Police Have Plenty to Pray About

Police Have Plenty to Pray About

By Stephen Owsinski

On the heels of Thanksgiving Day festivities, when the majority are at family homes enjoying each other’s company and emphasizing gratitude for life’s basics and bonuses, materially demoralized cops (you know which side orchestrated that) nevertheless suit up and clock another tour of duty in an unforgiving climate, internalizing and solemnly praying for better days ahead…and another return home to loved ones.

The notions are not new, only more engendered lately due to rather horrendous conditions spurred by falsified yarns spun by hateful hearts harboring disdain for law-and-order and its enforcement agents.

Perhaps it is because of the heed of holiday season, whereby our species is invited to reflect on what has been experienced, to show gratitude for another day, another shift, another life saved. Prayer is a solemnity blessing the inner sanctums of police cruisers and those who operate them skillfully, all predicated on getting help to those who beckon, thereafter safely un-suiting after another squad stint is booked.

Each of my street-duty excursions involved at least one pass through a church’s grounds, dropping a silent line and gleaning glances of spiritual statues assuring faith in humanity in all its constructs, kindling grace and humility challenged by the deviant and diabolical.

Perhaps due to anti-police puffery/mentalities wafting public and private air, blessings and gratitude among law enforcement officers are logically unparalleled in terms of breathing sighs and raising folded hands to our Maker. Somewhat bewildered by the brain’s power to retain acute details of horrific scenes as well as those materializing in poise and positivity, the balance of it all often needs recalibration, especially around holidays when we witness exponential despair of downtrodden morphed by gargantuan generosity from those who glow with giving.

It’s a cop’s measure of integers which alter in nanoseconds and tease emotional sway, compelling reviews of complex capacities of human beings when confronted with polarity between one person to the next—personally, I majorly learned psychology working the beat than minoring in it at the university.

In my last year of duty working Christmas Eve, a “dead person” call was assigned to me. Upon arrival, the front door opened, giving view of a tall human form laying angled in the apartment hallway leading to bedrooms. Reportedly terminally ill for some time, a male passed away. His wife and children appeared to be going on about their lives, seemingly unaffected by the man’s loss. Perfunctory inquiries ensued; the wife was annoyed with my necessary dip into details.

It eventually came out. In short, she was angered by the fact that her now-deceased husband was the “only one working,” and challenged by figuring out how she would feed and care for her children.

The psychology stymied me while standing there in that apartment, waiting on the medical examiner staff to arrive. I am as vexed now as I were then, compelling wonder of how life must have been before the man passed. The kids, they were somehow in a sphere of unjaded air. The now-widow seemed…indifferent. It challenged my senses. It made me immediately wary. Still does. Although nothing foul ever came from that death investigation, I’m left to wonder the cross-section of personalities amid family dynamics which may explain what I witnessed, on Christmas Eve.

Admittedly, well beyond police retirement, I’m still dissecting cases which stayed with me for one reason or another, and there were many. I suppose that is a thread in the tapestry of life, especially for a cop, reminiscing matters which unequivocally shock the brain, trying to squeeze every drop of sense out of it all, mentally configuring the puzzle pieces which are no longer at your fingertips. Cops tend to be a scrutinous bunch; have to be, as there are no do-overs like when we were kids playing games.

In an empirical view, this very phenomena aids comprehending what cops experience and relatively explains why our police personnel harbor a depth of emotional possession in unique ways, much of which we maintain in formal mental health studies and informal conversations had among those in the biz and those who wish to help pillar the weight.

As mentioned above, my cruiser often parked at the closest church on my beat. Colleagues got it, and specially trained clergy-cops (my respectful term for those trained in police culture and spirituality combo) were ardent supporters with listening ears and words of wisdom laden with gracious counsel.

Traditionally instrumental during tragic instances of line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement colleagues, police chaplains have been exponentially leaned on stemming from the litany of seemingly infinite physical and/or character assassinations of cops for courageously donning police insignia and fighting the good fight at all costs—especially lately.

Pandemic-induced psychosocial effects exacerbate all pre-existing dimensions factoring into monumental challenges confronted by cops in the United States, unexpectedly dealing with the global anomaly in an extraordinarily free society. Although lockdowns were a clear-cut preemption regarding crime, confined humans —family and otherwise— generally tend to act out before long. It’ll be interesting to peruse studies down the road, each analyzing outtakes born of coronavirus implications.

With the “Medical” category leading other cause-of-death classifications in 2020 and 2021, the Officer Down Memorial Page spiked with mentions of law enforcement officers who succumbed to Covid, a newly experienced consequence of performing as a cop in an unsafe environment rife with criminal violence…exacerbated by novel viral contagion. This, while performing duty amid arrogant daily declarations that cops are the problem…is increasingly something else to pray about.

Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, annually disseminated images of police cruisers’ inner sanctums illustrating severely confined compartments serving as control centers for America’s cops made the round on social media conduits. The typical verbiage accompanying an untold number of photos depicting the innards of a police cruiser are often something like “Happy Thanksgiving from our table to yours,” usually showcasing the helm of a cop car and its myriad accoutrements involved in preserving lives and shielding property.

