Reflections on the career of a cop

Climbing our mountain, we warriors sometimes ascend in groups, and at others, set off alone on a singular path toward the peaks

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” So it begins for each warrior as they embark on that path. Each warrior will walk their own path, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others, but each will walk their own path.

For some, the journey begins after years of thought and preparation. Others are sometimes unaware what path they walk. Imagine for a moment a vast mountain crisscrossed with foot paths created by the millions who have walked it over the ages.

Well-worn Paths
Some of the paths are well worn, wide, and deep. A path created by many where the way was easily followed and easily taken. The path that I can say I have followed. My journey up the mountain hasn’t been too difficult. There have been peaks and valleys along the way, rough patches but I count myself lucky because the path can change at any second.

Climbing the law enforcement mountain, we warriors sometimes ascend in groups, and at others much set off alone on a singular path toward the peaks.
Climbing the law enforcement mountain, we warriors sometimes ascend in groups, and at others much set off alone on a singular path toward the peaks.

As you look at the mountain you can see the more difficult paths — crags, crevices, sheer walls, and jagged rock. You can see the others making their way. As some climb they have the support of others with rope and belaying pins. Some toil alone with no safety equipment, straining for every toe- and finger-hold that they can find.

Along the way we all stumble and fall. Most will pick themselves up and continue on the journey. Some will turn and go back down the mountain seeking another way. The more dangerous the terrain the more dangerous the fall, the ones who have the safety ropes and climbing buddies will be caught and returned to the path, perhaps bruised and bleeding.

Dangerous Paths
There will be those who fall and never rise again. The mountain bears their markers as testament to their efforts — mute reminders of the climber and warning of the path they took.

Look up ahead and you can see some on the sheer cliffs, free climbing, but stalled at a point where they can no longer find a way up or down. They claw to hold their position until the agony of exhaustion overtakes them and their grasp finally fails. Rarer still is the climber who reaches those heights and then for reasons known only to themselves, simply jump.

Whether that exhaustion is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual there is a climbers trick of “tying off.” Secure yourself in place until you have recovered to continue on, and gathered your thoughts enough to think your way to a viable solution. Never forget that sometimes backwards is the only safe, passable route

Each path will lead to the top if you can follow it long enough. Sometimes you choose the path and sometimes the path chooses you. A well-planned route can be changed by unforeseen circumstances. A slight incline can become a sheer angle. A leisurely hike can turn into a life-or-death situation at any turn.

Yet knowing this, many still follow that path. If you look around you can see the others, some ahead of you, some behind, and others beside you. As you climb your path will cross others and you may walk together for a while, but there will be the times when you must walk alone. If you look carefully you will see the paths of others. You can follow their path or make one of your own.

Regardless of the path taken there are certain situations that befall all of us, unique in their specifics but common to all climbers. I try to write about those situations from my own experiences and perspective. For some it will be a reminder of their own path already taken. For others it will serve as an advisory about what may lie on the trail ahead.

What lies at the top of the mountain? From my viewpoint, low on the slope, I can’t tell. The peak is still shrouded in mist for me. Perhaps you have a better view from your path. I’ll keep climbing and, if and when I get there, I’ll let you know. I don’t know how long it will take me because, like I said, sometimes you choose the path and sometimes the path chooses you.

About the author

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor, and is currently employed by the Parkers Prairie Police Department. He is also a full-time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University.

Contact Duane Wolfe

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