Upon retiring from twenty years in law enforcement, I realized I had dealt with more trauma than I ever knew. I spent fifteen years of my career working in the Crime Scene Investigations Unit. CSI was gaining so much popularity from the many television shows involving the solving of crimes; I wanted to be a part of it. But mostly I wanted to be the officer responsible for collecting that crucial piece of evidence that put the suspect behind bars. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if my job was like the TV show, I’d be a very rich woman.
I never kept track of the number of different crime scenes I worked, but I’ve done it all. Homicides, suicides, SIDS deaths, vehicle fatalities, drownings, bank robberies, home invasion robberies, personal robberies, burglaries, grand theft auto, animal cruelty, elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, arsons, rapes, vandalism, drug houses, prostitution rings, assaults, officer-involved shootings, and officer deaths.
Responding to these types of crime scenes was the daily routine for me. I went home after each twelve-hour shift exhausted; glad to get out of my uniform. I never got enough sleep in those fifteen years. The crime scenes slowly began to haunt me. Sure, there were days without extreme violence, but my shift was always full of negativity. Someone somewhere was always getting hurt or being taken advantage of.
It wasn’t until someone asked me to be a member of my department's PEER Support Team when I realized how much trauma I was truly dealing with. I attended formal training to recognize and understand the effects of stress, learn valuable listening skills, and learn how to refer officers to various forms of assistance if needed. I had a deep desire to help others, but beneath it all, I think I was looking for a way to help myself.
After joining the PEER Support Team, I worked two critical incidents within three months of each other that were extremely difficult for me. The first crime shocked the community and the second shocked our law enforcement family. I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD and eventually concluded that I no longer wanted to work in the CSI unit. I tested and promoted to Sergeant and retired a year and a half later.
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Being in law enforcement is a calling. It's hard work that affects us physically and emotionally. Connection and self-care are very important. The Thin Blue Line 4 Women is here to support you in any way we can!
Tamara - Retired Sergeant