Confessions of a Police Officer

Dear Citizens, Neighbors, Friends and Family,

My name is Jill and I am a cop. That means that the pains and joys of my personal life are often muted by my work. I resent the intrusion but I confuse my self with my job almost as often as you do. 

The label "police officer" creates a false image of who I really am. Sometimes I feel like I'm floating between two worlds. My work is not just protecting and serving. It's preserving that buffer that exists in the space between what you think the world is, and what the world really is.

My job isn't like television. The action is less frequent, and more graphic. It is not exhilarating to point a gun at someone. Pooled blood has a disgusting metallic smell and steams a little when the temperature drops. CPR isn't an instant miracle and it's no fun listening to an elderly grandmother's ribs break while I keep her heart beating. I'm not flattered by your curiosity about my work. I don't keep a record of which incident was the most frightening, or the strangest, or the bloodiest, or even the funniest. I don't tell you about my day because I don't want to share the images that haunt me.

But I do have some confessions to make:

Sometimes my stereo is too loud. Andrea Bocelli's voice makes it easier to forget the wasted body of the young man who died alone in a rented room because his family feared the stigma of AIDS. Beethoven's 9th symphony erases the sight of the nurses who sobbed as they scrubbed layers of dirt and slime from a neglected 2-year-old's skin. The Rolling Stones' angry beat assures me that it was ignorance that drove a young mother to draw blood when she bit her toddler on the cheek in an attempt to teach him not to bite.

Sometimes I set a bad example. I exceeded the speed limit on my way home from work because I had trouble shedding the adrenalin that kicked in when I discovered that the man I handcuffed during a drug raid was sitting on a loaded 9mm pistol.

Sometimes I seem rude. I was distracted and forgot to smile when you greeted me in the store because I was remembering the anguished, whispered confession of a teenager who pushed away his drowning brother to save his own life.

Sometimes I'm not as sympathetic as you'd like. I'm not concerned that your 15-year-old daughter is dating an 18-year-old because I just comforted the parents of a young man who slashed his own throat while they slept in the next bedroom. I was terse on the phone because I resented the burden of having to weigh the value of two lives when I was pointing my gun at an armed man who kept begging me to kill him. I laugh when you cringe away from the mess in your teen's room because I know the revulsion of feeling a heroin addict's blood trickling toward an open cut on my arm. If I was silent when you whined about your overbearing mother it's because I really wanted to tell you that I spoke to one of our high school friends today. I found her mother slumped behind the wheel of her car in a tightly closed garage. She had dressed in her best outfit before rolling down the windows and starting the engine.

On the other hand, if I seem totally oblivious to the blood on my uniform, or the names people call me, or the hateful editorials, it's because I am remembering the lessons my job has taught me.

I learned not to sweat the small stuff. Grape juice on the beige sofa and puppy pee on the oriental carpet don't faze me because I know what arterial bleeding and decaying bodies can do to one's decor.

I learned when to shut out the world and take a mental health day. I skipped your daughter's 4th birthday party because I was thinking about the six children under the age of 10 whose mother left them unattended to go out with a friend. When the 3-year-old offered the dog the milk from her cereal bowl, the dog attacked her, tearing open her head and staining the sandbox with blood. The little girl's siblings had to pry her head out of the dog's jaws - twice.

I learned that everyone has a lesson to teach me. Two mothers engaged in custody battles taught me not to judge a book by its cover. The teenage mother on welfare mustered the strength to refrain from crying in front of her worried child while the well-dressed, upper-class mother literally played tug of war with her toddler before running into traffic with the shrieking child in her arms.

I learned that nothing given from the heart is truly gone. A hug, a smile, a reassuring word, or an attentive ear can bring an injured or distraught person back to the surface, and help me refocus.
And I learned not to give up, ever! That split second of terror when I think I have finally engaged the one who is young enough and strong enough to take me down taught me that I have only one restriction: my own mortality.

One week in May has been set aside as Police Memorial Week, a time to remember those officers who didn't make it home after their shift. But why wait? Take a moment to tell an officer that you appreciate her work. Smile and say "Hi" when he's getting coffee. Bite your tongue when you start to tell a "bad cop" story. Better yet, find the time to tell a "good cop" story. The family at the next table may be a cop's family.

