My life as a Law Enforcement Officer: Sergeant Linda Cerniglia

Stand With Honor

Linda Cerniglia
Sergeant, Loudoun County (VA) Sheriff’s Office

I did not grow up wanting to be in law enforcement, but wanted to serve my country and my community in some way. I became an EMT and started to notice law enforcement and signed up for a ride along and I was hooked!

I started in the communications center and then moved into patrol. I have been involved in the DC/VA Sniper shootings, responded to both the Pentagon and New York City for September 11.

Law Enforcement has taught me to be vigilant of my surroundings, but mostly about taking care of myself mentally. We as cops see so much negativity that it can easily take over your spirit. I have been a member of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) since 1988 and feel that has kept me somewhat balanced. I have seen police take their own lives and so I have dedicated much of my career to helping the blue family. I also have become a voice for those who cannot advocate for themselves in the mental illness world.

I was surprised at how often the public does not appreciate what we do until they need us.

I am lucky as I have been able to do almost everything I aspired to do: I became a Field Training Officer, the only female Gang Detective on the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force (which I am very proud to this day) and manage the Crisis Intervention Team and am making differences in both public lives as well as law enforcement lives!

I would like to pass on this wisdom: don’t let the job define who you are but be the best person you are meant to be. So many times, police lose their personality as they let the job come home with them, only hang out with other cops. Unfortunately, these individuals end up alone at the end of their career. In order to help others, you must take care of yourself.

Which leads me to say that there have been many hard calls such as losing a subject as a hostage negotiator. That was devastating for me as we had an excellent communication but he ended up taking his life at the end. But death notifications have to be the worst. Telling a parent or a spouse that there loved one is gone… I don’t think I will ever stop hearing their crying.

I would never trade any part of my career. I have a wonderful supporting husband and children and without them, I would not be where I am today.

One last thing, it true that if you make a difference in ONE life, it is so worth it.

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