Will Beauty Weep?
Monday, August 29, 2005
After a couple of weeks of holding my breath, I have finally received a "Fully Qualified" stamp of approval from the Department of Vet Affairs Vocational Rehab office. They have told me they are planning on covering me through the completion of a bachelor degree!

Good news has been hard to come by, so this is MOST refreshing!

The fact that I will have my tuition, fees, books, supplies, and monthly stipend paid for up to the next 4 years is a done deal. I still have to take a personality inventory test to determine aptitudes, likes, etc., but this is only to facilitate a mutually agreed decision as to what degree I will pursue. Every time I have taken one of these tests I have scored heavily towards medicine/mental health, so it should be no problem getting the BS in Nursing agreed to as the best course of action. While we are waiting for this to happen, I can start school at the community college this Sept. and once the plan is agreed to (in Oct/Nov) they will back date the plan to cover the cost of the fall term.

However, almost 4 years of full time school and full time job (so my family can have health insurances) gives me a bit of a pause. I would probably feel quite a bit more nervous if I was delving into computer science, or some other field in which I had no experience at all. As it is, the medical training I received in the military was so extensive that I believe the next four years (as long as things go as planned) will mostly be review. I think the hardest thing about it will be the time it takes.

Of course I could get neck deep and feel that I am suddenly surrounded by alligators of anatomy and piranhas of pharmacology. Perhaps this old Bear has forgotten all he once knew, but I don't think that is the case.

So now this “full time student” has to find a job which will provide health insurance for the family and allow the flexibility I need for a school schedule. No daunting task in the still ravaged Oregon economy. Still, it is but a detail to be handled in the overwhelming goodness of being approved.

Friday, August 19, 2005
"The King is Dead. Long Live the King!"

The title, taken from an old community confession at the change of monarchs, always confused me as a young man. I now understand it.

It was a confession designed to help the people transition from one face of monarch-dom to another. It was designed to help the people understand the previous face no longer existed, but the kingdom continues with a new face. It was a confession of continuity in the face of grief and loss. It was a declaration that we will survive. It seemed appropriate to my current situation.

I have withdrawn from the last two processes. It was clear to me they were not going to materialize, and the stress on my family simply became too great. Frankly I feared losing them. There was nothing overt or threatened, but I did observe some very clear warning signs. Wagering my family on a million to one long shot didn’t seem a reasonable bet. Especially since I am anticipating the VA Voc Rehab will come through, and any position would be rendered moot.

This is not to say it has been easy. I have been plagued by dreams, both joyous and nightmarish. But it is what needed to be, so it is what is.

In the wake of this leap, I am considering a tattoo.

I know it may sound like this is coming out of left field, but in actuality, I have been thinking and talking about it for over ten years. The events of the last year have marked me. They have been more significant, and painful, than I can share on a semi open forum. Because of this, I am thinking about finally culminating my years of contemplation. It seems appropriate to memorialize the events.

What image would I have permanently etched on my mortal shell you ask?

What else. A bear. I have looked at many different things, including a phoenix (seemed appropriate) and a caduceus. But my wife and I have settled on a NW Native design of a bear. The symbolic meaning offered by the bear simply could not be denied. It even speaks of transition. It is the symbology of the bear that matters to me, that is why I am looking at a tribal/stylized design.

And the image which is in the lead for permanent emplacement? (Hopefully this will work.)

Saturday, July 30, 2005
I had a meeting with my Veterans Affairs rep this week. He informed me I qualified for VA Vocational Rehabilitation. He said this meant I could get them to pay for college and pay ME while I went! He said they would cover the whole enchilada including fees, books, etc., as well as provide a tax free stipend based on full time attendance. As you can imagine, this has sparked near constant cogitation.

At first I thought I would do a degree completion program through one of the local nationally ranked universities in the area. I had been considering their program in Studies in Behavioral Sciences for some time, and this seemed the perfect opportunity. This kind of program would allow me to continue working full time, too.

I have since moved to consider a more practical initial degree: RN. The SBS degree would only open the doors which would be opened by ANY degree; nothing special, and nothing especially marketable. I would have to wait until completing a Masters before I could start earning a living in the field, and then it would only be a marginal living. But with an RN degree, I could make a very decent living, be in constant demand, be able to shape my schedule to accommodate graduate programs, and, in a worst case scenario, still be left with a career if my long term plans were somehow short circuited.

Once I have an RN, I can work on a Masters in whatever realm I want. My current thoughts are to go with Nurse Practitioner, which would allow me to practice medicine independently. I could continue working on a doctoral in psychology, and at the end be a psychologist who could prescribe meds. This would make me HUGELY marketable since psychologists usually have to refer patients to medical doctors for prescriptions or ignore pharmacotherapy altogether.

