The truth about police life and Washington, DC’s carnage revealed in new book

Brad Wagner has had enough.

After decades as a cop, the Washington DC officer feels ground down by the city’s carnage.

“The violence and death never stop,” he says in ‘Walk The Blue Line – True Stories from Officers Who Protect and Serve’ (Little, Brown), by James Patterson and Matt Eversmann. “It just goes on and on. Every year, it gets worse. Every day, I feel like a soldier on a battlefield.

“It’s insane.”

Featuring first-person testimonies from nervous rookies to long-in-the-tooth veterans, ‘Walk The Blue Line’ reveals how officers join with noble intentions but soon become overwhelmed.

Like Brad Wagner, for example.  “When I started out, I was such an idealist. I had such high hopes,” he says.  “God, what’s become of me? I’m losing my humanity.”

Shawn Paterson, an officer in the South, agrees. “I’ve gone through traumatic events that turned me hard. Made me rough around the edges and, at times, unapproachable,” he says. ‘But behind every badge is a human being who has flaws and suffers and is trying to do the best job he or she can.”

The new book ‘Walk the Blue Line” lets cops describe their own lives in their own words.
The new book ‘Walk the Blue Line” lets cops describe their own lives in their own words.

The job can take its toll in different ways.

Jim Foster, for example, followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the police in California, as did his brothers, but having lost three colleagues to suicide in less than two years knows only too well what the job can do.

Thankfully, support is now on hand.

Officer Shawn Paterson agrees: “I’ve gone through traumatic events that turned me hard. Made me rough around the edges and, at times, unapproachable.” Aldeca Productions – stock.adobe.com
Officer Shawn Paterson agrees: “I’ve gone through traumatic events that turned me hard. Made me rough around the edges and, at times, unapproachable.” Aldeca Productions – stock.adobe.com

“There was a time not that long ago that any cop who asked for help for a mental health issue was in line for termination,” he says.

A recurring theme is not knowing if they will return home each day.

“Going into the unknown, being willing to die and leave everything behind – this is the job,” says Jock Condon, who works for a sheriff’s office in the Midwest.

Jim Foster (not pictured) followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the police in California, as did his brothers. AP
Jim Foster (not pictured) followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the police in California, as did his brothers. AP

The issue, adds Shawn Paterson, is there is no respite. “Every day, no matter where I am, I see landmarks – the house where a three-year-old died.

“An apartment complex where a teenage girl was brutally raped by her boyfriend.

“There’s no escape.”

Gavin Newsham