Battling Narcissus

fish-eat-fishs-100216148Jack, why a book and why now? Relax; you’re not a cop anymore they would say. Just teach, you like teaching right?  There are no easy answers to internal questions; questions of the soul. For me, anyhow.

Too many questions and not enough fortune cookies holding the answers. 

You’d think that once someone reaches retirement age, they’d cruise into the sunset and relax while doing very little. No deadlines. No 4am wake-up calls and no more 18 hours days. No stress. No jealousy. No superior-subordinate tensions. No more soap opera rumors. No hurtful lies. No moles making mountains out of their tiny hills.

For me, it was difficult to give up police work. It had been my routine every day since late 1978. All of my experiences and accomplishments and good work reduced to the rush of air through an open door and then, with the breeze, you’re gone. I had put myself through school to improve my interactions with at risk kids and their families. And as I aged with my job, you’d think that I would be sought out, not banished. Respected, not pushed aside like dirty laundry.

But in the end, it was a narrow vision of power that pushed me toward the light, as in the fading twinkle of my career light.

There were many subtle and not so subtle warning signs that hastened my escape to civilian-hood that were like bright-light omens. A favorite was a display of newly acquired power by a new boss; his ascension to power a game-changer for many.  These displays were always one-on-one and behind closed doors. Many were on days that my health was fragile. Defensible Deniability. More of a face slap. I was being replaced by another officer who had a run-in with a supervisor.  I was, like the knuckleheads in my book, drifting. Classic insult to injury stuff. Now, as I think out loud, I wonder where the management theory was that emerged with the new administration. Aligning yourself with experienced, professional employees is basic leadership 101; cutting highly trained employees has a disastrous history.  It’s like rearranging deck furniture on a sinking ship.

And in a Boston-minute, my tenure and time as an SRO had ended. It was done. I was dumbfounded because I thought it outrageous to believe that just anyone could be a school resource officer. So many years of training, in and out of school; a dedication to be proactive and progressive and informed. That’s what was expected of me and through three administration’s it evolved. Gaining the trust of kids and faculty and entering the flow of another organization is a slow, deliberate melding of ideas and personalities and compromise. And it takes time. But, a warm body is a warm body. Period. Job assessment notwithstanding. In other words, you could do a bad job but if you showed up, you’re good. Injury or sickness not tolerated.  

I had been on light duty awaiting my return to the schools. I worked in severe pain, and I doubt [and this is just my opinion] that there are any of my peers who would have worked with the medical issues I endured. But I wanted to go back to school, back to my programs back to my drifting friends. I had a comfortable working personality, something that can only be learned over time, up close and personal. It cannot be transferred like a baton being handed off in a relay race.

I was shocked. Hurt actually, but there is no room for emotions in police work.  I got up and left.  No benefit of the doubt. No help or support. A career reduced to sick time and innuendo and resentment.  Everything in life is fragile, but even the smallest of creatures protect a sick egg or shelter a ailing member of the flock.  I was not that lucky. I was no longer psychologically safe.

 Narcissus is indeed alive, and for me, that is both a literal and prophetic truth.

Many police departments, in my opinion, become houses of hate riddled with internal strife. Too many Type-A personalities refusing to give in. That’s the locker room scuttle; the place where heads butt and personalities clash and soap-operas have nothing on real life antics. And I was just another victim. I knew the schools would suffer under this new world order. I knew that helping drifting kids would stop. There would be little attempt at course correction, there would only be the snap of handcuffs. Changing a culture is hard. I get it. I didn’t relish the fact that the pawns in this ever-changing chessboard are the first to go. Being out front and vulnerable was not a game I was good at.

There is a lot more to disclose and talk about, but when the love of power is replaced with the power of love, or compassion only then can we dispose of our internal baggage. And we all have it.

Do I sound bitter? Cynical? Scorned? Betrayed?  As you get to know me, Jack, things are not always as they seem!