One of my squad-mates always referred to the in-car laptop computer docking station as a “placemat” whereby on-duty LEOs did their noshing in between calls, if at all.

But this account is not to be misconstrued as anything other than altruistic personifications of your police force members sharing with you their digs while citizens are assured to enjoy theirs, with whomever and wherever, knowing the defenses are emplaced and forthrightly doing their thing in their own unique way.

Besides, all police agencies have kindred spirits among colleagues whereby a squad member (usually a police supervisor residing in the jurisdiction) rolls out a turkey and all the traditional fixings for the on-duty patrol officers to partake in turns, main-staying the sanctity and security of the city with visible police presence.

Like other jurisdictions in the U.S., my department had a vibrant working relationship with our city firefighters/paramedics (dual-certified in Florida). Especially on Thanksgiving and similar high holidays when banquets offered delish ingredients and satisfied appetites, fire department personnel always had a bountiful parlay of foodstuffs for beat cops needing a pit stop (and a wing or leg). The duality of camaraderie working street scenes together and caloric intake endeavors at the firehouse is definitely a thing to be thankful for.

(Photo courtesy of the Santa Monica Police Department.)

Colorizing and expanding our second paragraph above, whereby cops are out and about in their mobile offices rolling on four rubber rounds, citizens traditionally walk in platters of food and desserts to police HQ and/or open their home’s front doors and table-spreads to cops patrolling their streets.

Despite the likes of certain so-called progressive politicians downing cops at every turn, nary considering breaking bread and gesturally exhibiting gratitude by tug-o-warring a wishbone, the ugly notion of cold-hearted leaders was overcome by pro-police politicos ringing up police dispatch to remind that their family hub’s door is open to all badges. Whereas liberal poles cleave away at the pie and dare not share the equitable stakes of which they often speak, law enforcement-loving elected officials unhesitatingly plop dollops of whipped cream on the wedges of apple-bake for those who serve and protect.

Although duty calls away from family fun and bread-breaking highlights, major holidays for police personnel can have perks, especially in terms of open-armed grateful people and tasty treats.

It always grabbed my brain when I was scheduled to work Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve, cruising my sector and smelling the aromas of food and firewood (yes, it can dip down at night in Florida during weeks of “winter”), introspecting my own loved ones reveling in peace with happy-hearted delight punctuated by hardy appetites and an extra glass of Egg Nog (otherwise known as my share).

A rather typical feature for LEOs working turkey day or similarly emphasized holidays are closed businesses, essentially offering a break for cops by not having the aspect of commerce and requisite pedestrians being potential targets for robbers. Novel is the same attribute, with extra attention for our police brothers and sisters operating in liberal la-la lands whose legislation relaxation has recently exploded in brazen thievery and rash of robberies, all of which will be factored into price points in order for retailers to make up for the losses allowed by political panderers (California’s Prop 47 is a good example of bad government). This surely deserves a prayer or two, one for demoralized cops to get a deserved break from decorum-less social justice policies drawing scrutiny of undeniable influence of criminality…and another for retailers trying to do the right thing in environments which encourage wrongdoing.

As I have written about in the past, emphasizing tours of duty on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, coming upon homeless individuals was a bona fide feeling of being exactly where I belonged on these special occasions. I would share the chance interactions with my children when I returned home, hoping it would help allay any sadness or apprehensions or emotional sway of not having their dad around on special calendar days, again and again. Indeed, the brand of “sacrifices” once accepts when working in law enforcement is weighty—it maintains to this day, even in retirement.

Blessed with kids who are grateful for their dad’s role in a fast-paced, an increasingly violent society and the freight of law-and-order principles being tolled by naysayers and their polluted yarns compels calculus equating to an earnest score card.

Blessed to have been called to the fore…grateful to have served those who merely wanted listening ears and consolation and pillars mindful of rights and human decency in accounts challenged by antagonists…is enriching, even after the utterly unimaginable depravities are addressed and put to rest.

Sentimental layers, for me, were born from duty, full knowing the floor could drop away in a millisecond, yet spooling in my mind’s eye the constructs of humanitarianism, delivering salvation, intervening where many surrendered the notion before police arrival.

Speaking of salvation, the tide seems to be churning, spotlighting ardent police defunders’ about-face and desperate attempts to refund cops.

States are monetarily situating pillars of mental health support specifically for first responders.

Federally, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which has been wracked by service providers and largely counter to any help whatsoever, received tons of attention lately (one positive thing to evolve due to the pandemic and economic hardships), with the Fed publicly instituting a retooling of the program with assurances of relief for qualified public safety personnel holding student debt. Ever wonder why cops work so often on their regular days off (RDOs), serving in security capacities for private parties and traffic-oriented gigs such as interstate construction projects? Prayers answered, relief on the way…

And, as is universally known, law enforcement is in existence to answer the call of countless beings who pray for simple guidance or drastic rescue from all manner of life’s twists and turns.

Just as anyone can pray at any time in a 24/7 cycle, cops never close shop and never stop fighting the good fight on behalf of citizens.

We close with an excerpt from our friends at the First Responder Benefit Association: “When is the last time the average American had to huddle with their coworkers and pray ‘Lord, help us all make it home to our families tonight’? The word RESPECT doesn’t begin to describe what we feel toward these heroes!”