Last Friday I posted about the Hartford Police investigating the alleged sexual assault of a five month old child. As sad and disgusting as that allegation is, it still is investigated by a Hartford Police Officer. A Hartford Police officer who has one definite thing in common with every other police officer across the country. The investigating officer is a human being with human emotions.
I don't know the officer that investigated the incident, but I am sure it brought about some strong emotional feelings. And I don't know this for a fact, but it was probably the type of day that ended with the officer trying to get a few buddies to meet for a cold beer after work.
And there lies the problem. Police officers are human and may deal with their problems the way many others do, through alcohol or by taking it out on someone else that they think will usually put up with it. It seems like the two reasons officer's end up on the bad side of the news lately is from alcohol related incidents or domestic violence arrests.
I don't condone either, but until we start employing "robo-cops" who have no emotion and function like a computer chip, we are going to have problems.
The issue hit close to home today when word of Connecticut State Police Lieutenant Timothy Kradas's recent accident and the revelation that alcohol was most likely involved. "Timmy" has been a friend since the days he moved in next to our family in Windsor when he was only a few years old. It seems like he almost spent more time at our house growing up than he did at his home. When our family would head to Vermont for weekends or summer vacations, Timmy was usually there.
Through just about every family event, Tim was there as one of our family. Weddings, wakes, funerals, Tim was there. Even my fathers retirement party, Tim was there.
Tim and I were working together when he went through the application process and was accepted into the State Police Academy and I remember him beaming when he graduated and was assigned to Troop C in Stafford. I remember how proud I was to see him make it to graduation and begin his career.
A couple years later I was with him one Saturday. He was off duty when he got a call and was told to meet another trooper off of I-91 in Windsor. He didn't know it at the time, but his State Police K-9 and his new partner Phoenix was about to be delivered to him to begin canine training.
Tim excelled with Phoenix and they made quite the team. Unfortunately, during a track one night in rough terrain, Tim and Phoenix went off a cliff and Tim's fall resulted in some chronic back injuries. Phoenix fared better from the incident and eventually retired.
That's a little bit about the human side, but it also brings me back to the "dirty little secret". Alcohol abuse is a huge problem for police officers, the same as it is for teachers, priests and probably just about every profession. The problem though is that when alcohol affects a cops career, it usually doesn't end well.
Cops are the tough guys amongst us. They are supposed to always be strong and have their armored defenses up and ready. Their peers and co-workers are expected to be equally as strong and no sign of weakness goes unchallenged. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 the challenge is neither healthy nor helpful.
Did Tim all of a sudden decide to leave CSP Headquarters pound a few beers during a snowstorm (if that is what he did) and hit the highway and drive under a truck. I doubt it. Did anyone at HQ ever look at the LT. and ask "does he look like he has been drinking?". It probably wasn't a problem that started the afternoon of the accident.
Did anyone in a squadroom full of Bristol Police Officers question one of their own on the midnight shift recently before he hit the road drunk? Obviously not, but I find it hard to believe no one noticed.
Hartford has their share also, it isn't unique to Bristol or the state. It is a human frailty and although the officers are at fault for their actions, it is something that no one wants to address. Until it erupts into a problem that is.
Many times with full knowledge of pretty much everyone, alcohol related accidents are attributed to "black ice" or a drunken binge attributed to "oh, he just had a bad day", until the "bad days" seem to become almost every day. Too many good officers, talented officers, are reduced to ruins because no one has the backbone to step up and do what is right. It is easier to gossip over the radio and make jokes about "Sgt. 36" or "Lt.36" being on a binge again. (36 is HPD's radio code for a drunk, DUI)
EAP (employee assistance program)is something that needs to be more than just a program on paper. Someone should have the guts to step up and say "I think Tim has a problem" and be able to do that without being the outcast because they breached "the Blue Wall of Silence". What they most likely are doing is helping a co-worker avoid the embarrassment of front page headlines on the Courant as well as saving their career.
What was an impressive career will now be reduced to being remembered as a crash during a snowstorm with beer cans and some tomato juice concoction containing alcohol. Doing what is right is hardly ever easy, but in the end, this incident probably would have had a much different outcome if someone had the guts to step up and do what is unpopular but also what is right.