I imagine a lot of people who know my husband is a Forest Park police officer and that we are moving out of state figure I will use this last column to lay it all bare and expose whatever I know about the police department.
Well, I think they have enough challenges over there without me adding to it. Many people have been following a discussion thread about the police at forestpark.com, and I’ve read it, too. There was just one thing there I’d like to use my last column to comment on.
One person who was posting about the situation with the lawsuits and sexual harassment complaints wrote in asking if someone who works as a police officer shouldn’t have a little thicker skin, since she has to take far worse abuse than that from the general public. It was a minor point, but it stuck in my mind.
Should police be able to put up with more grief from their coworkers because they are trained to calmly deal with people routinely cursing at them, hitting them and spitting on them? Honestly, no.
Whatever job you do, the last thing you want to do when you finish your shift is more of the same. So when your job often consists of seeing the absolute worst humanity has to offer for eight hours, you really don’t want to take more abuse from the people you work with.
Just to be clear, I’m not a person who blindly supports the police all the time. If I had been a grown-up during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, I don’t think I would have sided with the cops. I’ve reported things as a journalist with a daily newspaper that have gotten police officers in trouble”even charged with murder.
I was married to my husband before he became a police officer, and I’ll be married to him when he’s not a police officer anymore. It’s too bad that after fewer than five years, he’s had enough of this job. But hearing the stories he brought home really opened my eyes to the kind of abuse police have to take.
Suspects will even hold up a cell phone and yell into their phone, “Stop hitting me, stop hitting me,” as the officer stands by, not laying a hand on the suspect. They are recording (audio only, of course) the situation to try to create grounds for a lawsuit. When someone has to face people like that all the time, they really deserve a massage, a hot drink and a good book when they get back to the station.
Instead, they have to navigate the minefield of all the other officers and supervisors who have dealt with similar people all day long. Everyone is on his or her last nerve, and they are all crammed into a run-down, dirty station with no clean place to eat and the most disgusting locker room I’ve ever seen.
But the truth is, from what I’ve seen, police work runs most people down. It can bring out their worst traits. They may be the best cop on Earth during their shift, but after a long day, they aren’t at their best. If you think it takes a lot of energy and diplomacy to get along with your boss and co-workers, imagine if they all just finished dealing with a rush of adrenaline from disarming someone or breaking up a fight.
I’m not making excuses for anyone. In fact, I don’t really know what happened, and I’m not on either side of it. The sad fact is that even people who aren’t on either side of it end up being treated shabbily, or recruited to one side or another, or alienated for trying to treat everyone decently and staying out of controversy.
And it’s not so much that morale is particularly bad in the Forest Park police department. It’s that it is a really draining job and some personalities blow off steam by being jerks to other people. That’s just life. But in a small department, in close quarters, it’s particularly damaging. From what I’ve seen, the people who are really at each other’s throats aren’t even the people who are involved in the lawsuit. I’m not one to advocate for overpriced, spa-like facilities for public workers, but I can see how it would be difficult to build camaraderie in a station where there’s hardly a place to stand and talk to someone else, much less sit down and have a sandwich.
I don’t think anyone should be concerned about the affect of these problems on their safety or the crime rate in town. Forest Park police officers are well-trained, responsive and courteous. They back each other up on the job, regardless of any personality conflicts or controversy.
So please thank your local police officers for putting themselves out there every day, and taking on the abuse and the danger and the depressing reality of the really bad people most of us have the luxury of never meeting. Those officers have to go home at the end of their shift and try to be decent husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and friends, and try to remember that there are more good people in the world than bad.
So, no, dear forum poster, a police man or woman should not be required to put up with more hazing or harassment at work because they are a cop. They should be required to put up with less of it. That goes for all of them, whether plaintiff, defendant, or neither.
On a more general note, I’ll miss living here and following the politics and developments around town. I hope that when I return to visit, all the new residential developments will be booming, and we will have abandoned the commissioner form of government for a more traditional mayor-manager or aldermanic representation form. And maybe somebody could switch the hinges at the post office so one set of doors pushes in, and the other set pushes out. It’s nearly impossible to pull open a door with a package in one arm and a baby in the other.
Farewell, and take care of Forest Park for me.