No, this isn’t some off the cuff approach to announcing my retirement from policing. Far from it (especially seeing how I know that I have a good number of years left in me) as there is more to do. No, this is something completely different.
I was asked a few weeks ago by my psychologist to answer this question, “what have you learned from your journey so far?” What I thought was going to be a nice and easy answer turned out to be something a lot more. As the title to the post says, my answer was that the identity of my badge and me are two distinct and different things. I realize that this goes against every bit of indoctrination that police forces throw at recruits but a) I am nowhere near a recruit anymore and b) it really is the truth.
In training, you are pushed to conform, to become one with your Troopmates and join the big old happy policing family as brother and sisters. They go to great lengths, using tried and true actions and techniques to make sure that they break you down and build you back up to become the ideal police officer. Now don’t get me wrong, it is required. Aside from the military, what other job puts a gun in your hand and trains you to be ready to use it. I remember the first time that I had my gun drawn and leveled at another human, knowing in that split second that if the individual did not comply with my directions, I would pull the trigger and “stop the threat”. This is only possible through the indoctrination process.
This process also strips you of your identity in many ways, making a person another clog in the wheel. Once again, a necessary evil required to ensure that you will comply with the orders of your bosses and get the job done. It also protects a person to some degree as you can brush off what you did, experienced and lived through as being done for the job. But that is also where the problems begin.
Instead of reacting to the experiences, which in most cases are negative, we just brush them off and move on, Mountie Up as I like to call it. You become you badge and use your badge a shield to protect yourself (I wonder if that’s why they call badges shields?). You end up building layer upon layer of traumatic experiences that never truly get dealt with. Then one day, you say hello to your not so friendly friend, PTSD.
Well, six months of weekly psychological therapy completely smashed almost 18 years of indoctrination and Mountie Upping. I cam to the realization that my badge isn’t me, Jay and Jay is not my badge. I am a living breathing human that can be hurt and traumatized by the experiences that I deal with. Jay is a police officer but first and foremost, I am Jay, the human. Along the way, I got lost in the badge and forgot that I am me, someone who needs to be taken care of.
We, my psychologist and myself, have chronicled a shit tonne of situations / experiences that have damaged me. Many would not have been to the extreme that they are at now had I treated myself like a human and not a badge. Heck, I will go so far as to say that this is epidemic across the policing universe. There is a need for indoctrination but there is also a bigger need to teach and show members how to remain human and not become the badge that they wear. For me, this will be the battle that I must take up for myself.