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An Arrest of a Cop

Twice now, and more so, I’ve been made privy to old friends or past co-workers who’ve been under arrest. The most recent was a “now former” police officer I worked with, charged with pilfering tens-of-thousands from the police association he served as president of.  Nearly $185,000, over years, supposedly.  And already, the righteous indignations have been flurrying. The “how apropos,” right? The cop now getting his, for dirty deeds done? And boy, the crowd now likes seeing our holier-than-though cops fall.

It wasn’t so long that I recall that this same cop posted on social media his travails with alcohol, or whatever substance it was, and his steps toward getting better, getting clean from it. All while being a dad. All while still holding his job, the one as a cop that seems cool when you’re young in your 20s, but which invariably wears you numb by middle-age.

Admittedly, I don't know the details beyond what’s in been the news — the embarrassing mug shot and the outline of charges.  Before we go further though, know I don’t hold sympathy for the devil. And I don’t dole out excuses. Doers of bad deeds need to be held to account. But what I am is sorry to hear about this.

If true, this adds to the pile in sullying good cops. And at no worse of a time when police are already mired in haunting perceptions of over-reach and brutality and racial profiling. So, brother cop, your arrest now so-much isn’t helping.

But I also know there is a desperation people do face, one that no one is envious of, that can lead someone to do what he or she never would otherwise do. This realization doesn’t excuse those acts, nor does it negate the justice coming. But it leads to an understanding that even the good can find themselves in deep holes, at some points convinced there’s nothing left except bad and worse decisions.

When I served as a cop, it was easier to not rationalize what criminals do. It was simpler perhaps to merely cast them all as being bad. Some of them are. Some — horribly so — insidious and self-serving. But with others, maybe with most, the faint outline of that regular person still resides. You can still see those traces of normalcy before bad thought turned into action.

With this “now former” cop, I want to hope that the charges are wrong, that the police chief and the review board and internal affairs and the prosecutors are all wrong. If they’re all wrong, that means this “now former” cop I used to work alongside didn’t have these bad acts within him.

But if they aren’t wrong — and this cop did what they claimed — it means bad can be anywhere, and just one decision away. It means the cop who had backed me up on my calls  — any cop on one of my calls — could reach his or her break point and price to stray. It means all of us walk our own tightropes of troubles in life. All of us posed with the good and the bad ways to traverse. It means that too often, doing good isn’t often easy. And it means doing what’s right, especially in hard moments, is so precious — and should never be taken for granted.

The Longview Essays by Jason James Barry explore current events and topics for social commentary. Jason is an award-winning author and journalist. He previously served as a police officer and as a DEA special agent. Follow his work on and elsewhere in syndication. Recently, Jason published his police life memoir, “The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and the Pull of Police Life,” available on Amazon.


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