The problem is that this VocRehab opportunity, if it plays out the way it has been sold, is a limited time offer and would be entirely incompatible with picking up position with another PD. This is because you have zero control over your schedule for the first 18 months.

During the 18 month probation you are given the last open slot, after everyone else has picked their schedule of choice. This means you usually wind up working the hardest, most inconvenient shift on the schedule. In addition, they can change your shift at any time to suit the needs of the department. This instability makes it difficult to maintain the full time (12 hours or more) status for the VocRehab program.

So now I am left with a dilemma. Do I accept that I am screwed for good and go with the school plan regardless of VocRehab or not? Or do I ignore a total free ride and continue my assault on the stonewall that has been raised between me and another cop job?

Honestly, I am leaning towards throwing in the towel on the cop thing for good. I thought I could keep the back door open and possibly revisit this at the end of obtaining a degree, but the wife has strenuously objected to that idea. She doesn’t want to revisit the stress this process (and subsequent rejections) cause the her and our daughter. And I understand her position.

Nothing is for certain yet. I am continuing in the process with the agencies I am already working with, but it seems to me that it would be utter foolishness to pass by a free ride. And it is becoming clearer that I may never be able to overcome the damage done by the Sgt at my last agency.

I know the comments section of the blog is screwed up, and I cannot get it to work. So any thoughts you may want to send will have to be sent by email. And I would appreciate your thoughts while I am hammering out the course our life is going to take.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I suppose another update is due, though I am not eager to delve into things again.

First, the investigator in my last background actually called back. He said he would try to find some info for me, but I never really expected a call back since they usually have non disclosure requirements. He said he felt he owed that to me, however, and gave me some interesting information.

Essentially, it all comes down to what is on paper in the file at my previous agency. He only reports what he finds, so it wasn't his call, but he thought the negative comments and rating probably paint a picture most agencies are unwilling to give a second showing. Unfortunately, the annual review which so heavily influences the decision makers, has several outright lies in it. I know, I know, easy to say but hard to prove.

The thing is, I talked to the Sr Training Officer C from my previous agency, a guy who has been nothing but adamantly supportive and encouraging, and he told me that HE told the investigator there was serious question about the comments in the file, and that the investigator should pay no attention to them. He told the investigator that he should rely on the testimony of the guys who worked with me, who ALL say I am competent and should be rehired. But as cops, the training is to give more weight to the physical evidence over witness reports. Never mind the physical evidence in this case is essentially a written witness report itself. What is on paper, what is official, is taken as truth.

The investigator went on to say he didn't feel I had addressed the items in the file enough to counter the negative impact. (One friend likened it to a convict not showing enough remorse, and so is denied parole.) He felt if I could convince the next interviewer I had "learned my lesson," then they might be willing to give me a second chance.

I am still in the process with three agencies. I am going to see these through to the end. But I am not planning on applying with any additional agencies. I am done. Most would consider one or two rejections based on background investigation to be a death blow. I now have three. The accumulative effect (since you have to list them all each time you fill out a new packet) simply snowballs until it is virtually impossible to overcome. And the stress of this process is shared by my family, I am not willing to continue that stress forever on the off chance someone might see past the paper in the file.

Fortunately my wife reminded me that before law enforcement I had planned on going back to school to complete my degree and pursue graduate work, all in an effort to become a mental health therapist.

In my passion for the thrill, excitement and prestige of being a cop, I forgot that what I have always really sought was an ability to make a difference. Not in the "I gave fifty bucks to the local homeless shelter" kind of way, but to personally impact individuals. I was captivated by the good which can be done by helping people deal with life long before I began to pursue law enforcement. The difference is that law enforcement gives instant gratification, but can be frustrating in the long term as the problems never really go away. Therapy is a longer term involvement, but can produce longer lasting benefits to individuals and the community. Don't get me wrong, being a cop is still my number one desire. But at least I have options if it doesn't happen.

So here is the plan: I will continue my efforts with the three agencies with which I am currently involved. If none of these work out, then I find employment which will pay our bills and provide health insurance (I have leads on several good possibilities, tech support, etc) and provide me the stability and predictability to go back to school.

My preference is to be a cop, and complete my degree on the side. Perhaps even find a way to obtain a graduate degree. Then I could become a therapist after retiring. But at least now I feel I have options. My life isn’t over if this doesn’t happen.

We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Life Is Suffering

The title, Life is Suffering, is also one of the four major tenants of Buddhism.

The truth of this was driven home today when I opened a letter from my local municipality which stated, based on information gathered during my background investigation, they were no longer considering me for a position as a police officer. This is the department which has been my very best hope. It is impossible to imagine a more favorable run up or atmosphere could ever exist anywhere else.

As usual, there was no information offered regarding the reason. I have called both the investigator and the author of the letter. The investigator told me that I should continue applying at other agencies because what is disqualifying for one department may not be for another. The administrator who sent the letter was out and has not returned my call.

