The last three years have been hellish for U.S. First Responders — and their family members.
Covid is responsible for the deaths of more than 1.1 millions Americans.
The police officers were the target of political anger and budget cuts.
The number of teen suicides, drug overdoses, and mass shootings has reached record levels.
It is no wonder that the number of new recruits for first responders has dropped dramatically.
It is easy to forget that first responders have flesh and bones, just like everyone else. These are parents and children who have a stressful and unpredictable job. They never know when they will be called upon to act in dangerous situations.
Anyone who has been on a “ride-around” with the police or firefighters in the last few years knows what they face every day — harassment, extreme risk, and constant mental health emergencies. Not only do the officers suffer, but so does everyone else.
It’s something their children also feel. They have to worry every day if their parent will be home. The number of police shootings in America is on the rise. In the United States, as of today, there have been 324 police officers killed in the line-of-duty this year. And in the last two years, more than 1,000 law enforcers, including suicides, died in this country. The suicide rate for first responders is also on the rise. Los Angeles has lost two firefighters in the last few weeks to suicide.
In the months following Covid, countless first responders had to be separated from their children. They watched on television as hearses and trucks were filled with Covid survivors, while wondering if they would die next. Imagine the impact on a child’s mind.
Parents who have experienced unimaginable crimes can also pass on trauma to their children. Even if a parent tries to shield their child from the realities of modern life, it is impossible. It’s not a myth; second-hand PTSD is a real psychological condition that can affect children.
The situation has become so political for police officers, that their children hide their occupation in order to avoid harassment by their classmates. This is especially true within minority communities. It wasn’t so long ago that this would have been something to be proud of. What a shame.
The Police Executive Research Forum reports that the number of police and sheriff departments in the United States is experiencing a wave of resignations. According to them, the number was nearly 50% higher last year compared to 2019. New applications are also drying up faster. In the last year, NYPD lost 2,465 officers, almost half of whom left before they were eligible for pensions. Recruitment numbers have also dropped.
Check out the national statistics on EMTs, firefighters and other first responders. Everywhere you turn, there are a multitude of resignations and career changes. Our first line is struggling but still strong.
For a while, Americans almost fully appreciated the sacrifices made by our men and woman in uniform. We cheered them as they passed by our homes. We banged pots, pans, and signs from the balconies of our apartments to celebrate their bravery.
First responders, and in particular police officers, are feeling the lack of support of some citizens. This cannot continue.
Civil society is impossible without front-line defenders. It shouldn’t be necessary to wait for a recruitment crisis before we acknowledge their efforts and show our appreciation for what they do every day. It’s a heavy badge, and the people who wear it deserve far more support than they get.