It's always easy to beat up on the police. The public has a natural mistrust of law enforcement because they represent, particularly in free society, the antithesis of freedom: control, authority, dominance and occasional violence.
Conversely, the police view the public with a healthy suspicion as well. Anyone could be the next crazed lunatic who wants to take your life, and given what we pay them versus the danger of the job, is this really worth it?
We love reading and publishing negative press on the police because we feel it keeps them accountable (which is true). But what we don't often read is the opposite: something that humanizes them and offers a rare glimpse behind the "thin blue line" which separates them from us.
Today's WaPo has such an article, offering a glimpse of the psychological and emotional toll that killing a suspect has on the men and women in uniform.
Again, a healthy suspicion of how the police do their jobs is required in any society, but we also have to remember the toll the job takes on these otherwise ordinary human beings who are find themselves in extraordinary situations.
Cops shooting bad guys are a mainstay of police television dramas. But in real life, that moment of confrontation is extraordinarily rare. When it does come, the emotional toll can last forever.
Those who kill in the line of duty often have daunting personal and professional hurdles to overcome. They pull the trigger to protect themselves and others, then live in isolation, suspicion and personal sadness as their actions are scrutinized and investigated, often very publicly.
“It changed my life,” [Lt. Dan] Sheffield said. “Once you pull the trigger, it’s not over. . . . You don’t start running credits.”