Badge heavy was not a complimentary term when OneOldCop worked the streets. It normally meant an officer who was carried away with the power behind the badge, using it inappropriately. That is not the way the term is being used here.
Materially speaking, the badge is not heavy. Even the largest, gaudiest badges weigh only a few ounces. Emotionally and psychologically speaking, the lightest can weigh a ton. The miscreant coming to the attention of someone wearing the badge may feel that weight for a few minutes. The person wearing the badge feels it 24/7. Over the years, that weight takes a toll on body, mind and spirit.
As this is being written two of OneOldCop’s former colleagues are at death’s door. Both are in intensive care, and their prognoses are grim. Unlike so many of our brothers and sisters in blue last year (2016) they are not succumbing to the aftermath of direct criminal action. Neither was shot by a wanted felon or rammed by a speeding car. Both, for different reasons are in their final days due to illness, but both lives are ending much too soon.1
OneOldCop cannot be certain the weight of the badge caused their illnesses and decline. No one can be certain, but in both cases they are succumbing to issues that many believe can be exacerbated by stress, fatigue, poor eating habits and self-medication. Additionally, one has to wonder when two men in their fifties succumb to conditions that can be linked to the stress of their job.
The fact two men who are in what many would consider the prime years of life are dying in the near future in the same small city is reason enough for concern. That is certainly what caught this writer’s attention. As it turns out, they are likely not alone.
Studies have indicated the life expectancy of police officers from natural causes is fifteen years shorter than average. Others have found that police officers die from certain forms of cancer at a higher rate than the general population. In both cases, the rigors of the job and the mentality of those whom pursue such a career may lead to their early death.
One of these officers is dying from cancer. The other is dying from heart disease and the way he tried to deal with the limitations his condition placed on him. The details of their particular situations are not important however. They simply represent all the men and women who die too young because they carried a badge.
Some will scoff at that last line. Others will scoff at this entire essay. They will laugh at the idea that police officers die prematurely because of their jobs. They can scoff all they want. The human mind and body can only take so much stress. They will eventually succumb, and the end is not far away when that happens.
The body’s resistance may be lowered and cancer develops. The mind’s resistance may give way to self-medication or dysfunction. Whatever the symptoms, the outcome is the same. Family and friends gathering at the I.C.U. or around the grave worrying over or mourning someone who survived the streets, but could not survive the job.
OneOldCop is sad to say one of these officers succumbed to his illness prior to this being published. May he rest in peace.
© S. E. Jackson – 2017