Michael Rodriguez Scholarship Winning Essay:

The past decade has been especially challenging for first responders with social and political unrest and COVID-19. I began my career as a law enforcement officer in January 2014, and I was on the road six months later. Two months into my field training, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, which was the catalyst for a major shift in the relationship between first responders and the public. Calls for justice and transparency from law enforcement influenced major changes in my department. I struggled to be on the inside of the department at a time when officers were being vilified as heartless, racist individuals. As I looked around at my peers, I saw the same psychological struggle that caused them to question the reasons they signed up for this career. Officers started leaving the job at increasing rates, but the ones that stayed realized that they were truly there to make a difference despite what was being perpetuated by the media. Although it was not reflected immediately, community members eventually began expressing their support for our department. Regardless of what was being said about law enforcement, my peers and I continued to strap on our vests and lace up our boots to be there when our community needed us most. First responders share a servant’s heart and will always be willing to put their lives on the line to be there in times of crisis.

On day one of the academy, we were asked to provide our “why” for wanting to become police officers, and most of us provided the generic response of wanting to help our communities. Admittedly, I was one of those people, but looking back now, that initial claim laid the groundwork for my “why,” which has evolved into so much more. In 2018, two of my partners were shot in the line of duty, and though I responded to the incident with haste, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of guilt that I could not be there faster. Fortunately, both officers survived, but I still struggled with the guilt that it wasn’t me who was hurt. I chose to reach out to my fellow officers about this feeling of guilt and quickly discovered that everyone had experienced the same sensation following the incident.

A mere two weeks later, I responded to a stillborn child who was born in a drugstore bathroom. Upon my arrival, I learned that the baby, who was born at 24 weeks gestation, was believed to be deceased. I looked to my beat partner, who was still struggling greatly from responding to the shooting incident, and advised her that I would take the primary role on the call to prevent her from experiencing further trauma. I knew as a father that I would be taking an emotional bullet by doing so, but I knew that I would have emotional support from my family. When I opened the door of the drug store bathroom, I froze for one minute as I examined the lifeless body of a child that was approximately one-third of the size of my children when they were born. I looked around to the paramedics and firefighters, who also appeared to be struggling with the sight of the child. As I prepared to take photographs of the scene per the death investigation protocol, I saw the child take one gasping breath. I immediately yelled, “he’s breathing!” in disbelief, and one of the firefighters joined me inside the bathroom to witness what I was seeing. The infant gasped a second time, and we immediately began compressions with the hopes of giving the child a chance to survive. The paramedics retrieved a gurney and an oxygen mask to provide the infant with extra oxygen, and he was transported to the nearest trauma center.

The infant was given a twenty percent chance to survive his first night, and he did. In fact, he continued to survive until February 14, 2019. Due to several complications, his parents had to make the difficult decision to remove him from life support because his quality of life would have been significantly reduced. My wife and I were present on his final day at the hospital. I got to hold him in my arms for the first time that day. As I rocked him and spoke to him, his eyes opened to the sound of my voice. I cried and smiled as he scanned my face in his final hour of life. Although he did not get to live a full life, his parents, who were living on the streets at the time of his birth, changed their lifestyle and created a better life for themselves.

Although my “why” has changed significantly over the course of my career, that significant incident made me realize that the purpose of my career was to give others another opportunity. An opportunity to come out of traumatic events stronger than before and go on to live a full life. Since that incident, I have had the opportunity to teach other officers, and I have developed a passion for helping officers through trauma by creating a space for them to be vulnerable.

Now, as I pursue a graduate degree in Health Psychology, I hope to use it to combat the stigma that first responders cannot show vulnerability. I hope to help first responders understand that they can and should experience emotions because of the countless traumas they experience. If they cannot express themselves, then they will continue to move toward becoming those heartless robots that society thinks we are. For officers, humanizing the badge starts with showing compassion for themselves because if they are not taking care of themselves, they reduce their capacity to take care of others. Optimizing the mental and physical health of first responders through proper assistance will improve the quality of service they provide to their communities.

Get The Help You Need Contact McCraw Law Group

If you are in need of a personal injury attorney in North Texas, please contact the team at McCraw Law Group today. We are ready to help you in a broad range of serious accident and injury legal issues, and offer multiple ways to reach us.

Get a Free Virtual Consultation
Contact us media
Contact us media
Logo media

If you are in need of a personal injury attorney in North Texas, please contact the team at McCraw Law Group today. We are ready to help you in a broad range of serious accident and injury legal issues, and offer multiple ways to reach us.

Accessibility: If you are vision-impaired or have some other impairment covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or a similar law, and you wish to discuss potential accommodations related to using this website, please contact our Accessibility Manager at (972) 945-1173.