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My dad—who is long-since gone from this mortal coil—drilled into my mushy little brain when I was a young boy the phrase, "Hindsight is 20-20." He'd say, "Looking into the future can be murky and confusing but looking at the past can be clearer."

Turns out, my dad was—not for the first time in his life—mistaken in his observation.

You can peer into the past and make some dreadfully inaccurate conclusions, depending on your perspective and pre-conceived notions. 

I was a History Major in college until I dropped out—more on that in a minute—but in retrospect, I confess to submitting to my professors some truly terrible "analysis."

Knowing full-well-and-truly-good the potential pitfalls of this perilous enterprise, every year around now I write in this space some thoughts and observations about the year that was...

Hindsight is NOT always 20/20... but we try.

We do try. 

Here are a few thoughts on the last twelve months. 

Music City Mayhem

The story that is top of mind at present is the explosion in Nashville early Christmas morning. Dire warnings were broadcast from an RV parked on 2nd Avenue—by a man whose name merits no mention in this space—telling nearby residents to "evacuate the area."

Callers to the local 911 center reported the incident, and six officers with the Nashville Metro Police Department were the first to arrive at the scene.

Officer Brenna Hosey, Officer James Luellen, Officer Michael Sipos, Officer Amanda Topping, Officer James Wells, and Sergeant Timothy Miller raced to the area, and quickly evacuated residents before that massive bomb went off.

Heroes.

Other first responders soon arrived at the scene to keep citizens safe.

Heroes—all.

When stuff gets ugly and things go sideways it's always the first responders who make your eyes well with tears of joy for their heroic actions. Happens every day, all over America. 

On a very personal note about Tennessee... I moved my skinny little rear-end to Nashville for a short time in my early 20s in hopes of starting a career in music (herein is that bit about quitting college). 

My mom and dad thought I was still attending classes in College Park, Maryland—but I was AWOL as all [bleep], living in a shack of an apartment down by the Cumberland River and trying to "break into the music industry" by playing drums and singing back-up (badly) with start-up bands at the bars on Broadway.  

Clearly, that effort to become a famous musician fell far short of the goal—and that's probably for the better—but I knew that neighborhood where the bomb went off pretty darned well back in the day.

My heart absolutely aches for Nashville.

But my heart also rises because I know the people of that city to be loving and kind—but also tough as [bleeping] nails.

XOXO, Nashville.

Officer Suicide

At the time of this writing, 166 police officers have died by suicide in 2020, according to statistics collected by Blue H.E.L.P., an organization that seeks to reduce mental health stigma through education, advocate for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, and provide support for families who have lost a loved one to suicide.

I'm proud and honored to state that I served a two-year term on the Board of Directors for Blue Help.

We as an organization have it sorted out—unlike Congress—and determined that "term limits" are a good thing, so now I stand to the sidelines and root for the folks who continue to do the work. I won't name names here—you know who you are.

I love you all for your continued work to keep our police officers safe from self-harm.

Be advised: the number of reported law enforcement deaths by suicide is almost certainly lower than the actual number of police suicides. But with more attention being paid to the issue—with individuals and institutions paying closer attention to the warning signs and guiding officers toward support services—perhaps the profession can watch that number shrink.

A closing thought to any officer who is contemplating suicide: The world is better with you in it.

You are loved and appreciated. And if you need to talk with someone to get through a tough patch, please do so.

I'm no medical professional, but I will listen to you any day of the week and any hour of the day.

Note: If you or someone you know has ideation of suicide or is approaching crisis, please know that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. Safe Call Now (1-206-459-3020) offers those services specifically for first responders.

At bluehelp.org, a first responder need only enter a few data points—such as their location and what kind of assistance is needed—and the individual will be provided with a list of options for help from a searchable database dedicated to helping first responders find emotional, financial, spiritual, and other forms of assistance.  

COVID-19

In late February of this year, people began falling ill with what was initially diagnosed as a virulent new form of flu or pneumonia. I know this first-hand because after dragging myself (on foot) to the emergency room of the nearest hospital in the small hours of a cold March morning I learned what those professionals didn't yet know. 

My temperature was recorded by the ER nurse as being 105.5.

That's one-hundred-and-five, with an extra point five. 

The nurse literally gasped. She ran from the room to get a doctor. I was told by trained medical professionals that I had "walking pneumonia."

They gave me penicillin and I took it, but I knew it was a misdiagnosis, because I've already had walking pneumonia a number of years ago—and this wasn't it.

This was way, way worse. 

I deposited myself onto a motel room bed... face down and fully clothed.

I slept for 72 straight hours. Non-stop. No eating, no potty-breaks, no water... three days of sleeping.

I lost 15 pounds (without ever trying or even wanting to), but I survived. 

I can check that box and say, "Yep, done that COVID-19 thing."

My own experience aside, the advent of this disease will have lasting effects on patrol officers.

You come into regular contact with individuals who have Hep-C, Hep-B, HIV-AIDS, and now… COVID-19.

The CDC—the lead agency identifying, studying, and recommending remediation for a host of health threats to American workers, including first responders—recommends the wearing of disposable gloves, eye protection, and face masks rated to N95 mask or higher.

Final Words

There were myriad other important stories in 2020—far too many to list—but most important among them is to take a moment to remember those officers who were killed in the line of duty in the year 2020.

It turns my stomach to report that at the time of this writing, 296 officers have died in the line of duty since the beginning of the year. There are countless family members who will mourn the losses of those lives for the rest of their days.

I've never been a sworn law enforcement officer but I do consider each and every one of you to be family.

Look not back at 2020.

Look ahead instead to a wonderful 2021. 

I wish every one of you a safe and successful New Year.

Be well, stay safe, do good.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Web Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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