I was recently approached to donate to BLUE H.E.L.P. a charitable organization whose motto is, "Honoring the Service of Law Enforcement Officers Who Died by Suicide." I said, "Yes," and didn't think twice.
I can only speak for myself when I say that the job of being a police officer is very stressful and can be quite depressing. In the past I have tried to explain what I mean to friends, but haven't always been successful. I'll give it one more try here.
Not at their best
As an officer you get to meet a lot of good people, but it's not like you're invited to share their good times, it is usually at their worst time. When they've been victimized, when they've been in an accident, when they are intoxicated or when they are upset. Good people can act like @ssholes under certain circumstances.
When firefighters show up at a coffee shop or (in Berkeley) a yogurt shop, you hear comments like, "Oh, they are cute," or "what a cool truck." When a cop stops to get coffee or something to eat, they often hear, "What's wrong?" and "Why are you here?" Always with the expectation that something is bad.
Shouldn't you be out catching a rapist or doing something important?
I can't tell you how many times I heard the above statement when I was stopping someone for a traffic violation. Cars can kill and traffic enforcement is important.
What people do to other people is.... inhumane
I know I could have gone my entire life without witnessing some of the horrors I've seen people do to other people. There are some images you can't erase.
Home should be a safe place
When you come to realize that you care more about someone's child than they do.
When heavy vehicles are moving at speed and hit one another, a motorcycle, a bicyclist or a pedestrian, the results can be horrific.
Officers have to make decisions, often under stress, in less than ideal circumstances, without all the information and often very quickly. Someone's life may depend on the decision. Then days, weeks, months later, from the luxury of their office, with all the information that has since become available and 20/20 hindsight, people start to second guess the officer's decision.
Negativity becomes "normal"
When you consistently see the negative in people, when your job is to deal with the problems of society, when you are reading articles where people are second guessing your decisions, you often see negativity as normal.
It adds up
I tell people who express an interest in becoming a law enforcement officer that the job will pull everything out of you. Any emotions, habits, secrets that you think you've hidden from others will rise to the top over time. It's okay, it's part of being human, just don't be surprised when they show up.
Don't give up hope
I've never had a job that made me feel better or made me feel like I made a difference in others' lives like being a police officer. To prevent a crime, to help a victim, to save a life all tower over other jobs I've had before and since. It takes a special person who runs towards the sound of gunfire in order to help others, but don't think it doesn't come at a cost.