‘Thank Goodness for Those Who Step Up to Ensure Our Constitutional Rights’

Says this former police officer, 'Adversity will come and go, and it is crucial that no one in service goes down with it'

On duty and serving an arrest warrant to a mentally afflicted man, my friend was injured and his partner shot … yet they still got their man subdued, cuffed and stuffed. Even though the suspect opened fire, justifying lethal force by the police warrior duo, enormous restraint somehow surfaced to where the culmination was a bad guy deposited in jail and police wounds attended at a Tampa, Florida, hospital. Despite the rigors, every day is a day for a warrior mindset, to not only overcome but to prevail.

The officer-involved shooting was a few days ago, and the police academy indoctrination to “stay in the fight no matter what was exemplified by two Tampa cops performing tasks they dutifully fulfilled, even at grave risk to themselves.

The stay in the fight mantra echoes in my head, especially after reading the news from local media including pictures of one of two cops with whom I worked. His new bride conveyed how the harrowing experience has drawn them even closer together. She also professed having a deeper embrace of what it is like to be “a LEO [law enforcement officer] spouse.” As support systems they, too, experience the tension-filled episodes and duty demands tested by a not-so-perfect world.

Vicariously or directly, we can relate to spouses of police officers and soldiers detesting any time a police cruiser or a government car pulls up in front of their home. That typically spells awful news that the family dining room setting is going to be lighter in head count from that moment on. Conversely, I suppose you can also say it is going to be darker.

“I hate this new life without him!” said police wife Teresa Kondek, the widow of Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek, who was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 21, 2014. Adversity is often touted as the elixir that makes us stronger, and Officer Kondek’s children typify that notion: His son is preparing to be sworn in as a law enforcement officer; as a nurse, one of his daughters serves the sick; another of his offspring is studying cybersecurity; yet another is in health care; and his other daughter is about to enter medical school, destined to heal and save thousands.

I would argue that we all suffer his loss while also imploring his children to fulfill life virtues their dad encouraged in each of them. By extension of the publicity of his death, all of us listen and respond to tragedy.

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Perhaps the personification of overcoming adversity is exuded by Officer Kondek’s wife who, in the face of utter loss, mustered the wherewithal to confront her husband’s cold-blooded killer … a mere few yards away from the defense table where he sat after receiving a life sentence.

Ten of 12 jurors voted for the death sentence, but Florida law mandates unanimity, so the default was a life sentence for a cop killer who admitted murdering a policeman, husband and father.

Whether donning a military or police or firefighter uniform, adversity will come and go, and it is crucial that no one in service goes down with it.

Related: First Responders: It’s the American Way

The rigors of training also play a part in burdening our bodies and, some would argue, our minds. And that is when the warrior mentality must be elicited and trusted to get you through the blizzard, blight, and bogs of intense duty.

That picture you just saw is not in the least a desired situation for that soldier. Indeed, traits from training are not always sterile lessons. However, the will to trudge through mud and muck while toting a chain strong enough to dock a yacht is iconic and indicative of human resilience.

Resilience is perhaps best exhibited by soldiers who discharge home minus a limb or two. Can you imagine stepping on a concealed bomb and surviving, awakening to massive disproportion of the completeness when the oath was sworn before boot camp?

I have associated (online) with a few cops who lost legs or arms and fought to win their police job back … or at least battled against personal impacts threatening quality of life. It’s hard not to admire and be impressed by such deep convictions to public service.

It is duly fascinating that any human deprived of a limb or two can still wake up, rehabilitate, focus on the mission, and do it all again.

Related: Men and Women of Law Enforcement Never Give Up

Not too many years ago, I read a few articles reporting on different soldiers around the country who, after losing one or more limbs in roadside or field IED detonations, re-established well enough to meet muster and policy, then rejoin a field unit and get back in the game. Salute!

The Wounded Warrior Project is something near and dear to my heart and mind, as is the Gary Sinise Foundation. Both of these outfits honor and ensure sustenance for our soldiers who suffered debilitating injuries, requiring ultraspecial care and assistance. They fought for us, why not give it back tenfold? That is what Mr. Sinise, aka “Lt. Dan,” does; with his own money he builds specially crafted homes for amputees discharged from military service.

Indeed, much of the adversity for both cops and soldiers will come from American citizens. Not everyone agrees with the mission of law and order and how it is done. Not everyone supports the national or global scale of security measures conducted by U.S. armed forces personnel. Anti-war, anti-this and anti-that are products of a free society where thought and speech are safeguarded and differing opinions often come with rancor on steroids.

Nevertheless, thank goodness for those who still step up and fill the roles to not only ensure those constitutional rights but also preserve their sanctity, as the forefathers intended.

There will be haters; hold your head high like the gladiator you are. Naysayers didn’t take an oath, but you sure did, with the pride born of graduating boot camp or police academy training. After all, “nobody ever built a memorial to honor haters” — and that’s the Whole Truth Project truth.

Related: Cops and Firefighters Pull a Prank for the Public Good

A pure sign that every cop, firefighter, soldier or paramedic circumvented adversity is being able to talk about unspeakable experiences and sharing that wisdom with newer, younger, rookie service members who seek guidance and surefire remedies to not only squeeze out of tight corners but to never allow themselves to be ill-positioned. It may not always evolve optimally, but the victory is in trying to ensure a playbook of wise counsel.

Both military and police services in the United States are experiencing recruitment and retention challenges whereby prospective law enforcement candidates and military enlistees are in short supply. Applications are diminished in sectors of public service and national security while attrition/retention factors exacerbate the deficient and increasingly lopsided ratio of protectors: citizens.

This perspective illustrates the vigor and discipline and willpower to see the mission to the end as best possible, despite the minimized resources in doing so.

OpsLens contributor Dr. Katherine Harris wrote a few pieces — part I and part II — regarding the military recruit shortage. The “Ferguson Effect” is the root “causing police officers to hesitate and question their judgment in situations where the use of force would be proper,” wrote Bob Price. Both the armed forces and the law enforcement community have seen a drop-off of applicants for a growing number of vacancies.

The reduced roles equate to added burdens and adversities couched upon the shoulders of a dwindling populace of cops and soldiers. This perspective illustrates the vigor and discipline and willpower to see the mission to the end as best as possible, despite the minimized resources in doing so.

Incidentally, my friend is on the mend with a sprained ankle, which he sustained while reacting to the suspect’s gunfire. His partner has been released from the hospital as well. The word on both is that neither made friends with crutches supplied by the ER docs and that rejoining their street crimes squadmates is all either talks about.

Indeed, you can’t keep a good man or women down, and the warrior mindset is the potion of police and patriots. I leave you with an irony. I visited my prosthetist this morning to overcome some mechanical/physical issues when I noticed the following statement on a poster staring me in the face as I pondered the article you are reading: “Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” I believe they resemble each other. You?

Stephen Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and field training officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a senior OpsLens contributor, a researcher, and a writer. This OpsLens piece is used with permission.

Read more at OpsLens:
Military Spouse Fellowships: Career Options for Family Members
UAV Kills Six Heavily Armed Terrorists

meet the author

Stephen Owsinski is a LifeZette contributing editor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is also a columnist for the National Police Association.

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