Stripping away the weight of armor, ammo, radios, rifle, and all the cumbersome gear, my mind raced, and my body was invigorated. Regardless of how mundane, how action-packed, how far we walked, if we were delivered to the front door, it was almost always the same. After stripping away the weight, I hit the gym, as did many of us. The mind and body needed an outlet. The decisions were complex but simple. They were reactionary. They were rehearsed yet malleable. Input equaled output so rapidly that my body seemed to outrun conscious thought.
Life in Regiment was no easy task, but it left my mind and body invigorated and amped. Mission after mission, AAR to AAR (after action review), the tank never seemed to hit E. Sleep was often hard to find after a night on target. What followed were video games, workouts, runs, or anything and everything to unwind the mind. From mundane to action-packed, System 1 could rapidly retrieve and apply all that System 2 had filed away. The files were extensive but limited in number. It equated to an amped System 1 having only expended a fraction of its energy. That was combat.
Stripping away the weight of armor, ammo, radio, pistol, and all the cumbersome gear, my mind was in a state of almost shock, my body exhausted. Regardless of how mundane, or how action-packed, it is almost always the same. I have to find the energy to strip away the weight. My brain is racing on fumes. It wants to evaluate the night. It wants to be amped and invigorated, but it is exhausted. The tank is on E but the car is still rolling. My body is restless but without the energy to move. It is like mind and body are trapped. Each and every call for service, traffic stop, and interaction are a rapid fire of mental considerations.
Where are their hands? What does their body language say? What are they actually saying? Where is my partner? Do I need a partner? Are there charges? What does the law say? What do the courts say? Is my body-worn camera on? Should it be on? Can I turn it off? Who is that? Are they recording? Where are their hands? What are they doing? What does their body language say? Do I need more resources? Do I have enough? What if they run? What if I have to arrest them? Is this criminal? Is this civil? What did they say on the radio? Should I stay here? Do they need my help? Is it more important than this call? Sorry, can you repeat that, my radio was going off? Ok, this is civil, do I have time to help them? Can I help them? Legally? Does it violate policy? Do I need to call my supervisor? Should I call them?
Should I stop this car? What does the law say? What do courts say? What am I trying to achieve? What time is it? What if they have a gun? What if they initiate a pursuit? What if they hit another car? Ok, I will stop them. Do I need a partner? Are they acting nervous? Where are their hands? What does their body language say? What is that over there? Do I smell drugs or alcohol? What did they say? Do they have warrants? Do they have a license? Should they be driving? Should I give them a ticket? Do I need to arrest them? How am I going to get them out? What if they fight? What if they have a gun? Do I need a partner? How far away are they? Would waiting make them nervous? Would it make them more likely to fight?
The list of never-ending questions is rapid-fire for hours after hours. For half of the day, this is what my brain does. It files through the Dewey Decimal System of questions so that I might locate the book of information needed. As a cop, my brain is always going. I have to check the computer, the radio, my phone, the road, the area around the streets, everywhere. I have to make decisions about complex problems in limited amounts of time with limited access to information. I have to consider the law, court cases, policy, procedure, rules… It leaves my mind exhausted but refusing to shut off. It leaves my body exhausted but restless. It leaves me staring at the ceiling thinking about everything, yet nothing. It leaves my body unable to move but unable to rest. This is being a cop.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.