I focused the second part of this series on the everyday type of calls and interactions police officers endure on a shift.
I see dead people…often.
If you don’t handle death well, you probably shouldn’t apply to be a police officer. At least once or twice a week, you will handle a death investigation. People die. It’s a part of life, but in this day and age every death must be documented and investigated.
As any police officer knows, the unfortunate well being check is commonplace. A loved one calls in, requesting police check on a person they haven’t heard from in a couple days. Sometimes a FTO (field training officers) will answer up for them, but more often then not, they’re fair game for all officers.
Hell, there was one day I handled three well being/deceased person calls in a row (that’s on a 10 hour shift). Dead people calls are unnerving and take up a lot of time and paperwork. When conducting your investigation, you endure the scent, and have to examine the body for rigor mortis and lividity. Grasping and twisting icy lifeless limbs, looking for any signs of trauma, is uncomfortable at best. The feel of the cold wet skin, penetrates even the protection of rubber gloves. Regardless of whether it’s a suicide, a natural death, or a suspicious death, you’ve still got a cadaver and scene that needs to be protected and documented.
Sometimes the body is found in the intimacy of their homes. You sit there with them until the Medical Examiner body snatchers arrive. Looking over their personal belongings and what they were doing right before they passed, always left me feeling a bit of a voyeur. Most people defecate themselves when they die. That scent, mixed with the decomposition of flesh, is something I will never forget. This is just another reason why I plan on dying on a deserted island, with treasure buried in my gut as an offering to whoever finds my corpse.
Dealing with grieving family members can range from potential suspects to violent rage. There were times when providing death notifications, the family members would physically lash out just because you were there. You are the physical symbol of their loss. The death of a loved one incapacitates most people’s rationality and the age-old adage of “don’t kill the messenger” goes out the window.
Suicides are another uncomfortable scenario. The act of taking one’s own life just doesn’t feel natural. As a part of your investigation, you have to read the notes or any form of communication they left behind. Reading a person’s last thoughts on this planet gives you goose bumps, but you have to do it. Other times you encounter graphic scenes, like when a person uses manicure scissors to slit their wrists vertically in a motel shower. The jagged flesh flapping outwards, exposing tendons and disjointed veins, dried pools of blood around their feet, while their purple lips and clouded eyes glare at you – judging your actions from the afterlife.
Those experiences sear themselves somewhere into your brain. As a rookie, with my FTO, I can still remember a suicide call where the person tried three different ways to kill themselves. We were able to determine this via their texts to an ex. They started with pills and alcohol. When that didn’t work, they moved on to cutting their writs (mistakenly in a horizontal fashion) while resting in a filled bathtub. When that didn’t work, they moved on to a residence under construction and hung themselves with a towel from the exposed rafters. Suffice it to say, they eventually accomplished their goal. The end result being a sad day for all parties involved.
The worst death calls, in my opinion, are the “stinkers” – people who have physically started to decay, sometimes even liquefying if the air conditioning isn’t running. The scent is pungent in your nostrils even if you’re a couple houses away. You know there’s going to be a stinker when you see several days of mail piled up and flies gathering on the inside of a window sill. Those are the “well-being checks” no one wants to handle.
Repeat Victim’s Don’t Make Sense
Violent and disgruntled people will always exist. No amount of education, salary increase, nor psychological treatment, will lessen the number of domestic incidents.
Children and spouses are easy targets for violence. No one knows better than police officers. No matter how much you try and defeat it, domestic abuse and child abuse will always rear its ugly head in society. Just thinking about it makes my blood boil and feel helpless at the same time. Seeing children tattooed with cigarette burns on their forearms, or wives who’ve been battered countless times and still return to the offender, weighs heavy on a police officer’s soul.
I remember handing out a domestic abuse pamphlet to a victim, only to see them nonchalantly add it to the growing stack of identical leaflets – each marking an instance of police-reported domestic abuse. You want to give up at times, but you can’t. This is the burden a police officer must carry. You must wear many hats and carry the weight of each.
Some People just don’t want help.
No matter what social services may tell you, you can’t help people who don’t want it. Whether it’s out of pride, or cultural morays, any advice or assistance you try to provide falls on deaf ears. Some people just don’t want the help, and no matter how hard you try – you will never be able to “save” them.
It’s a mixture of piss, body odor, garbage, and despair. It’s a distinct smell that is commonplace across all peoples (white, black, or green) situated on the lower rung of the economic ladder. I’m not trying to be a jerk, I’m just not going to be politically correct. I can already hear the social justice warriors screaming about my insensitivity. Sorry, it’s just the way it is.
This is the second part of the “secrets of police work” exposé. If you missed the first, check it out here. Stay tuned for the final chapter.