By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
It’s taken me a long time to write about this subject and I don’t think I’ll have my wife read it before I send it out. I met my wife in high school and we fell in love. We were married a couple of years after graduation. I never thought I would love anything more than my wife, maybe not more but just as much. I was young and I guess a fool! How can you have two loves and still be faithful? The temptations are out there and they come in many forms. I was strong for quite a while and then I fell in love again. I was still in love with my wife but I fell for one of those temptations that come up in your life. I call it my second love!
Now before you delete this and take me off your Christmas card list let me explain. My “mistress” was the Los Angeles Police Department!
Let that sink in for a minute. How can work be a mistress that consumes and dominates your life for over three decades? If you don’t understand then you’ve never been a cop. Being a cop gets into your blood—somewhat like a cancer but there is no known cure. Once you hooked you might as well just go for the ride, and by the way, hold on, it’s a roller coaster.
You’ll work long hours, weekends, holidays, miss your kids’ school plays, football games and that special event that your wife told you about six months ago. You’ll work at night and sleep in the day time. You’ll eat breakfast for both meals—that is, if you get two meals in the same day. You communicate with your wife with Post-it’s on the refrigerator. Your dog begins to growl at you when you come home late or early. You’ll ask your wife, “Honey, how long have our kids had braces on their teeth?”
Somehow through all this you fall in love with the job. You see horrific things that may scar you for life. You will have days were you smile all the way home and can’t wait to share your story with your other love. You remember the highs and the lows and often dream about them. It doesn’t matter, by now you’re hooked, you’re an addict. Non-police friends and family will never understand and question why. They wonder at the things you think are funny. You don’t care—you’re in love and your favorite line is, “I can’t believe they pay us to have this much fun.”
What’s the big temptation? You work long hours often in the dark, sometimes alone. You meet a lot of interesting people and some of them are lonely, looking for companionship. Sometimes, it’s your partner. Your diet is the exact opposite of what you learned in health class. By the way, I’ve never seen a cop eat a kale salad on the hood of his police car during a barricaded suspect call out. If someone had a kale salad they hid it from the rest of us. The ribbing would be unbearable!
How many people watch their kids grow up to be responsible adults and are proud? As a training officer, I had a new probationer every few months. Some gave me enormous headaches but occasionally you could see the light come on and you knew they were going to be ok. Some later thanked you for bringing them along.
As a cop, you don’t make acquaintances, you make lifelong friends. You may not see them for a few years but there still close friends. There will always be that bond that other jobs don’t develop. You’re going to hit speed bumps along the way but you’ll never turn your back on something you love.
So just what is it that makes you love a job with so many downsides? Why do people go on roller coaster rides, or watch scary movies? Who stands in a hour line to ride the Matterhorn at Disneyland? Being a cop gives you the same adrenalin rush whether you want it or not. Try hurtling through the streets during rush hour traffic to catch a suspect that a judge will give probation to as a sentence! Stake out a location for hours and when your suspect arrives you lose him. That will eat at you for years! The other side of that coin is catching the suspect you have been trying to catch for weeks. Other rewards are a simple handshake or hug. I once helped a little old lady and she shook my hand. Her hands were crippled with arthritis. She then went home a wrote me a hand written note to thank me. That’s why we love our job. Young kids still love cops and often wave, later maybe only with one finger?
Being a cop, you feel the anger when a fellow police officer is shot or injured even when you didn’t know them. You never really retire. You take the badge and gun off but it’s too late. It’s inside you, that cancer that will be with you until you die. Most of us say we miss the people but not the job. B.S. we miss the job too. Some of us will outlive our wives but never our Mistress!