Nothing given from the heart is truly gone. It is kept in the hearts of the recipients. Give from the heart. Give something back to the officers who risk everything they have.

Jill Wragg is a retired Police Officer from Massachusetts. 
She can be reached at

*** This essay is copyrighted material;
no reproduction or excerpting is permitted without
written consent
Jill Wragg ( ***

Yarmouth Police Department 
Chief Frank Frederickson
Steven Xiarhos
Sgt Sean Gannon
Fran├žoise Kiekeman


joy said...

Beautifully written. Interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

loved it. hit home. will share with family, in hopes they will "get me."

Cindi M said...

Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this. So often I only have one side to the story. Thought provoking!

Anonymous said...


Pieter said...

The article by Jill Wragg was well written. I spent 32.5 years as a Police Officer and I have experienced all that she wrote about. I could never have expressed myself so well though. That took courage.

The positive comments are great and I thank the people who wrote them. There is another comment that should be ignored as ypu csnnot talk to stupid people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting into words what so many of us across the world experience. Sometimes it is hard to make those connections ourselves, much less try to get others to understand.

Anonymous said...

It is wonderful to have someone that walks in our shoes that is so talented at expressing what most of us go through during our careers. Please keep up the great work and stay safe.

Ed Cameron said...

I want to Thank all Law Enforcement Officers Male and Female for doing there job so well, you folks do so much and never get any thanks

ericab said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful story. It has hit close to home, as my husband is an officer. It has made me understand him more and appreciate everything he does.

Unknown said...

Hi Jill,
Powerful stuff and extremely well written.
Rest assured that the decent folk within communities all over the world DO appreciate the sterling work done by cops every second of every day.
It's the bad 'guys' that don't, but they don't matter.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jill,

You are the voice for silent majority of us who can't find the words to explain what we go through on a daily basis. In a cathartic way you have helped lessen the emotional burdens many of us carry with us day in and day out. The public will never understand how this job takes so much from us day in year out. I hope to retire before I have nothing left to give....

Unknown said...

Police people RULE!

Unknown said...

Good,Jill. It would be great to see other officers write their feelings because it truly protrays the sincerity of why people go into the military and law enforcement.

Love, Rita said...

Wow, I will never look at our hometown cops the same way again! Thank you.

James Phillip Bultema said...

I'm from a small town next to a big city. I've had my run-ins with the law. Some of my really good friends are cops. They say the exact same as what I've expierienced. 99 out of a 100 cops are cops for the right reasons. it's the 1 percenters that ruin it for everyone. I am in the military now and am married and have a wonderful son. I like to think that I have definitely turned my life around. those stories about American soldiers killing civilians and commiting various attrocities are the same 1 percenters. I've come to believe that every segment of the population has these same people in it giving the people doing right bad names

solita said...

wow, that was so touching and heart felt. I know alot of times I think cops are just cold and heartless and now I know why, it's not that they just are but all that they have seen and been thru....thanks because now, I understand cops more.

Unknown said...

Well said, Jill. Retired 28 year dispatcher who spent many nights in a car with my people, and I'm still taken aback by some things. I hope you can eventually enjoy some peace.

Anonymous said...

I loved it, and feel better knowing people like you are out there serving the public. The problem is, that for every one of you, there are half a dozen testosterone overloaded assholes that think they are law and not the public servant.

Anonymous said...

Great article, very well written. Eye-opening.

Bev said...

Thank you so much. This is beautifully written and brings tears to my eyes because my son is a Police Officer and while he doesn't share names and sometimes not incidents, but just says "it was a really busy day" or "it was a bad day" (or night).
Thank you to any Police Officer who serves, or has served.
You have my utmost respect for protecting those of us who can't do it ourselves.
God bless you all and Thank you!

Anonymous said...

There is another blogger using this work as their own..

And thank you SISTER for writing what most of us feel but cannot translate into words!

MSC said...

I dont believe in coincidences I always say. It's all about the natural order of things in life. So, today as I was cleaning out some old boxes, I came across this worn copy of the article written so long ago. Ive saved it for nearly 20 years & I had it taped to a sheet of writing paper. I saved this article back in 2001 when I was a Police officer & a single mom raising 3 young boys. As I read it today, it revived a visceral nerve in me. All these years later, I now remember why I saved it. Those many memories as a police officer...they never go away do they? Thank you.