Police suicide: The darkness at the end of the road (Guest column)
The following guest column is by David Berez, a retired New Jersey police officer, in response to the death of Trenton police officer Daniel Pagnotta.
When the roads of hurt, anger and betrayal intersect, the streetlights can only shed so much light. No matter how hard you try to navigate through the darkness to find the right path forward, we can be blinded by our own emotion and go full throttle into a dead end. Here we find ourselves at a point of no return, no matter how bright the light shines.
Today, my friend came to this intersection and chose to hit the brick wall head on at the end of the road. He made this choice, knowing he was to leave behind what mattered most to him, his two young children. He made this choice knowing the hurt they would now endure. One can only imagine having to make that decision. What were the other factors that rose above living in a hurt locker, only to place your children in their own?
As police officers we face fear every day. We face horror the eyes can never un-see, we hear sounds that will keep you up at night and we endure tragedy that will take a lifetime to process. Yet, we press forward each and every day, living with the nightmares and the guilt, yet we drive on to get to tomorrow because someone else will need us again.
Where our road ends is at the brick the wall of betrayal and the subsequent distrust that follows. When it comes from your boss, you tend to check out of work. When it comes from your partner, you kick them out of your car. When it comes from a friend, you delete them from your life. When it’s your spouse, the burden can be too big to bear. You shield your kids and divert the focus. That diversion came by the way of suicide today as my friend saw no path forward.
I will never understand why the daily calls and texts of support, the plans we made only a few days prior that were only a few days from now, the next youth sports event, the next vacation, the next birthday, the next whatever … was not enough to light your path and overcome the darkness. So many cared so much to help you see, and still the only light you were able to turn to was that of the Eternal.
Today so many hearts are broken as you have found your peace. I will never know the hurt you endured, the trust you lost or the love that failed you. I will also never know how it is possible that the love of your children was not enough to get you through. May the demons that plagued you, have also died with you. May those who loved you and cared for you find comfort in the memories they share of your laughter, sarcasm, good heart and caring sole for others.
Police officers deal with the unthinkable, and in this time of culture war against the very individuals we depend on to protect us from evil, we have left them in the dark, at an intersection of life that has no light at all. They have lost trust in the public, from whom they were betrayed. They have lost trust in their leadership, from whom they were betrayed. And now they lose trust in loved ones, from whom they were betrayed. Just remember my brothers and sisters, we will always have each other, from whom you will never be betrayed.
Sadly, I believe that there will be many more police officers unable to see the light through the darkness. However, I will always be there to answer the phone if you call. Just be strong enough to make the call. From there I will take your hand, and we will walk together out of the darkness and into a place of light.
Rest easy, Dan, and may your memory always be a blessing. While I won’t see you on Friday as we planned, I will still share a beer with you, talking about you, instead of with you. I’ll miss you, bro!! EOW: 07/29/2020
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
To our LEOs and first-responders, always remember, we are here for you and only a call away. You are never alone, we stand strong and proud together.
David Berez served more than 20 years with the East Windsor Police Department and a total of 30 years in emergency services. Berez is now the president and founder of Six4 Consultants, a public safety consulting firm. He can be reached at David@Six4Consultants.com