On an October evening in 1992, Carl and another police officer were dispatched to an apartment building for a domestic dispute. Carl and his partner were under the impression that there would only be a man and a woman in the apartment; however, there were their 2 young kids hiding in the closet. Carl’s partner went into one of the bedrooms with the woman to talk, and Carl talked with the man in the kitchen/living room area. Eventually, his partner came back from talking with the woman and a decision was made to arrest the man. Carl attempted to arrest him and got one hand cuff on, but the man grabbed a 14-inch meat cleaver and wacked Carl over the back of the head. Carl defended himself and thankfully, Carl’s partner was able to get the cleaver from the man. They later got back to the police station, and he found his partner crying because people at the station said that because she was a woman, she didn’t pull her weight which was why it all happened. Carl thought this was absurd because she actually saved his life.
Carl is now retired and was a police officer for about 30 years. When this incident happened, he had only been a police officer for around 2 years. This experience has impacted him as a person. Carl still wakes up after almost 30 years and feels like he’s still fighting with that man. He also says that this story has made him an advocate for anyone who is traditionally at a disadvantage because of how his partner was treated after the incident. Carl believes that everyone should be supported in the work environment regardless of their sex, race, or ethnicity. Carl also wants it to be known that women are just as good of police officers as any man. Carl also learned that you can be resilient and take time to build that resiliency. It is ok to take a knee. Just because you take a knee and need a break to regain your mental health doesn’t mean that you cannot come back to regular duties. Carl wants all police officers to know that even through the worst of situations, you can make it through the other side, recover and go back to doing your regular job. It is imperative to reach out for professional and/or peer support. There is no shame in this. If you don’t deal with the trauma, it never goes away and starts to affect your personal life. If you deal with it, you can learn to cope and be resilient, and lead a successful career and personal life. You and your family are worth the effort to seek help and start talking.
The mentality back then was to “suck it up.” It wasn’t cool to seek for what you were feeling. Now, Carl talks about it and takes any opportunity he can to talk about it. He shares his story and finds it very helpful to do so. He says what has helped him and what continues to, is talking it through and having someone who is listening to empathize with it. Also, having someone listen who wants to make a difference by hearing your story helps.
Carls story highlights how being part of the police force can be an extremely hard and traumatic job. There are many traumatic things that officers experience and for Carl, this was not the only story. These experiences have long term effects on mental health and the experience does not only cause distress when it happens, it can cause distress for the rest of their lives. Additionally, lack of support and discrimination in the workplace can further complicate these situations.