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Ask a Cop: How cops emotionally handle child abuse cases

Ask a Cop: How cops emotionally handle child abuse cases



Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- I remember driving back from a camping trip with some friends of mine when I was in my early teens. We were coming to Nephi and I could see up ahead that there was a car with a trailer pulled over to the side.

As we approached I could see a father taking his son, who looked about 6, out of the car and yelling at him. I thought, when I first saw this, "Man, that kid is in trouble, probably pulled his sister's hair one too many times." Then the father kicked the boy in the stomach, like he was a 20-yard field goal, sending the small boy flying back several feet across the shoulder of the road.

My heart stopped at the sight of this. I had never seen violence of this magnitude directed at a child from their parent. I was at a loss for words and I remember yelling out, "No!" and hitting the window as we passed by. I asked if anyone else saw what had happened and two other passengers said they had. One had started crying as she saw it.

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We stopped at the next exit and notified the police of what we had witnessed. In our shock we did not get a plate but described the the vehicle and the trailer. I kept telling the driver of our car that we should go back and help find them. I was probably 14 at the time, but I felt that at that moment nothing could stop me from confronting the father who had done that.

I never found out what happened to the boy, or if the police found them. In my heart I hope the father was arrested and the boy was taken out of that situation. I had never felt so helpless in my life. All I know is I didnt sleep for several nights with that vision swimming in my head.

This may have been one of the reasons I became a police officer. Throughout the many years I have done police work, not many cases have affected me the way child abuse and child-related crimes have. I can deal with dead bodies, car accidents, robberies, fights and anything else that the city throws at me. But when it comes to kids, it hits me on a deeper level.


I can deal with dead bodies, car accidents, robberies, fights and anything else that the city throws at me. But when it comes to kids, it hits me on a deeper level.

Maybe it's the fact that children are truly innocent and have complete faith and trust in the person who ends up assaulting or neglecting them. They do not know any better than the life they have. How anyone can look into the eyes of a child and intentionally harm them still shakes me, as it did when I read about the sons of Josh Powell. When I read the story about their murder at the hands of their father, I said the same thing as I had that day on the highway when I was 14: "No!"

Maybe I feel this way because I have kids of my own and would never want to see them hurt. With all I've seen, it's amazing I don't keep my kids locked up in my house and hire bodyguards for them. Either way, I have always gone out of my way to make sure I go above and beyond in helping the children I come in contact with. Whether it's giving them a stuffed animal during a traumatic event, helping them cross the street, or fix a chain that's gotten loose on their bike, I want to let them know that someone out there has their back. This is why I hate when parents point at us and tell their kids that if they dont behave they will have the cops take them away.

I am asked all the time how I deal with the dad who leaves his infant in the car while he goes to watch a movie or punches a baby that won't stop crying; the mom who keeps shaking her child for not being quiet or shooting up with heroin before passing out, leaving her child to play with syringes and slowly starve, already addicted to whatever her mom is addicted to.

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"Don't you wanna reach over and punch the guy who has done that to a little kid?" someone once asked me.

"They should get the same thing as what they have done," another stated.

But would that serve justice? Is it fair if I let my emotions overwhelm me, and by my actions that individual goes free? That would do a disservice to the victim and their family.

How do I keep sane when a disturbed individual snatches a little girl from a playground, never to be seen again or molested for weeks and weeks? I think the main thing for me is faith.

I have to have faith. It's not just faith in a religion or faith in a higher power; I have to have faith in the justice system. Faith in humanity. Faith that my fellow participants of this world will step up and do the right thing. If I didnt have that first and foremost, I think you could get dragged down into that world of depression.


I have to have faith. It's not just faith in a religion or faith in a higher power; I have to have faith in the justice system. Faith in humanity. Faith that my fellow participants of this world will step up and do the right thing.

I also have my wife, who is my best friend, to talk to. I talk to my parents and friends and co-workers. If something is bothering me, I have always had people to talk to. If you let it sit with you and don't let it out, it can eat you from the inside out.

Once I'm done with the case or call, I have to let it go. I have to do the best job possible, but once I'm done, I have to put it behind me. If I let it stay with me, let it affect me, how can I be at my best to help the next victim?

I'm not an expert at resolving personal demons and I'm not a psychiatrist, but I have managed to keep my head above the waters of depression and sadness without using a life preserver of drugs and alcohol.

If you have witnessed or experienced something like this, I urge you to talk to someone about it, whether it be a professional or someone you trust. Get it out of you. Never keep it bottled up. This message is for the citizens and my fellow brothers and sisters in blue. Never be ashamed to show your other side.

Please send me your questions to the KSL website or comment on the article. Anything you would like me to answer I will do my best.

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Officer Anonymous

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