Life of a First Responder During the Corona Virus
“I sleep alone, so you can sleep safe.” An unknown police spouse
You may have thought at the beginning of this mess we are in that once the bars have closed down and people are staying inside that crime would definitely go down. Logic would certainly dictate that wouldn't it? As a cop on the graveyard shift, I was expecting and hoping crime would decrease and the silver lining would be some quiet and peaceful nights on the streets of one of the most populated cities in America. Boy, was I fooled and there would be no Corona beer waiting for me at home either!
Let me start off by saying my life has changed drastically on three fronts since Covid 19 first entered our atmosphere here in America. I am a full time cop as well as a professional speaker and entertainer. I am very thankful I still have my cop job and seeing how many have lost their livelihood is heartbreaking. Lord willing, I am confident I will continue once again speaking and traveling once this is over while we all still deal with the new normal.
The first big change for us as well as many police departments began by no longer having traditional role calls. Officers report in briefly and then get into their patrol vehicles, sign in and begin by responding to one of the many calls waiting. We only did social distancing for a few days until the elimination of roll calls began. Camaraderie evaporated as quickly as the new normal began. Shortly after the break up of roll calls, like grocers, there is only one entrance to the station. As officers report in, their temperature is checked. If one has a fever, they cannot work. All of us received two N95 masks and goggles allowing the new normal to begin.
I have seen so much as a police officer with drastic changes. I have been both a detective in missing persons as well as the patrol division working the streets where the majority of my career has been. Nothing, I mean nothing compared me for this. We all know when we leave home we may never come back. I can deal with that. Through all the death and destruction this job has dealt me, the invisible bullet is now our reality. We go to work wearing a mask and washing our hands only to return back home and having to decontaminate ourselves so we do not expose our loved ones to the killer. I served in the Air Force in Korea where we had military exercises four times a year having to wear a gas mask, sometimes 16 hours at a time. All of that to prepare us for a biological attack from North Korea. It never happened. Welcome to reality.
Calls for service never really slowed down. Property crime has risen and of course more family assaults. ATM burglaries are the in thing now and DWIs have dropped. Is this because people are not driving drunk even with stay at home orders in place and the bars are closed? Don't believe that for one minute. Sure, traffic has decreased during normal hours but when I am off duty, while running at night in a rural area, I still see traffic. People are driving at all hours and at all speeds, especially high speeds. When we pull someone over, it could be our last day on earth. Now if we pull someone over, it doubles the odds. And shootings? Yup, they are still going strong. I just had one the other night where a male was shot in the back twice in the pouring rain. The weatherman prediction was only a 30 percent chance of rain, but this is Texas. There goes my nice and dry department issued N95.
It appears no one knows very much about this mystery virus. It came from China and may or may not have originated in a lab. We were then told wearing a N95 mask only works for sick people and hospital personnel. Really? Is that like a cape worn by Superman where one size fits none? Then we were told not to wear or buy one because they are in short supply. Now we are told to wear cloth masks (mandatory here) which stops the majority of sneezing droplets. Wow, what percentage of protection is that? We have a seat belt law and some say because a seat belt could trap you if your car suddenly falls from a bridge into the water you may drown or a car fire you may not be able to get it off in time. Great logic, but I assume someone covering their mouth and nose is better then nothing. Why don't they just tell us that then? Trust me, I use to train people in the Air Force on how to wear respirators and N95s are hands down the best protection (other then a N99 if you can find one) outside of wearing a gas mask or SCUBA gear. Before I was issued N95s from my department, I ended up buying them on eBay for an exorbitant price. Just another piece of life and death equipment item added to my ever increasing baggage. Once at home, I place the mask outside in sunlight and rotate them for on and off duty use.
Our department has not recorded one death so far and only about 10 testing positive. I am very thankful for that but we are still fighting this war. Compare us with Detroit or NYPD. As of today, a total of 30 members of the NYPD have died due to coronavirus. Their police union reports 1635 NYPD officers are out sick with 4435 testing positive for Covid 19. Some officers are not even going home anymore having to rent hotel rooms so they can keep their families safe.
