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Guest Post: The Human Behind the Police Uniform

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

By Retired Sheriff Deputy, Melanie Mikeska

I've been silent, because I've been trying to figure out the right words to say. Fear has held me back from SO many things, but I've decided to share with you all some of my inner soul in the hopes it might help you see things in a different light. This is So very scary for me to share but I'm speaking my truth. From the time I can remember I wanted to help people. Ever since I was a little girl, I would go door-to-door with a shovel or a rake even though often times, they were bigger than I was, to ask if I could help my neighbors. And as I got older, I admired my dad being a police officer and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I did everything in my power to achieve that goal and graduating the Academy was one of the proudest moments of my life. Things I don't think you ever imagine when you see me sitting in a coffee shop or deli. I see you approaching me, I’m ready to answer your questions or sign off your ticket, but you stand there and tell me I don't deserve those few minutes of rest because you pay my salary. This is part of my story: I've been in fights with people who wanted to kill me I've been in fights with your abuser only to have you jump on my back after you had called 911 then changed your mind. I've witnessed your family members take their own life steps from me. I've found your dead body after you took your own life. I've found your lifeless body on the side of the road, left there after you were beaten to death. I've worked fatalities of people I knew, but couldn’t see that while at the scene. You can imagine why. I've done CPR more times than I can remember. I can't get those eyes of the suspect who wanted to kill me at me out my mind. I have vivid images of your loved ones that haunt me in the middle of the night. I've been called out more names while dreaming than you can think of. I've been taken to the hospital several times. I've torn tendons and had surgeries. I’ve been punched in the face. I've been dispatched to calls where I was scared but went anyway because you needed me. I've had to tell you gently that your loved ones weren't coming home only to hear you scream and punch my chest. I've helped you push your car off the road. I've found your aging parents. I've hiked into the woods to carry you out because you couldn't walk out on your own. I've paid for hotels rooms so you didn't have to sleep out in the cold. I've bought your Christmas tree and all the presents for your kids because you couldn't. I've paid your child's school lunch bill for the year because you couldn't. I've bought you a bus ticket so you could go see loved ones for a fresh start. I've had lunch with you because you were alone. I've gone back after my shift and helped bathe you because you couldn't do it yourself. I've spent my days off, cleaning your house taking you to lunch because you were lonely. I will assist you if your involved in an accident. I will do my best to comfort you until help arrives. I will always have your back I will protect you even though I'm retired. This is a side of police work you don't get to see. Our everyday work. People forget that we are human, people forget that we have families we might be destroying because of what we have seen. People forget that we carry your dead loved ones in our everyday eyes. I can't un-see the horrors of the job. My brain can’t forget what my eyes have seen. I can't remember what it's like to be able to sit in a public place and not face the entry and just relax while enjoying the loved ones I’m with. I’ve had my own gun in my hand against my temple more times than I care to admit, because of all the trauma that goes untreated and definitely unrecognized by my department’s upper management. These are the very people who can help you not feel like you’re going crazy but don’t even try. Suck it up and respond to the next call. But first, wash the blood off your hand. Nobody wants a crying officer at their doorstep. I worked for almost 20 years seeing things, trust me, you don’t ever want to see. I've stood up for criminals being mistreated at the expense of being called a sissy and worse by my fellow officers. I’ve protected people of all race and age and would give my life in a second for a perfect stranger no matter what color they are. I stood up to bullies, I’ve been a bully in some cases where needed. I'm not that officer who had no regard for human life, I will never be that person. Wearing that badge has taken more things from me than I even care to mention, it turned me into somebody that I didn’t even recognize most of the time. I saw it, my family saw it. I sought help for PTSI (post-traumatic stress injury). I fought the demons and still do on a daily basis. It robs you of being human. Until you pick up the head of somebody that’s not even attached to their body anymore or heard the screams of a mother because her baby just died, how could you ever understand? How