Ah, December, the holiday month, the month of giving and joy and general goodwill. However, if you wear the badge and gun, walk the cell block, or handle the calls of traumatized citizens, you may be thinking "bah humbug!"
It's tough not getting cynical when you have to deal with the traumatized auntie who just had her car busted into and all the presents for Little Timmy and Sweet Sally-that she saved all year for-ripped off by some dirtbag. It's tough not being disgusted when you arrest your forth DUI dressed in a Santa outfit. It's hard finding any "good will toward men" when you handle violent domestics on Christmas Eve and even Christmas day.
Studies show that the holiday season is a peak time for depression and suicides. And that's for citizens who don't have to pick up the remains of their self-destructive neighbors, handle the holiday burglaries, deliver death notifications, and cope with the general crises that still go on, even when a soundtrack of "Jingle Bells" and Nat King Cole plays on the radio.
I remember my first Christmas in law enforcement. I was a rookie on a rookie squad, so we all had to work the graveyard shift. After the usual briefing there was an additional reminder not to get too mentally into a holiday mode and keep our head in the game, then we hit the street a little past the "magic hour."
Right off the bat one of our guys arrested a guy in a Santa suit for DUI. The rest of the night he was "3 Adam Scrooge," which kind of set the tone for the shift. Even though we responded to domestic after domestic and one fight in progress after another, it was a "great" night. About 0200, we started reporting reindeer damage and animal dung being left on rooftops. Then we started calling in wanted checks on license plates like "King Robert Ida Sam King Robert Nora George Lincoln." Soon the other teams around town joined in.
Next thing we knew dispatch worked up a great "attempt to locate" on a subject, dressed in red, accompanied by several children, or possibly elves, riding in a sleigh pulled by approximately eight animals, possibly reindeer. The Sheriff's Office even got in on it. The next thing I knew the shift was over. It was a blast! Driving home I even found myself singing along with Nat King Cole.
It's been 30 Decembers since that first Christmas shift for me, and I've had a long time to reflect on such events in my life. The one truth we can say about this profession is there is nothing like it.
We see and do things others only watch on their televisions or read about. In the midst of celebration, we are called to the tragedies. In the joy of the season, we are sent to quell the crisis and the conflicts. We bring order to chaos and control those who make others suffer.
The vast majority of citizens in your community will not be robbed or raped or killed or burglarized this month. They will celebrate the holiday season because you chose to make them safe in their homes.
Remember to see the joy that December brings to so many. Reflect in your own heart that in the midst of life, good and bad will happen regardless of the calendar, regardless of the celebration. And take this time to reflect on the good that you do and why you decided to walk this path.
Above all, enjoy the holidays. But keep your head in the game.
Dave Smith is the creator and star of the "Buck Savage" series and a former law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the Lead Instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival Seminar.