The Why Behind the Badge
By: Aglaheth Zaragoza
In these recent months, for a while actually, many of our fellow officers around the country have been getting a bad rap. I’m sure there are many out there who think the worst of these men and women. There were many of us that were raised to fear them and others that were raised to hate them.
We forget that they are in fact, people. They have feelings too.
They have bad days and good days, but lately, the bad days are what are being watched. This has been something that always, and I do mean always, has caught the attention of the media and we begin to see one side. We begin to conjure up a story to tell based on what we hear, what we watch, and what we think.
Most stories tend to be one-sided and I want to hear both because we judge before we get the chance to meet them or talk to them and ask what really happened.
I had the opportunity to hear the story of an officer and why he decided to be a bearer of the badge despite everything that is said about them. I took the chance and it was nice to hear and understand.
Officer A. Cabello gave me the chance to hear his story and I thank him for his time. There were only four questions but the answers held a lot of meaning, and showed that officers are true heroes.
Why did you decide to seek a career in law enforcement?
“So it was OF1 which stands for Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that time after the fighting stopped, we had kind of cleaned things up and basically we started operating kind of as a police force for the Iraqis because we had basically started their government so they didn’t have anything. So we kind of took over in that aspect. It was there that I realized that the police aren’t all bad because we were helping people. We were bringing food, we were painting schools, we do all those good things, but at the same time we were the security force. We were keeping them safe. You know from anything that was happening. Prior to that, I had no desire to be a cop. When I was in high school I hated cops but once I realized what officers actually did when I was in Iraq, it changed my mind completely. So when I got back I decided that it was what I was going to do.”
What was your experience when you began your career?
“It was different. I don’t think it was quite as shocking because of my time in the military, and you know I experienced combat and everything else and it’s like when you’re digging a hole that’s going to save your life if like a missile hits you, nothing really scares you after that.
I think a lot of officer’s kind of have to get used to the scary aspect of it, you know maybe losing your life, but I didn’t have that um but it was different. I guess I want to say finding like my groove. Understanding when to be harsh and when to be, you know, caring. Because that’s the only thing is that a lot of officers, especially new officers, have trouble figuring out where to draw that line. So they end up being jerks to everybody even though sometimes people need to have someone be a jerk, that’s just the way it is. Other times they need somebody kind that’s going to sit and listen to them and talk to them. And a lot of new officers have a little trouble with that and I think I did too. I’m no different than anyone else, it was finding that balance and figuring out how I should act at all times because life is different once you become an officer. You’re judged all the time. Whether you’re in uniform or out of uniform, whatever, you have to kind of get accustomed to that.”
Did you ever change your mind, or want to give up?
“From being a police officer? You know what, I’d say no as far as wanting to stop just because I didn’t want to be a cop anymore, but as far as wanting to do something more, I guess.
I kind of had that desire but now that I’m older and I’ve been doing the job longer, I don’t want to stop being a cop but I know that there are other ways that I can be even more effective as a person to society than being a cop because of all my experiences. So, I don’t necessarily want to stop being an officer but if an opportunity presented itself I think I would take it.”
If you have somebody that inspired you, who and why?
“You know what, it would have to go back to the Iraq thing. It would be two individuals that had the most profound effect on me. One of them was a guy and obviously he spoke a different language. I spoke English and he was from Iraq. I was able to figure out his name, his name was Arde and it was funny because I’m like, ‘Oh Arde, I’m Art. You know, Art. Arde.’
It was kind of like that was the Arabic version of my name you know.
He had like a weird eye infection and over there they didn’t have medicine or everything else. I ended up going back to my base and then talking one of the doctors into giving me some and you really aren’t supposed to. We weren’t supposed to do it but I didn’t care. We went out the next week with the stuff and I gave it to him. His eye cleared up and he was all happy. He ended up getting a job and stuff. This was all communicated without knowing each other’s language you know but it was a really cool experience. Again that was one of those where I’m doing the police thing and I’m helping people.
The second one, there was a kid and I didn’t know what his name was and I called him the magician. Because the first thing he did was, ‘Mister. Mister.’
I was like ‘Hey, what’s up man?’ He goes, ‘Magic mister. Magic.’ So he did it, the trick. I don’t know what his trick was, he did like a cool magic trick with a paperclip or something. I was like, “Oh that’s awesome,” you know?
We ended up giving him some food but then I showed him a magic trick with like a rubber band and you put it on your fingers and it goes from one side to the other. You’ve probably seen it, everyone knows it but he was just blown away. It was really cool, the communication between me and him, it made his day and made my day. And I was like,“I need to do this forever. Like this is what I am meant to do.
So I would say that those two people influenced me for sure.”
Is there anything you would like to say to those who are also seeking a career in law enforcement?
“Yeah. You know what? Go for it, look into it first though because there is a lot more to it that I think people realize. Go into it for the right reasons. It’s not the money, considering every day you could die. You have to have something deep inside you that goes way beyond money and way beyond anything else in order to really do it. Go into it with the right mindset.
There are a lot of people that I know that don’t like cops. Considering everything that is happening right now, you know with around the country. It’s those people that I actually tell the most, ‘Think about it and give it a try. If you don’t like something the best way to change it, is from the inside.’ Because there is a lot of really smart people that hate cops, that if they go to the other side and see you know what’s actually happening.
I think they would be really good at it. Because they would come in with that perspective and see the other side. Maybe I’m just saying that because it’s reflecting my own journey but I think it really makes a difference when you have been on both sides. Just make sure your heart is in the right place.”
If a man who once hated cops let that go to eventually become one, what’s to say about us? We judge and criticize. We never took the time to hear everything. As human beings go, many of us judge so harshly that it clouds our own judgment. We need to realize that they are just like us and they deserve respect.
I can only imagine how difficult it is for an officer with everything going on and really appreciate everything they do to help us stay safe.