could you? I don’t even understand sometimes. All I know is it starts from the very top, starts in the Academy, starts with respect of others on both sides, it starts with understanding that PTSI in officers is real and can be healed like a broken leg with the right treatment. It starts with allowing an officer to be a human being and not just a human doing. It starts with allowing officers to show natural human emotions for abnormal events they are witnessing day in and day out. It starts with not turning your back on your fellow officers because they are struggling. The list is endless on how you could help stop department betrayal, because often times this very thing can be just as damaging if not more than everyday traumas of the citizen you swore to protect and serve. I wasn't at that scene the day George Floyd was murdered. That behavior is unacceptable. He was treated like a wild animal and not the human being he was. I do know, as God is my witness, I would have done something. I would have made sure he received the medical attention he so desperately needed in those 8 minutes and 46 seconds. I, on the other hand can see why two of the officers didn’t try harder. All that’s going through their mind is I want to pass FTO. They asked if they should do something different, they asked if they should get him off his back, they told their training officer he wasn't breathing, their voices where shot down by the very FTOs that were supposed to be teaching them to do the right thing. I’ve said it before, these are the officers that are given awards, these are the officers that are made out to be the heroes of the department because they bring high numbers of arrests no matter how they got them. They are the revenue makers for the departments and that's what management cares about. How many tickets did you write? How many criminal complaints did you send to the DA's office? They could care less that you helped a community member. Really, they don't want to hear those things at all. I stood up, I fought. I’m the one who lost my career, I’m the one who retired from a job I loved (or I use to love) most of my life. I’m the one who was told, if I stood up for what was right, I’d be the one who suffers. Guess what, they were right, they made sure it happened to me, they made sure my life was hell, they tried to take everything from me, including my own life because of what I was going through with my department. I had the fight of my life and career and it wasn’t against a bad guy on the streets. I was in a fight with my very own department for telling the truth, a very long 3-year critical incident. 3 years of trying to get my wife to leave me, 3 years of pushing family away, 3 years of destroying friendships, 3 years of being silent out of shame, 3 years of thinking I was going crazy, 3 years of jumping though every hoop they put in front of me, 3 years of being so damn angry, 3 years of feeling like I failed myself and my entire family and 3 years hoping the truth would prevail. Oh, and the other officer you ask; he was promoted and went on with his everyday normal life. My greatest wish is that you’d want to hear MY voice. But my fear is, you really don’t; you don’t want to hear what it’s really like to work with those kinds of officers. You just say, you’re whining, suck it up buttercup, you know what you signed up for when you took the job. Well, no one signed up for the hate, no one signed up for the nightmares and I didn’t sign up for the heavy weight of the badge, that has kept me from being me for so many years. What you don’t know about me when you see me, I have black grandchildren. Do you know the fears that run though my head? “Are they afraid of me because they think I’m one of them” secretly do they think I could ever treat someone like this. They have never seem me doing my job but will be told by others (not my family) that all officers are bad and to beware. I can’t imagine what they feel also on a daily basis. They are also being judged by their skin color alone and not the amazing humans they are growing up to be. They have brought me so much joy, but I’m just figuring out to let that joy in. Again, just figuring out what it means to be human and not worry about all the little things. Just think if this was your everyday struggle, just think if you had to remember what it’s like to be a real human. Just think if you were always judged by your uniform or the color of your skin. Seems to me it’s one and the same. Why are we fighting this war against each other when it seems pretty clear to me that we are fighting for the same thing. To be treated as individuals and not judged by the masses or let the hatred determine the outcome. It’s proven that we’re stronger in numbers, “no one fights alone” in my world no matter what the outside looks like. I'm sorry you hate me for wearing a uniform. I’m sorry it’s all you can see. I’m sorry you can’t see the human behind it. Just know, I don't hate you. I see YOU no matter what you’re wearing. Retired Sheriff Deputy, Melanie Mikeska

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