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Cop Years: We're older than we think

By Tim Chesser

We all know how we figure the age of our pets, especially dogs, as seven years for every one year of human life. But did we ever think about figuring out how old we are after being in law enforcement? "Cop Years." Do you stop and think how the job takes its toll on us, making us old before our times? Sad, but all so true. So I started thinking about putting this into play and figuring my age in cop years.

Over the years, I guess I have eaten 50 lbs. worth of grease, 25 pounds of cheese, drank 500 gallons or coffee, and I don’t even want to think of the amount of body fluids from the cooks who don’t like cops and give us a little extra seasoning. And those few extra pounds of "fast food muscle" we seem to carry around our waist. But the loss of hair can balance that out. Not to mention all those toxins we had to carry because we could not find a proper location to empty our bladders between calls. For us city officers, those places started to disappear with new construction and the use of surveillance cameras on businesses.

What about working all night, staying up for court, only to have the case continued for the convenience of the defendant. Then trying to sleep with the kids making noise and the neighbor’s dog barking, and some idiot who decides to cut grass at 10 a.m.. only to go back to work and rearrest the same person you had in court!

Photos from the Associated Press
And how about the stress of the job?  No so much from the street, but from the Administration. New bosses, are we getting a raise, is the insurance going up, and what new rule is coming next?

So I tried to come up with a formula to figure how old I was in Cop Years. We should be at least on par with Old Rover. But wait, Rover never had to wear a vest or gunbelt. He never had to wrestle someone who was younger, thinner, or taking medication to remove all fear and pain. Old Rover was able to take a nap, have food brought to him, and go whenever and wherever he wanted. Rover, like us, used to chase cars. He never caught one, but we did and that’s when our work started. For him, it was exercise. For us, it was an exercise of authority.

My best calculations came up with the average officer ages at twice the normal rate of their civilian counterparts. We learn early how life really is in some families. We change our attitudes towards people and these stay with us for the rest of our lives. The sad part is we sometimes lose our joy in life. We stop enjoying the simple things and turn to alcohol to numb those horrific sights we see.

But there is something we can do. Don’t take it too seriously and personally. I had an officer remind me there is a difference between “business” and “personal”. Don’t try to confuse the two. Don’t make business issues “personal” and “personal” issues business. Let the comments roll off your back from the drunk in the back seat when he calls you names. You are in control of him, not him in control of you. The only thing he has left is his mouth to call you names.

Take time off for your family. Take short trips and enjoy the kids. Don’t let them grow up without you because of trying to make it better when you retire. A close friend, a cop, reminded me of the song “Cat in the Cradle” when talking about his son. Be careful that when we are ready for our kids, they have not grown up just like us and not have time for us.

Eat right, get plenty of rest, and enjoy life. It works for Rover. Don’t let living a dog’s life be healthier than a cop’s life.

Don’t let the street become a dead-end road for your family, your career, and sometimes your health. Stay safe.

Tim Chesser is a 28-year veteran of law enforcement and retired Lieutenant from the Florence (KY) Police Department.  He is now teaching Criminal Justice.

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