One Officer’s Point of View

by Sgt. C. J. Crawford, Greenville Police Department

This article that I am writing today came about as the result of a conversation I was having with some fellow members of DrugFree Greenville about an upcoming program that I care a great deal about – Shattered Dreams. Let me just give you a little background.

Shattered Dreams is staged in the High School. It is a mock fatality crash that involves a drunk driver and several victims. This is an enormous undertaking and involves citizens and community leaders as well as police, fire and ambulance personnel. And it’s all voluntary, no one is paid to help with this program. The role of the police, deputies and troopers is to respond to the accident, investigate it, arrest the drunk driver and then to give notification to the family of any victim that dies. There are also “living dead” which represent how often a young person dies in an alcohol related accident.

This is the part I wish to speak about. My function in this is to schedule officers to make about 30 death notifications to parents throughout the day of Shattered Dreams. Even though these parents volunteered to participate and know it’s not real, imagine what it feels like to have a police officer stand at your door and tell you that you will never see your child again. It is not hard to empathize with the parents in this situation.

What is hard for most people to understand, however, is how this affects the officer that has to deliver the notification. People tend to forget that we are human beings. We have families, children, hopes and fears. Everything you feel we feel, we’re just not supposed to show it. So I want you to imagine a fatality accident from a police point of view for a moment.

The officer is usually the first person on the scene. My first concern is for victims and if the ambulance has not arrived yet I offer what aid I can. Many people slow down when they drive by a bad accident. Some are hoping to get a glimpse of something gruesome. It’s not an attractive trait but it’s human. I, on the other hand, am thrust into contact with the victims, as are the ambulance technicians and rescue workers. For me, the worst are accidents that involve children and teenagers. I have seen young ones that were once alive and vibrant, and full of promise, mangled and crushed and bloody, in pain or already gone. Every accident is a reminder of how unsafe the streets are for their own loved ones.

But, even worse than seeing the destruction, for me at least, is having to tell a parent that their child will never come home. To watch all that parents hopes and dreams crumble right before your eyes, to know that their life will never be the same again. Some parents react with anger, some break down and cry, some are numb and can’t respond. It doesn’t matter how they respond, it’s horrible and I can’t help them.

Many officers won’t participate in this portion of the program. Some won’t do it in real life. They can’t stand the pain of having to deliver this type of news. It is as real to them as it is to the parent. And coupled with that pain is anger at the driver who chose to drink and then get behind the wheel and ruin so many lives.

That is the main reason that I participate in these programs even though they are hard. I do not want to pass up the opportunity to convince as many people as I can to not drink and drive. Programs like Shattered Dreams which show the results of drinking and driving, and activities that offer young people a safe alternative to drinking or being on the road with drunk drivers are some of the most important things we will ever be a part of, whether as parents, citizens or officers.

I urge you to become part of these, and any, community activities that promote the safety and welfare of our youth and families. And, if you are a person that has driven while intoxicated in the past, I urge you to resolve never to do so again. You will never recover from the trauma of taking an innocent life through your thoughtless behavior.

God Bless you and keep you and your loved ones safe.