How easy is this job of police work anyway?

People are very quick to tell us. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of how my wages are paid by the taxpaying citizens of this county and state. How they pay taxes, as if I don’t. I try to remind them that I do, too.

How easy is this job? You can decide. People will not do their civic duty by reporting crime, by not being a witness because they don’t want to be a “rat.”

Then, as soon as they need us, they call us right away and want to know why we haven’t done anything about the crime for which they are now the victims.

Some say we don’t respond fast enough, that we couldn’t catch criminals even if they walked in front of us.

How hard is this job? You decide.

There are no statistics on how many of the citizens are stopped for drunk driving who accuse us of being in a lower class of life, throwing around the fact that they make more money than we do, then tell us to get a real job. They argue with us, telling us that they are not the real criminals, that it is the ones who are committing thefts and robberies that we should be arresting. Catch a crook instead of him as he vomits in the back seat of your police car while another officer makes a death notification.

How hard is this job? You can decide.

How many citizens have been called to task in the middle of the night while their neighbors slept? Been called to a brutal homicide scene? It’s where blood and other bodily fluids have spilled out onto the floor and then get down in it to collect trace evidence, or smelled the decaying flesh and tissue of victims who are sometimes covered with various types of insects and possibly half-eaten by animals. Then we have to make those subsequent family notifications.

How easy is this job? You decide.

Not to mention the drug overdoses or the suicides or the accidental deaths that are handled on a daily basis. Death and dying are only a few of the reasons to consider if you cannot decide how easy this job is.

There is the stress put on you to do a better job from the people that you are sworn to protect and serve and from the administration to do it faster with fewer and fewer resources. There is the stress of family, with high rates of divorce and separation for police officers.

Making decisions, on a daily basis, of loyalty to the job or to the family has never been an easy task for the law enforcement professional, the officer who has dedicated his life to the job.

How easy is this job? You decide.

Think of the thousands of men and women in police work who must take a second job in order to make ends meet. An officer who must work through the frustrations of substandard equipment and understaffed departments every day has his morale affected.

Handling domestic violence calls by themselves or going from call to call a child abuse here, a rape there, a shooting call in a remote area, and then a burglary in a residential area. Slamming down food on the rush, if you have the opportunity.

How easy is this job? You decide.

Yet, as officers of the law, we continue our day-to-day duties to the best of our ability and with dedication and pride and put in overtime to protect and serve.

There is a dedication like no other when it comes to this job. Most people can’t do it; the majority won’t, so that leaves a small percentage of people who will. Given the chance to start over, most police officers, deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement personnel would not do anything else.

So, the next time you think to yourself or speak out loud about how easy this job is or tell someone how lousy we are, please consider how hard we really do work and how we do what most would not. Consider all the sacrifices that have been made by officers who have given their lives to the community they serve. Consider all I have said and then decide how easy this job is.

(Editor’s note: Valencia County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. James C. Purdy has been an officer for 19 years in California and New Mexico. He will write a column periodically.)

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James Purdy