Deputy's Observations: Spreading Xmas Hijinks
“Hey L-T, Merry Christmas. How do you like my socks?” (Frank Hinkle)
By Frank Hinkle
From the first moment that you can smell the turkey roasting on Thanksgiving Day until the last of the leftovers are gone after New Years is my favorite time of the year. You might suspect that my interests are tied largely to food and its consumption, and you’d be right. But there is more to it than just the food; the holiday season has much more to offer us.
In the past I have written of officer safety subjects related to our survival as peace officers in a violent world. In this article I want to address another form of survival that is equally as important: surviving your career.
Many years ago I went to an Advanced Officers’ School. One of the classes was on dealing with stress, and was put on by a revered police psychologist. One exercise that he had us do was to list different stressors in our lives that had occurred just within the past year. While he listed different types of stress related issues we kept track of which ones we had dealt with recently. When we tallied up our scores I had one of the highest ratings in the class. Within the previous year I had been married, had changed my residence, was buying a new home, my new mother-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer, I had been injured in the line of duty, I had been shot at, I had a disciplinary transfer for which I was wrongly persecuted, and then had a subsequent discipline which I felt was trumped up. The only cops in the class who scored higher had been involved in deadly force incidents and their scores were well above my own.
I was pretty proud of my high score until the doctor explained that my score was about five times the score of the average healthy citizen. Even the cops who had not been through such a stressful year had about three times the stress of the average citizen.
We live stressful lives and that is compounded by shift work, separation from our families, fear of discipline and civil suits along with all of life’s other typical stresses. We fear contact with diseases of which the average person has never heard. We are the “Blue Canaries” that the terrorism experts watch for to see if there is a biohazard. We run to the sound of gunfire, we drive too fast, we walk down dark alleys hoping that something will happen, and we stand at attention in our dress uniforms while listening to the wails of a grieving widow.
We all know what we must do to counter the effects of our lifestyle: rest, exercise, diet, practice our faith, maintain a well-written Will & Living Trust, and carry plenty of insurance.
I want to address one other way to counter the stress in our lives. The accumulated stress of our careers might kill us, but it is also our careers that help us. I spent 31-years in law enforcement and the thing that I most miss since leaving is the camaraderie. I loved sitting in the locker room listening to the jokes. I enjoyed briefings and annoying the sergeant. I was the one who hacked into my co-worker’s computer account and changed her wallpaper to a picture of a half-naked firefighter. I conspired with my partner to drive another deputy into a conniption fit over his hatred of The Los Angles Dodgers. I put a pornographic book in the captain’s bookcase. I did not plant the marijuana in the captain’s plotted plant but, nonetheless, received the blame. I also did not spray mace on the Xerox machine right before the captain used it, but I know that he blamed me for that one as well.
I touched inmates who had done the most despicable things imaginable. I learned about scarring that occurs during sexual crimes. I heard children and old ladies describe being raped and I heard dying declarations. We live in a world of drunk drivers and active shooters and we’ve seen the carnage of both.
I laughed with my brother & sister deputies and I cried with them. We buried friends together, and we shared our most innermost feelings with each other. I knew who was secretly in love with whom; who was breaking up with whom; and too late, who was giving up the battle.
But now come the holidays and there is food and camaraderie and a chance to do something good for your selves and your community. Now is our chance to put all of the year’s stresses behind us and concentrate on the joys of the season. Donate to the Teddy Bear drives. Participate in Shop with a Cop. Buy a bag of toys for Toys for Tots and shake that Marine’s hand and thank them for their service. Have an office food drive for Meals on Wheels. Take a pie to the office potluck and eat lumpia, tamales and spicy rice. The week before Christmas it’s O.K. to hug the professional staff members and to leave candy on their desks. Send a Christmas card to your old partner with pictures of your kids. Play Christmas carols over the radio to the dispatcher and then deny that it was you. Burglarize the captain’s office and put his tree in the lieutenant’s office. Tell your beat partner how much you appreciated the cover that night a while back and, how much you count on them. Go to the Association Christmas Party and dance with your spouse. Give out candy canes to the cops coming through Receiving. Wear Christmas socks with low-quarter uniform shoes. Buy the new kid a cup of coffee and get to know him. Chirp the siren as you pass the fire station just to let the firefighters know you are there.
Send Christmas cards from your department to other agencies. Get those cheap red pens that look like candy canes for everyone on your squad. Put a Christmas wreath on the grill of “The War Wagon.” Wrap your OC canister in Christmas paper.
Get a nice big poinsettia plant and leave it for your boss from their “Secret Santa.” Put it right on the middle of their brand new desk pad calendar. Than water it. Better yet, use Miracle-Gro.
In short, enjoy the camaraderie of your office and the Joys of Christmas. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or your own cultural traditions, just celebrate. Celebrate Christmas, celebrate life and celebrate the friendship of your coworkers. We work in a unique profession, one that draws us much closer together than most other vocations. Take advantage of it and appreciate it, for tomorrow it might be gone.
I wish all a very Merry Christmas and our best wishes for a safe and prosperous New Year.
Stay safe, and stay alert.