On the Beat ? Experience from the Street
The question today is: When going on a call are fear or adrenaline kicking in or both?
There were so many times over my 15 plus years of law enforcement where I drove around my patrol area, listening to music on my car radio and watching life go on through the window of the vehicle. ?As a police officer, you spend the majority of your time seat belted into that front seat, spending hours and hours driving circles in your area. But what happens when your unit number is called, and all hell begins to break loose?
I can remember so many times in my years when my dispatcher would key up on the radio, and call out my unit number and from the moment they opened their mouths, I knew shit was about to hit the fan. Dispatchers are amazing!!! They are trying to get the information out to us as quickly and coherently as they can, while keeping their own emotions held in check. But even the most seasoned dispatcher will have a slightly different tone in their voice when the stakes are raised, and a good cop who knows their dispatchers well, will recognize that in a heartbeat.
The instant you realize this, your heartbeat beings to accelerate. The music radio gets turned down, the dispatch radio turned up and the wheels inside your head start really spinning. You first need to hear what you have, let?s just say you have a person with a gun, and you need to know where the incident is taking place. Then you have to decide what the quickest and safest route is for you to take. You need to understand how many people are involved, and how many officers you will need to assist you. Sometimes you have to help officers with locations if they are coming from other jurisdictions, so you?re giving directions, maybe coming up with a staging point so you can all respond safely.
So, you?re thinking about where you?re going and who is coming with you, while still obtaining information from your dispatcher as to what is going on at the scene.? At this time, you have probably turned on your lights and siren and you are now dealing with driving at a faster speed, and watching the traffic on the roadway.? Plus, as we entered more populated areas, we have to keep our eyes out for animals, kids and people walking near the roadways.
I read a training book once and on every page where it talked about responding to a call it said in bold letters, ?WATCH OUT FOR THAT CHILD?. I never forgot that and I can?t remember the number of times that would roll through my mind as I drove with my emergency lights and sirens on.
In your mind you are asking yourself a ton of questions: Was someone injured? Where is the person with the weapon? Do we know what they look like, where they went? Why the hell won?t that car in front of me pull over out of my way? What is the best and safest way to access the area? Who is going to arrive with me? Is it quicker to turn this way? Where will each of the officers go when they arrive? Is EMS on standby, or have they already been dispatched because we know someone is injured? Am I going to have to take a life tonight? ?Am I going to make it home to my family?
Plus, remember we are still driving, still talking on the radio and still assessing the conditions of the traffic as we move.
The adrenaline is pumping. Many officers get tunnel vision, and we spend a lot of time working through that so that we can stay aware of our surroundings and still focus on what we need to do.? It?s not unusually for the adrenaline to stay kicking in our system for a good fifteen to thirty minutes as we deal with a serious situation. But that chemical in our blood keeps us sharp, alert for the most part.
As for fear, well, most cops would tell you that fear plays a very small part in our mindset. Yes, of course we are afraid ? don?t let anyone tell you differently, we are human. We fear the outcome of everything, especially the one where we don?t come home after our shift. ?We fear what could happen to a fellow officer, what could happen to a citizen, what could happen to the suspect. But with that said, fear is not something that we consider as we respond to a scene. It?s hidden behind that adrenaline and the years of training that we have. It?s pushed to the back of our minds because this is what we were trained for. This is what our job is.? This is what makes us who we are.
After the event is over, and the adrenaline is gone we might consider what could have happened, what could have been worse, or what could we have done to make it better.? That?s also the time when you?ll find many officers reaching for something with sugar in it as they have used most of it up during the peak. I do believe this is where the donuts come into play.
On the Beat – Experience from the Street is based on my own personal experience from my fifteen plus years of law enforcement. If you have a question you’d like to ask, send me an email and I’ll add it to my list to answer! (Stacy@StacyEaton.com)
Please note that I will not discuss political issues, or respond to questions about what other officers do that is questionable. This is a positive place to help people understand what officers deal with while working the streets.