A Most Challenging Job
The counselor and the Police Department
I have said that taking care of Dan during his struggle with dementia was the most challenging job of my life - and it was. My second most demanding - but also most rewarding - job was working for a police department and having the opportunity to develop a counseling program for school children.
After I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, a police department hired me to teach drug education in the local schools as part of a grant.
When I started working at the PD - officers laughed. They wondered what I was doing there. In truth, it was an unusual relationship - particularly in the 1980’s.
I was a middle-aged woman from the Midwest who had never been in a police department and knew nothing about drugs other than that people drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. Then, I worked for an organization where almost everyone wore a gun, and I was teaching drug education to kids. Go figure!
An officer took me to a local“head shop” and showed me what a bong and cocaine looked like - I had no idea.
As I taught the classes, kids would ask questions like “my Mom is on the pipe, what should I do?” or “my brother sells weed, should I tell my Dad?” I realized they had no one to talk to - no counselor.
So, I presented a program to the department - to provide counseling for kids in the schools. The staff was leery but said, “We’ll give it three months.” The program lasted for ten years, and I supervised dozens of intern counselors before leaving.
Over the years, I think officers came to respect what I offered, and I remain friends with many of them today.
Working for the PD was challenging. But, oh - the experiences, the learning, and the opportunities. I had to learn to shoot a gun to pass a course. I even bought one and practiced, but it didn’t help. I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.
While there were many memorable experiences, one was attending a police officer’s funeral: he was shot and killed in the line of duty. It was the most impressive ceremony I’ve ever participated in - standing at attention with 100s of officers paying our respects to this young man.
The hardest part of the job was being a 50-year-old white female city service officer working in a minority neighborhood. The adults and children - didn’t trust me. I had to work hard to gain their confidence.
I left the PD after ten years, but I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities I had there. It was an amazing experience.
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