I don’t consider myself an apologist for police officers.
I have represented police unions for almost 25 years. They have put food on my table and my kids through school during my career, so I can acknowledge that I may have a bias.
But in my 25 years, I have seen police in their true skins, warts and all. I don’t call them heroes. Some of the work they do is heroic and selfless. But they are human like you and me.
I call many of them my friends. But I have also been called on to work with and defend officers who I would never voluntarily associate with ever again in my life. There aren’t many, but there are a handful.
What I have learned over my career is that they are not much different from you and me. I think they have an extra bravery gene. Also an extra cynical gene. As a group, each of them can make dumb mistakes. But they are also willing to take risks without regard to the harm that may come to them personally. They, like you and me, are a complex lot.
What brings me to write about police today is this controversy that is going on in our capital city, Hartford. According to news reports (I have no insider information), a detective in the major crimes division of the detective bureau texted out a message to some of his fellow officers earlier this year inviting them to pitch in twenty bucks as part of a “dead pool.”
I have heard about these macabre games before. They create discomfort, because they invite us to confront mortality in a way that is generally not socially acceptable.
But if you think about it, police officers are called upon fairly regularly to confront mortality and death in a way that is not socially acceptable. For a great majority of us, we never have to view scenes of violence, mayhem, and death in our lives. Police officers do that for us.
We are fortunate because the scenes that police have to confront in dealing with the most gruesome and vile parts of society for us, are mentally incomprehensible to most of us. We know people die violent deaths because we read about them or see them fictionalized on screen. But for police, violence and death are daily realities. Maybe not every day in every town, fortunately, but enough that they have an impact on health and well-being.
Anyway, according to reports, the Hartford detective at the center of the Deadpool controversy solicited wagers about the circumstances of the first homicide in Hartford in 2021.
We have certain standards and norms in our society. One of them that most of us embrace is that death should not be trivialized. And neither should life.
But we all know that in the performance of their duties, members of our police forces see lives trivialized on a regular basis, and lives lost over tens of dollars, packets of drugs, and minor disrespectful slights. In reality the police do not trivialize life and death, society does by its actions.
In my career, I have listened to the public demand that cops toughen up and deal with the horrendous crime and loss they see every day. We give them limited tools to do so. Heck, we don’t even give them full workers compensation benefits to deal with the psychological toll that their jobs demand. Hartford politicians want to fire the police officers involved in the dead pool.
I say we send them a note of thanks and ask what we can do for them to help them serve us better.