Using the words “cops” and “joy” in the same sentence is not something you’ve probably ever heard or read. They are never mistaken as synonymous, and you certainly won’t find them together in any job description for police officers. Ask a cop if he or she associates his or her work with the word “joy” and the officer may very well suspect you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But believe it or not, a career in policing can produce a remarkable level of joy for a man or woman in blue.
Some of what police officers are sensing is more of euphoria akin to a runner’s high after a tough workout—you could call it a “cop’s high”. They may not even recognize it and the feeling may seem like a quiet satisfaction, however brief it may be, or it may be an intense adrenaline rush brought on by an explosive or dangerous event that they will relive with others over a beer. It may also be the opportunity to see something that was particularly humorous that they will share as a funny story later.
It’s important that the officers experience these joys since they are a vital counterbalance to all the pressures and strains members of law enforcement live through.
So where do they experience these joys, you may wonder? Mostly by responding to calls for service.
When someone calls 911, the police officer is responding to an emergency for that person and can immediately help upon their arrival. If you ask a random officer why they wanted to do this job to begin with, the first answer for most of them is that they want to help people.
Joy can also come from something simple like changing a tire for someone who cannot do it themselves. Maybe they sense it when they respond to a home where a child is not listening to their parent but will listen to the officer instead. Knowing that a child will pay attention to a cop, even once, can make an officer’s day.
We often see letters of thanks from the people we help, or food and treats being dropped off at the station in appreciation for something we did. With all the anti-police rhetoric officers have been experiencing for years, these kind acts can help them feel valued.
But one of the best feelings of joy an officer can get is catching the “bad guy”. When cops have the ability to arrest someone who is a detriment to society, and if not arrested could cause further harm, they take that responsibility very seriously—so seriously that they even risk their own life to do so. When they do catch that bad guy, it can bring much joy and personal satisfaction to them. The “cop’s high” we mentioned earlier can be really strong and remarkable in these experiences.
And finally, after surviving for decades, police officers will have a special joy upon retirement from service and may sense a higher power telling them, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Tom Wetzel is the recently retired chief of police in Richmond Heights, Ohio, and a former SWAT commander. He is also a certified law enforcement executive, adjunct professor in community policing and internationally published author on police topics.
Lt. Denise DeBiase has been a member of the Richmond Heights Police Department in Ohio for over 26 years and is currently serving as the executive officer. She is a Certified Law Enforcement Executive in the state, former DARE, bike patrol, crime prevention, and juvenile diversion officer, and detective.
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