We had watched the process all day long as they moved from one house to another, getting their car ready.  The result in B's eyes was going to be a citation.  As the driver of the squad, "It's your call," he tells me.  Therefore, I promptly took their license and insurance card back to the car, told them that we pulled them over because of their trailer being out of code, told them I was not writing the ticket for it because I could tell how careful they were being and it did not serve a real purpose and let them go. 

     The Chief of Police backed the call.  I learned that its' called officers discretion.  Officers have a certain amount of discretionary power in policing.  The verbal warning, due to racial profiling issues is somewhat outdated now, even though I am sure older officers heading toward retirement probably use it.  The chief at the time took me into the office, told me he really did not need any more traffic Nazis,  

     A few months later, my main job changed my schedule and I had to decide between part-time patrol and a full-time career position.  Not much of a decision as a single parent, so I was forced to move on with my life minus the patrol opportunity.  My experiences with this officer though showed me something as I hoped I showed him something.  Not everything is as clear to people as they think it is and just because, on paper, a young person has what it takes to hold a job with the authority of a badge, arrest powers and use of weapons. 

    I don't wish any ill will to the guy.  Let us hope he matured into a great officer and made his father proud.  Let us hope he became more secure with himself and doesn't have to resort to underhanded and back door tactics.  Let us hope he figured out it was all just a job and not to take things so dammed personally. 

By: J. Ray