Monday, May 31, 2010

Where to Start

Many of you have asked where I have been and why I have not posted of late. Truth be told I have not been in the proper frame of mind to write about the things going on in San Diego as well as the Police Department. I have written several pieces that have yet to see the light of day because after proofing them and reading them prior to posting, I myself felt they were either to caustic, negative or would bring a level of discredit to the department or individuals. I made a promise to myself when I began this blog that I would do my level best to keep the posts professional and factual.

I began an internal struggle that lead to me losing interest and not caring about many things going on in my life. This blog was always an outlet for me to blow off some steam, say what many were thinking and give a voice to those who cannot find the courage to speak up. I started to feel as though I was yelling like the crazy guy on the corner of 4th and Broadway. The anger, frustration, pain and sorrow I was fighting internally was making its way into my writing and I could not allow that.

My sanctuary was Internal Affairs. Just saying that kind of makes one wonder how in the hell Internal Affairs could be a sanctuary for anyone, even me. I had spent almost twenty-five years as an employee advocate, representing members of the SDPOA during departmental actions. I handled grievances, poor performance issues, conduct issues and many other personnel related disciplinary issues for the member. I was transferred to Internal Affairs in 2007, and I knew the system and procedures inside out. The job is about getting to the truth, whatever that is, and determining if the actions were within policy. The position of a Sergeant in Internal Affairs is as an Investigator and you simply handle your cases and manage your time. I did not supervise anyone and only had to worry about my cases and help others in the office. It was a perfect fit for me since I failed in my last attempt at promotion. I had lost my desire to mentor, coach or lead others in anything. I just wanted to ride my last months out and be left alone doing a job I enjoyed and excelled at.

I was not of the right frame of mind to supervise others. I took not getting promoted harder than I let on or that most would ever suspect. It hurt and it caused me to withdraw. Part of that withdrawal was a slow pulling away from my writing. I still wrote everyday but it was not for publication. My writings became venom and fire and not suited for publication. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself and did my job in Internal Affairs. I helped out whenever asked and took on any case sent my way. I handled criminal cases against officers, internal investigations as well as the normal citizen complaint. I assisted the other sergeants in the office with their cases and answered questions about the Police Officer's Bill of Rights, procedure and the best way to deal with delicate and troubling issues. I was safe in Internal Affairs and could do my job without a lot of interaction with others. I was not supervising others and only had to manage myself. It was my sanctuary that allowed me to continue to do my job without the emotional ties or interactions I became to fear. I did not need a mask to hide my pain and anger. I could be quiet on those days that I struggled and no one was the wiser. Well, except one person.

I was lucky enough to have a great partner while working in Internal Affairs. We helped one another with interviews of witnesses, complainants and officers. We bounced ideas and issues off of each other and we came to trust one another. We don't normally have partners in Internal Affairs. We usually just seek out who is available to assist when necessary and will bounce issues off of one another and generally we as a group had a great time doing a job that at times could be stressful and frustrating. We took care of each other because we could not sit in the coffee shop and talk about our cases or what was going on. We could not get on an elevator and continue conversations from the office. We owed it to the officers to maintain that confidentiality. That left us a band of sergeants that entertained ourselves and ate lunch in our office together almost daily. You become isolated to an extent and while it sounds awful, it was what worked for me.

One day we were having coffee and my partner looked across the table at me and asked me a question that jolted me to my core. "Are you depressed?" I shot quickly a firm, "No" and felt myself looking down rather than across the table. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, and in reality it was maybe a few seconds, as my body started to respond to the next question fired in my direction, "Are you sure you are not depressed?" What was it that was being seen that I was doing or not doing that would prompt such a question? I honestly had not given much thought to this, but now I was being forced to take a closer look into the mirror and what it was that I was projecting that would prompt this question. I also needed to address the question.

We talked for a while about the observations my partner noted and the reasons for the question. The conversation was open, honest and frank, but generally one sided. I did not acknowledge my feelings or fears and would not allow myself to say yes. We walked back to headquarters and for most of the eight blocks we said very little. We would usually laugh and talk about stuff. This time it was different.

Yes, I was struggling with being depressed and really did not know it. Maybe I knew it but was not willing to acknowledge it, especially to someone else. I had experienced a lot in the last several years and the cumulative toll had caught up. No one else either recognized the symptoms or refused to broach the issue, but the cat was now out of the bag and I needed to figure it out. I decided that night to do something about it. I thanked my partner the next day and set out to get a handle on my feelings and what was going on in my head. The process has been painful and enlightening at the same time. I don't like mirrors anymore because I am not comfortable looking at me right now.

Some of you reading this will no doubt have questions for which I have no answers right now. I write about my struggles not to seek pity or sympathy but to enlighten others. The times we are in today have taken their toll on good people and others out there are struggling like me. If you have a friend or partner who is not sleeping, drinking more than before, seems more introverted and withdrawn, struggles to laugh and is quick to anger, don't be afraid to talk to them. My partner saw these changes over time and was not willing to ignore them. You need to do the same. If you are the one who is struggling, it is OK to ask for help and to get yourself back on the correct path. We owe it to each other to look out for one another and to offer help and support.

My sanctuary is being taken away from me. I am being transferred to Northwestern Division effective June 12, 2010. I am fearful of what the future holds but am confident I have friends who will be there to prop me up and offer support when I need it. My partner is also being transfered and we will no longer be working together. I owe my life to my partner and am thankful for the intervention that was no doubt difficult. So, if you ever read this post, Thank You... I owe you more than you know....

I will try and post more regularly about some of the issues generating concern of late. Be patient and take care of each other.


Joyce Edgar said...

Steve, you are a courageous man. Enjoy being out amongst people at NW, you have so much you can share and teach...and as you do so, the energy that drove you to be so proactive in life will, I pray, return.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I am hoping you find your way to finding peace and feeling better. Your blog is a great release for many people. We thank you for saying what needs to be said.

You have more friends than you know. Take care and hope to read more from you soon.

Anonymous said...

Steve-- Your talents reach well beyond anything you might have accomplished at SDPD. Don't let this organization define you as a person or as a "success."

Once you recognize these truths (as I did for myself) then you will find the peace you need to move into the next chapter of your life...confidently. Mark

cornfed said...

Steve, as you know, cops deal with the worst situations of society and that usually depresses all of us. Working in IA means you are working with the worst situations of our society and you are always being monday morning quarterbacked by your supervisors and everyone outside of IA. Getting out of the office and into some air will be a very refreshing thing for you. You may not feel like it now, but as a personal testament from me your body, mind and spirit will be renewed.

Anonymous said...

Steve...I spent nearly 6 years working IA and the old PSU. I can tell you from experience that you will look back and be glad for this move. Enjoy your next assignment and take care of you!!

Dee said...

Steve, take care of yourself and your family. You know they come first. I think Northwestern will be a good move. Something different.
I have always appreciated our friendship and will always value it.
I am here if you ever need anything and I know you have many family and friends who really care about you, yours truly included.

Always keep God's love in mind and turn to Him. He will always keep your best interests in mind if you listen to Him.

Jeffrey King said...

Steve - You don't know this, but I read your posts often. Thanks for being so honest. You have the respect of many educators you helped lead in the Poway Unified School District. Northwest is lucky to have you. — Jeff