In Detroit out of about 2,800 uniformed officers and civilians who work for the department, at least 180 had tested positive for the virus, with more than 1,000 quarantined at some point. Three deaths including a high ranking Captain on the dept have occurred. Through all this, they are handing out masks to protect citizens.
As I have stated in other articles this is not a normal virus. There are still too many unknowns. You can take two identical people with no issues and one gets sick and dies and the other one has only mild symptoms. There are over 30 strains and "if" we do get a vaccine it could be several years away. What does this remind you of? If you have time, watch the below 1982 video news story made 18 months after the AIDS epidemic began. We still do not have a vaccine for HIV and we lived through that and that virus is now controlled. Panic was not quite the same as now because we did not have social media and the constant barrage of 24 hour television news.
When I was a rookie cop, my field training officer told me something that I never would forget. Not only would I not forget, it probably saved my career as a cop. He said "you are going to have to use force in this job, a lot, but never use force out of anger." Emotional decisions are dangerous. Two of the most dangerous are fear and anger. Anger is pretty obvious but what about fear? Dr David Walsh from Psychology today has this take on it:
When we are anxious or fearful, we tend to pay more attention to information related to threats. This also makes sense. Fear puts us on high alert for information that we perceive to be essential to our survival, telling us, “Hey! Look here!” The challenge is that as we pay attention to information related to the threat, our anxiety goes up. This further increases our vigilance and selective attention to scary information. The good news? When we pay attention to other things, our anxiety goes down.
What are you doing to during all of this to take your mind off it this insanity? For years the stress of the job has taken its toll. Now dealing with this has exasperated it. Usually my travel and performances have helped me with the stresses of being a cop but that has been put on hold. I also relieve stress by running and I mean running insane distances. I really do not do it for health anymore. My creative right brain kicks in during these midnight runs when the earth is still and I am alone with stars and God. There are so many other things out there to occupy your time and rid your mind. Sure we do not have events right now if sports are your thing. So many "nice" distractions have been taken from us, albeit, temporarily. Reading, music, talking with a friend, long walks, gardening and fixing stuff you have put off. Anything to occupy your mind during this crisis.
We will survive this. Hospital workers have replaced the first responders on the front lines. We are a good 10 miles behind enemy lines on this one. Well done and please continue on my hospital scrubbed warriors. No one saw this coming, no one. A life with no sporting events, no restaurant dining, no schools and stay at home orders. New terminology such as social distancing. How can anyone be social and be distanced at the same time? We are not created to be like this and it will not last. This is not 1918 all over. To be positive takes more work, negativity is easier. Do not fall into that. Your subconscious mind has no edit button, garbage in garbage out. Watching the doom and gloom on TV feeds this. Did you know your brain actually slows down (alpha) while you are watching TV? This is why you always are told not to let your children watch too much TV, it is hypnotic and highly suggestible. Your brain is actually more active asleep then when watching TV. I became a cop partly because of TV. I guess with all the cop shows on TV, as well as movies, someone had to do it.
As I get ready to go to work on the graveyard shift, my mind is spinning. What changes can I expect to see forthcoming after a few nights off? How close are we are to ending this? That answer is simple, we are one day closer. Live in the moment, not the past and not the future. The bible says "be anxious for nothing." Today has enough information to process. Turn off the TV and put the devices down. Pick a quiet place and just enjoy what you do have and be thankful. We are only on this planet for a short while, treasure those moments and give someone an air hug from 6 feet. You will look back and smile at this when we cross the finish line.
About This Contributor
Giani provides a keynote that uses his mentalism skills!
Diversity, Decision-making, Change and Perception, all huge topics today. Giani provides a Las Vegas value audience-interactive, content-driven presentation you will never forget. A professional performer, author, and speaker. Giani will deliver!