Two of the greatest desires of my life have been to have more children and to have a career in law enforcement. We know the outcome of the first, and the outcome of the second seems pretty clear at this point. I have applied with 17 agencies. I get nothing but rave reviews right up to the background, and have been dropped 3 times at the background phase. Each time I have been told that I should continue pursuing a position, that there isn't anything disqualifying, per se, but that I just wasn't a right fit. I am told that other departments might find me a great fit.

I am in the interview/testing process with 3 more agencies. But I just don't know how long am I can leave this wound open and festering.

I spent years in anguish over our inability to have more children. I still feel the pain even now. Should I spend the rest of my life, and the rest of my savings, waiting for some mythical agency "out there" somewhere to think I am worthwhile?

I am in agony. I am in physical pain right now, and feel that I could throw up at any time.

Perhaps it is time to admit defeat, recognize I have been blacklisted and that I will never be a cop again. Perhaps it is time to move on with my life and do what I can to provide a decent income for my family.

God it hurts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I suppose an update is past due. I am just a little reluctant to continually post the same info over and over.

Basically the update is this: I am still awaiting the final interview with county, I am in background with the city I live in (looks good though!), I have submitted a background packet with another local city (awaiting word), I have passed the written and physical tests with yet another local city and will be going to the oral boards next week.

In addition, I have another two apps just sent off yesterday with two more on my desk awaiting final touches.

All in all, I have applied to 15 agencies (two agencies applied to twice), tested with 7, still in the process with 4, with two apps still pending. And there is STILL no firm end in sight.

I am amazed at how wasteful and convoluted the hiring process is. Agencies seem to completely reject the concept of accepting scores from previous tests, and very, very few have any idea as to an actual planned hire date for the new position. Only one department that I have seen so far, and they were looking for more experience than I currently have.

The process is brutal, protracted, and without a firm finish line to shoot for. It is a wonder that people continue to put themselves through this ordeal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Much media coverage was recently given to a couple of police officers who used a taser on a female violator who refused to comply with their commands. This coverage is consistent with past media reporting of taser use. For some unknown reason (did you catch the sarcasm there?), the media seems to be following the Amnesty International playbook, which calls for the suspension of virtually every tool available to law enforcement officers.

ANYtime a subject, suspect, or violator refuses to comply with my commands, my head fills with the sounds of the Lost In Space robot yelling, “Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!” Lights flash, claxons sound, and I internally move a couple of steps up the DefCon scale. But the Use of Force Continuum for an officer is clearly defined.

An officer’s response must be appropriate and justified. A suspect who refuses to follow commands, but is not overtly combative, is within the Use of Force Continuum level containing the taser option. The other options available are pepper spray, which causes 45 minutes of burning hell, and direct hands on, which has a huge incident of significant injury to both officer and suspect alike. Now, thanks to Taser International, there is a fourth option: The taser.

A taser uses compressed air to launch two barbed probes. The probes are attached to two copper wires which carry a specially engineered form of energy designed to disrupt the operation of voluntary, musculoskeletal muscles. It also hurts like a mofo!

TV and the movies like to portray the taser as causing unconsciousness, but this is untrue. I know because I have taken multiple hits, including the full 5 second “ride,” myself. I did this because I felt if I was going to use this tool on others, I should know exactly what it felt like.

The pain caused by the taser is excruciating and certainly results in a serious reconsider of your life’s direction. It is possibly the most painful experience I have ever had. It also causes a complete shut down of the voluntary muscles, but all of this only lasts for 5 seconds. Once the cycle stops the pain stops, and you can get up and move around without residual effects. There is no lingering unconsciousness and, barring hitting your head while falling or the effects of drugs on the system, there is virtually no chance of serious injury. Of the deaths reported after a taser deployment, virtually all had mitigating factors, almost always a system already compromised by a significant amount of drugs.

Taser, which tracks usage of their product, reports departments using this device experience a decreased of officer injuries by 80%, of suspect injuries by 67%, and of use of the lethal force option by 78%. Its threatened deployment also results in the peaceful and voluntary surrender of literally 90% of otherwise hostile suspects. Independent studies appear to confirm these numbers. More information can be found at Taser Technology: Saving Lives and Reducing Injuries

This means even Toothless Billy the Meth Head, having a psychotic break after 8 straight sleepless days of tweaking, gets to live after charging officers with a knife. Without the taser, ol’ Billy would be pushing up daisies. And for you fiscally minded folks, lower officer injuries translates into lower Workman Comp expense, while lower suspect injuries and deaths result in lower medical expenses and reduced liability claims.

Given the options available, consider me a strong advocate of the taser. It saves lives, reduces injuries, and decreases costs. So what’s not to like?

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