FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I'm here for you and ready to talk whenever you're ready. So just let me know.
The Mrs. gave me that message by email, text and verbally. My agency just lost another cop. He was ambushed and killed in his car without even knowing he was under attack. We’re one of those between-size agencies. We have large agency resources—like a helicopter and a full-time SWAT team—but we’re small enough so that you still know everyone. Taken against national statistics, we’re too small to lose two officers in such a short time.
I worked patrol with our recent loss. I attended parties with him and I saw him at a coffee spot about once a week. I’ll miss him and my heart aches for his surviving wife and children. But I won’t make the same mistakes I made the last time, mistakes that almost cost me my marriage.
Handling the Impossible
The last time we lost a cop, I started a downward spiral, which eventually resulted in me moving out of the house. The Mrs. and I have since fixed things and we’re now stronger than ever. But the association of us losing a cop is strong for her. She doesn’t want to go through the nightmare I put her through again—and neither do I.
Ask the Mrs. and she’ll tell you: Ol’ Bullethead ain’t the easiest person to live with when times are easy, never mind when things are bad. My emotions don’t exactly run like cops just out of the academy. I’m better than I was, but I was bad; all business and no emotion got me pretty far but it was hell on the family.
After a week’s worth of 20-hour days that followed the murder of our officer, I took some time off and headed up to the mountains—just the Capheads, the Mrs. and I. To her credit, the Mrs. flanked me this time and I’m glad she did. It made me take a look at the death of both of these officers, my relationship to them and their deaths, and it made me ensure my head stays on straight.
We spent the day hiking in the woods. We went bushwhacking up some steep hills and over some nasty rock outcroppings. Usually I do this by myself or with the oldest of my boys. The Mrs. usually skips these and we usually don’t go as far or as deep into the woods, but she insisted on coming along.
I love the woods; helps me relax. Working with the Capheads on some of the technical stuff required complete concentration, which also got my mind off of work issues. Then we all enjoyed a nice picnic, miles deep in the woods with only each other and the breeze to listen to. We went to a nice place in town for dinner and spent the rest of the evening playing card games with the boys.
When they were finally asleep, the Mrs. and I sat on the couch. I had all day to concentrate on my family and reconnect with them—in light of the fact that a friend’s kids will never see his parents again ... The Mrs., very wisely, asked me again if I was OK and relayed some of her concerns.
The first time I lost an officer—the time I went off the deep end—I didn’t know the guy well. I remember working on this column those years ago, outside in the cold, smoking five cigars and finishing half a bottle of scotch. My emotions ran right out of my eyes because I was alone and it was safe and I was full of truth serum.
I thought about this on the couch there with Mrs. B’s head on my chest, and it dawned on me that I took his death as a personal failure. This officer was shot with his own gun and I’m in charge of teaching defensive tactics. He made some tactical mistakes and I felt as though I failed him personally.
The second officer, my good friend, was ambushed and didn’t even have time to react. Intellectually, I know the only people responsible for the deaths of these officers are the scumbags who killed them. That doesn’t bring them back.
The important thing is I was able to open up to Mrs. Bullethead. I’m not sure my emotions ran, but they certainly created some reservoirs. The last time this happened, I held it in for as long as I could before I burst.
Her persistence and her approach allowed me to open up. So, take it from me: It’s OK to ease back on the reins, slacken the charge and let your spouse in. They’ll help you and love you for it.