Last week the TLC channel began yet another reality-based TV show: "Police Women of Broward County." I watched, like so many other people, seeing the usual things I expected, like people who were drunk getting arrested and citizens who were victims, and others who were not. I listened to the women officers talk in front of the rolling cameras and know what it is like when you are on the spot and have to make split-second decisions that will affect the rest of someone else's life.
To be really honest I thought I was going to be bored. I thought maybe I would feel a little bit like Monday morning quarterbacking while I was watching, but I didn't. What I did feel really surprised me.
I felt compassion.
I think the turning point came for me when Det. Julie [Bower] took a sexual abuse call for a woman who had left a location with some questionable people and had been sexually assaulted. The victim, who didn't lead a perfect life, had been out at night drinking and left with the people. Fortunately, her stumbling departure had been captured on video, which aided in the investigation.
As an officer, I have taken a similar case myself and my heart went out to the victim. I have seen officers jump to conclusions about cases like this. The thought is that because someone is a hooker or a topless dancer it isn't possible for them to be "raped" or that it doesn't matter if they were because they deserved it for leading that kind of lifestyle. In effect, they have asked for it, some people say. But would this same reasoning work for someone who boxes or is a cage fighter for a living? Would that person deserve to be randomly physically assaulted just because?
As I watched these women officers, I imagined what non-officers might think about the storyline and how TLC tries to make it sensational because it is television. As cops, we know that what really happens on the street is so unbelievable you could not make it up. And no matter how hard we try, whether we want to or not, we take a part of what happens at work home with us. I saw a part of myself in every one of those officers. I saw mistakes I have made myself and felt humbled.
I can't look at this show and see a story that ends on the hour. I see lives that are still happening at this very moment and how important it is for us, as officers, to be respectful of every person we deal with on the street and off. We crack jokes like, "There are no real victims." But this isn't true. We just say these things to protect ourselves from how rough life is sometimes. But what we forget is that as officers we get to be that miracle someone has been praying for.
I am curious to see what choices these women officers make with opportunities that come before them in the coming weeks. I will be tuning in.
TLC Debuts "Police Women of Broward County"
Broward Police Women (photo gallery)