Why the question "How ya feeling?" Is a bad question to ask a cop

Like most cops I'm pretty guarded.  I was like that before getting on the job and it isn't about to change now, and if anything I'm even more so.  Working as a cop we see a bit more of the sadness, despair, and destruction that people cause to each other.  Our fellow first responders on the fire and EMS side also do and can relate.

So why is it a bad idea to ask a cop "How ya feeling?" or even "How ya doing?"?

It's a pretty normal thing to ask someone right?  I mean we all ask each at the station when processing an arrest or during the few minute lull before the bosses walk in at roll call.  But why is it a bad question?

Because every cop has an answer.

"Fine."

Now, outside of law enforcement it's a standard, and probably correct, answer.  But to a cop it can carry a different meaning. 

A "fine" can mean "eh, I'm tired but it's my Friday" or "my wife and kids are pissing me off" or "I just handled another shooting" or "I need to work more OT because I promised XYZ".

Or on the darker side it can be a cover for having to console another grieving parent over their dead teen taken by street violence.  That elderly community leader that meant so much to so many has passed and tear filled eye after tear filled eye passes by you and a silent nod of appreciation passes to you as you make the proper notifications to detectives and such.  That traffic accident where you tried everything you could to save someone, but it all turned out in vain.

Or you just witnessed an officer die in the line of duty.  Attended another fallen officer's funeral where you saw the family and heard those damned bagpipes we love so much, yet hate so dearly because of what they usually represent.

Or read about another officer suicide, and have to read about the family and children left behind.

You see to us, we can filter that "Fine" through proper context and know how to address a fellow officer.  Chances are we've been there, on that same call, handling the same flood of emotions only to try to repress them because of our required professional demeanor we need to uphold.  We can say to one another, "Hey I know that feeling" and feel comforted, understood, or at least not alone.

But to those outside of a uniform and duty belt, it's just a way we continue to protect you from the darkness that lurks nearby in the street, on the dope corner with the dead drug users, or from a neighbor who just beat their child into a coma.  That "fine" is meant as us holding up a shield or deflecting a blow to you by taking the hit ourselves.

Next time you want to ask your cop buddy a question about themselves, ask a more direct one.  Ask about their kids, their spouse, that trip they took or are about to, ask about their parents or in-laws (no, wait.....don't ask about the in-laws).  Ask about what they have planned for their weekend or their next house project or how little Suzie is doing in school.  Get our minds off of always protecting and into things more personalized.

For the love of all things holy or otherwise, don't ask how we are doing or feeling because we will continue to protect you, like we do day in and day out, by telling you we are just "Fine".

Comments

  1. Last year two officers were killed on the train tracks in the city of Chicago. For some reason that night, listening to the calls that came in, and knowing what was really going on when other departments were offering their assistance to that department, really hit home for me. I’ll begin to envision what that scene looks like. How the responding officers must have been feeling. What it would be like to get the phone call as a family member of one of those officers. I cried and after a while I wanted to reach out to somebody. I chose to DM some people on Twitter. People I knew were either police officers or likely were. People I knew who may understand. I asked how they were doing. If you responded, one did and I begin to realize I was asking a question that they didn’t want to answer, but likely need their anonymity. Understandable. So I begin to apologize to each one. And I admitted I was the one that needed someone to talk to you. I cried wondering what it would be like to have to call my girlfriend and ask how she was if her husband died in the line to duty. And honestly, scares the shit out of me. I hope I never have to do that. Thanks for the advice Potato on what not to do.

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