Guarding the Peace from Seat #131 in the Front Row of Life

Paul Callahan

Paul Callahan
Sergeant, Lexington (MA) Police Department

I grew up behind the local police station, met officers, and was told I’d be a good fit for the job. My uncle on was on the Boston Police Department.

Being a law enforcement officer has taught me the value of communicating well. A large part of what we do is tell people they’ve done something wrong. How we say it greatly affects correcting, response, cooperation, and attitude. Escalation and deescalation of an incident can go a lot smoother with good initial explanation. It’s not always possible, but a good place to start trying. Personal survival being an ever present task – keeping your head on a swivel because of how quickly a scene can change.

My work has made me realize the good in my own life. I have Gratitude for things that have gone well raising my daughters and in life as a whole after having a front row seat at bad circumstances for many people. Life is fragile.

What surprises me is the larger volume of things we do versus what the newspaper prints in police logs.

My advice to new officers – Fake your career until you get to know me the person – Conversations change when someone hears we are in law enforcement. From having to listen about the “jerk” that wrote them their first ticket, to being more guarded around us. I “drive a Zamboni at the local rink” as my “fake” career.

In Honor Guard gear for annual Patriot’s Day
commemorating Lexington’s role in the American Revolution

In Honor Guard gear for annual Patriot's Day commemorating Lexington's role in the American RevolutionThe proudest moment in my career – After helping to re-form a department honor guard in 2000, was securing a shift posting at the NLEOM bronze center medallion during Police Week in 2001 honoring those who gave their all.

As a Field Training Officer I always tell new officers to listen (especially early on), that they have two ears and one mouth, and if they do twice as much listening, what they say later should be wiser. Remember that if someone has reached out to us, it’s important to them. No matter how many times we’ve responded to similar things, this may be their only interaction by which to render an opinion of us and what we do.

Death calls and Death notifications are the hardest thing I’ve had to do as an officer. The sights and smells of the human body as you never should see it if you could help it. Specifically….one homicide discovered when I was sent on a well being check in which I located a woman that had been stabbed 17 times. Many sleepless nights for a bit afterward; and the first fatal motor vehicle crash that I was the primary investigator on resulted in two of the three teens not surviving. One passed that overnight and the second 12 days later. Being summoned from the scene to the hospital with their ID’s so that we notified the correct family was gut-wrenching. The incident and investigation had the added complication of the vehicle being the target of a pursuit by a neighboring agency just prior.

Decompressing after horrible things/learning via poking fun at our blunders and being around many warped senses of humor, but genuinely great people, who choose to enforce laws and serve helps add some fun to being an officer.

I view most of my actions on the job as providing peace to people as an end result. That may sound corny, but the longer I’ve worked as a cop, the more it’s not just the obvious breaking up a fight, having someone turn down loud music, etc., that do that, but stopping someone for a traffic offense hopefully equaled less danger and road rage; by trying to be omnipresent- just maybe it made a wrongdoer think twice about messing with someone’s property, etc. (We’ll never fully know all that we prevent). The Irish refer to their national force as “An Garda Siochana” or “Guardians of the Peace.” I have always felt the description fit on this side of the ocean as well.

Thanks for taking the time, Sgt. Paul Callahan # 131

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