Police work depends on partnerships a lot.  You must be able to trust and rely on a partner in order to complete calls, maintain the workload and most importantly, survive critical situations.  We always make the statement, “You can trust me with your life.”

We want our co-workers to know that in any situation, they can rely on us to be there, to be confident that if needed, we will lay down our lives for theirs. I’ve had a lot of great partners throughout my career.  I also had people I thought were great partners, only to have them disappoint me in some way.

However, there has been one partner who has NEVER failed me, supported me through the good and the bad, celebrated victories with me, cried with over crushing defeats and stood by side when I was taking friendly fire from officers and administration: my wife.

When I was 18 years old, attending college and still not quite sure where I was going in life, I met my wife through my roommate.  We hit it off and about 1½ years later, we were married.  At 19 years old, I made the decision that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  She was beautiful, smart, funny and I loved the way she made me a better person.

By the time we said our vows, I had attended the police academy and decided to make law enforcement my career.  She was there through the academy, supporting me and driving me toward my goal.  When I graduated, she was there to celebrate with me.

She was with me the entire 2 years I spent looking for a job and I will never forget how proud she was the first time she saw me in uniform.  I swore that I would always treat her as my life partner, sharing everything with her and never keeping secrets.  I lied, to both her and myself.

 

THE CHANGE THAT NOBODY WANTS AND EVERYBODY GETS

Like every officer out there, I told myself that police work would not change me as a person. Well, we all know that was a lie.  Police work will change you. It has to change you, not only for survival in the line of work, but for survival outside the line of work.

I remember coming home during my first year and telling my wife everything that took place during my shift.  I could tell that certain things bothered her. Not things that I did, but the work itself.

While I loved car chases, running down criminals and getting into physical altercations, she worried about what could happen.  I could see the happiness in her eyes knowing that I was loving my job, but I could also tell that she was worried something tragic might happen.

We were young, had a young child at home and were financially strapped a little. She needed to know that things were going to be ok.  I made her the same promise every night I left: I’ll come home at the end of my shift. Then, fate would intervene barely a year after I started my career.  I was involved in a shooting.

That particular day, I left for work just like every other day.  I kissed her and my son goodbye, said I would see them in the morning, and off I went.  The first part of my shift was like any other.  I answered some calls, talked with my partners, and made plans to meet up with one of my good friends to run RADAR, right after I backed up an officer at a trespasser call.  That trespasser call turned into a true shit show.

The man pulled a large shank on me, tried to stab me numerous times, chasing me through a house while I tried to gain distance and he wound up dying as a result of several gunshots from me and the officer whom I was backing up.

I will never forget the suspect’s final words to me, at the doorstep of the house.  He looked directly in my eyes as I continued to order him to drop the weapon and stated, “You’ve shot the shit out of me, now you’re gonna have to kill me!”  He took one final step toward me and two shots later, he fell.

 

HOW COME THE GOOD GUYS ARE THE ONES HURTING?

We placed the radio call of shots fired, officers rushed in, they secured the scene and I was sent back to the department.  I spent the next four hours inside an office alone, awaiting the state investigators, and learning how administration works in a situation like this.  I was allowed to call my wife and tell her that I would be late, but that was all.  I could write an entire article about this incident and at some point I will. But suffice to say, my wife and I both realized at that moment just how violent my job could be.

We made it through the incident, with support from our church, our family, officers at work and each other.  But I also knew that she would be even more worried each and every time I walked out that door.

When I returned to work, I decided that I would “protect” my wife by not telling her everything – a direct violation of the promise I had made to her just over a year before.  I had a couple of officers whom I spoke with every night. One in particular had been a sniper in Vietnam and we spoke at length about the nightmares and other issues.  I found my confidence in partners at the department and stopped telling my true partner about anything I thought might worry her.

Years went by and I truly believed that I was doing the right thing.  In my mind, I was protecting her and now our three children, from the horrors of the job.  I thought everything was ok, or so I told myself.

In reality, I was on the path of destroying my marriage.  Soon, we drifted apart.  I found myself telling her less and less and telling others at work more and more.  I was shifting my relationship, like so many officers do, to rely on those at work and shut out those at home.

It came to a head one day and I was faced with a possible divorce.  While I acted shocked, in my mind I knew it had been coming. I was living two separate lives and it wasn’t healthy for any of us involved.

If I close my eyes, I can still see the pain in her eyes and her expression.  To this day, it still destroys me, knowing that I hurt her.  There are some other points, I will not get into, that also hurt her and led her to her decision, but they all started with the decision I made to shut her out and “protect” her.

We fought for our marriage, got back together, and continued to push through.  While many thought we had the perfect marriage, it was still far from being such.  I tried to tell her more, as she had requested, but still had things I thought I needed to protect her from.

During this period, I got promoted.  I was hoping that it would make things better.  It was a huge financial boost, relieving that issue, but it compounded the work load and issues I was dealing with at work.  A couple of years later, God intervened, and I left police work to save my marriage.

Five years later, I had to return to police work.  I knew my wife wasn’t happy, but she also understood that it would provide for us.  I promised her it would be different this time. I would not try to protect her.  Well, I worked like hell to keep that promise.  I came home and relayed everything that I could to her, without giving up information about ongoing investigations.

I could tell that certain things still worried her.  So, once again, I made the mistake of protecting her.  This time, however, we had a close friend that was one of my supervisors.  While she was talking to our mutual friend, a story about a gun call was brought to my wife’s attention.  When I saw her later, she made sure I understood how mad and disappointed she was.  Again, I tried to tell her I was just protecting her from worrying and that it had all worked out safely.  Well, wrong thing to say.

We had a long conversation about everything we had gone through – both good and bad.  Then, she explained something to me, which finally struck a nerve in my stubborn head:  My wife told me that every night I left, she worried.  She worried that I would not return home, but more importantly, she worried that I would return to the way I was and that it frightened her more than something physically happening to me.

She was worried that I would lie to her and hurt her again.  That little voice in my head decided it was time to smack myself with a big hammer.  I finally understood.  It caused her more pain knowing that I was keeping stuff from her than it did to share even the most horrible stuff with her.  It caused her pain believing that I believed she couldn’t be trusted, relied on, or that she wasn’t loved enough to share both my happiness and my pain.  It also made me think deeply.

My wife had been there for my shooting, the tears from my eyes when I worked the death of children, through the nightmares I had for a few years, and she stayed with me when things got difficult and others turned their back on me.

Things changed that day and I began to tell her everything again.  There was relief in her eyes and her attitude.  I made sure that she knew everything I knew.  She knew when I was happy, when I was upset, when I smiled, when I cried and when I was scared or excited.  In the end, when my career reached its final point, she was there, supporting me and fighting with me. It wasn’t the officers that I thought would have my back, but my wife.  My TRUE PARTNER and the one person I could always count on!

 

DON’T LET ANOTHER MOMENT PASS …

I urge each and every one of you to take this to heart!  Police work is stressful on us and our families, as well.  Heck, we have one of the highest divorce rates in professional careers.  We often blame it on the shift work, the way police work demands our blood, sweat and tears, or some other issue of the work we can blame it on.

But, in reality, it is our fault for not treating our spouse as the most important partner that we have!  They will be there when all others turn their backs, are too busy to help, or worse yet, plunge that knife in your back.  They will be there for the smiles and laughter, along with the tears and sadness. That is – if we tell them and allow them to be a part of it.

God Bless you all and may we all remember to treat our spouse as the ultimate partner they are!

John Tarr

 “Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift …”

We couldn’t agree more.

 


 

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