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My latest for Catholic Arts Today: Cop-poet Sarah Cortez says don’t go into policing to be a Care Bear–the only way not to burn out is being willing to die for horrible people who hate you

January 9, 2020

From my latest for Catholic Arts Today:

Charlotte Allen: Why police work as opposed to anything else?

Sarah Cortez: I fell in love it like you fall in love with a man. Being faced with unmitigated insanity—because the streets are insane. These TV shows don’t even begin to get it right. The insanity doesn’t even have to be dangerous, although it oftentimes is. It’s just a different world. It’s not the world of plush couches in offices. A crazy person knifes you, and you have a knife wound. Or a sane person knifes you, and you still have a knife wound.

But I also fell in love with the mission, which is public safety, the public good, the common good. It’s no longer fashionable to believe in the common good or what’s good for society as a whole among certain people, but to be an effective public servant you must completely identify with the mission, which is being willing to die for people that you don’t even know.

That’s true whether you’re a firefighter, EMS, a police officer, or military. My husband is a retired fireman. There are very few people in policing or firefighting whom I have ever met in 25 years who haven’t come from a Christian background. Even if they’re not “practicing.”  They still come from that core set of assumptions about humanity that you find in the Christian and especially Catholic worldview.

Charlotte Allen: Are there police officers who just haven’t come to terms with death and find themselves unable to continue? They think that they will never die, or people on their watch aren’t going to die?

Sarah Cortez: I’ll put it the way a good friend of mine in my department put it: These young kids who want to become a cop—they don’t really think about it, but they want to be a Care Bear. They get in, and they go through the academy, and they do fine, and they qualify with a firearm and they get a job. And then they find out that a lot of people in the world, especially now, regrettably in America, hate them! You wear a blue shirt? Hey, we hate you! You wear a blue shirt—you’re a racist! With no data, no evidence, no nothing, people just hate them. And it freaks them out, because they want to be a Care Bear.

I went into police work at an older age with my eyes open: OK, some people are going to hate me, some people are going to like me, most people are not going to care about me. I’m hired to do a job, so I’m going to do my job. That person likes me, that person hates me. I don’t know if the younger ones, just because our society has changed so much, understand that.

Charlotte Allen: They hope to be heroes and find out that most of it isn’t very heroic on a day-to-day basis.

Sarah Cortez: It’s dirty. You may lose your life to save somebody else’s life—and they hate cops. But that’s part of the sacramental nature about it.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

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