Last week, the New York daily news published an article about a newborn baby who was found deceased in a Brooklyn dumpster. Without getting into the gruesome details surrounding a homicide investigation, I want to focus on the police officers and first responders who were involved. Human beings – one and all.
Every violent death can be hard to see. The brutal homicide of an infant is one of the most horrific to handle. The men and women who respond to these crimes are often forgotten or just not thought about.
This is not intentional by any means – it is just that the crime itself has overshadowed everything and everyone else involved. The crime needs to be solved and the focus is to bring those responsible to justice.
THE EVER-GROWING BURDEN
What is not talked about in the headlines of the papers is the effect that seeing such things can have on the officers and first responders who witness this kind of event.
- What are, if any, the long-lasting consequences for being the one to see such things?
- Will there be a trigger that will put you back at that scene even if only for a minute?
- Will it take you back to a place and time you never want to be again?
Law enforcement and first responders by trade, see the worst things imaginable, at times. Of the many gruesome incidents they handle every year, which one will come back to them so vividly that seeing a certain address or smelling a unique odor may immediately put them back to that terrible scene in an instant?
If you talk to a lot of first responders following some critical incident, they will tell you they are fine and everything will be alright.
That statement may be true a lot of times but unfortunately, in others that is simply not the case. The hard truth is that some cannot stow those images away that easily.
Whatever terrible event they experienced, it is ingrained in their memory. They may possibly be reliving it over-and-over every time they are reminded of it by some sort of trigger. As an example, think of the cops who were first on-scene after the Sandy Hook elementary school killings.
Can you imagine what it would be like for them to answer a call for service at a different elementary school where some minor problem was reported? The emotional anguish could be overwhelming and continue for many years to come.
For the officers who responded to the homicide of the infant in New York:
- What will be their reminder?
- Will it be the sight of a garbage dumpster or the sound of garbage trucks?
- Will it be as simple as the sound of a baby crying that will put them right back where nobody wanted to be that day?
What is not typically discussed is the burden that officers take home with them after seeing things like the Brooklyn incident. It can manifest into something truly ugly. It can turn into alcoholism, substance abuse, sleeping disorders or insomnia for some. Unfortunately, these are only a few of the negative outcomes from trying to compartmentalize the despicable things we see people do to each other.
I hope that anyone that needs help dealing with such events get the assistance they require, whatever level it may be. The accumulative effects of this job can erode even the strongest among us and the triggers that haunt us only further that erosion.
For some, they will experience the same scene over and over again.
It is vital that they remember this: You are not alone.
There are outlets to help ease the burden they carry with them.
There are ways to unpack that baggage and move on from it. We have all seen things we wish we wouldn’t have, how we move forward from them is what is most important.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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