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Dear public: I am not your enemy

Don’t judge me for the work I do or the service I provide to those in need


Photo by Greg Friese

By Sean Eddy

So there I was, sitting on a break in the middle of a show my band was playing. I got to talking to a fellow musician and somehow found myself in the middle of the militarization of police talk that eventually led to his declaration that he absolutely hates anyone that is involved with law enforcement or supports them.

I don‘t make it a practice of telling everyone what I do for a living, so he knew nothing about my professional life. Would he hate me if he knew that I work as a tactical medic and wear the same uniform as the people he believes are evil?

I wear many hats, both in my professional and personal life. When I put on my paramedic uniform and head out to aid the ill and injured in my ambulance, you view what I do as honorable. When I pick up the phone to answer your 911 call, you think of me as the first sign of help. But when I put on my body armor and stack up with my SWAT team to participate in a high-risk warrant service or drug raid, I‘m viewed as oppressive.

Here‘s the crazy thing: You‘d never know the difference if you saw me in the grocery store. If you made eye contact with me, I‘d most likely smile and ask how your day is going. Hell, I‘d probably let you cut in line at the checkout counter, because I‘m just polite like that. You‘d probably walk away thinking I‘m a nice guy.

What changed? A few articles of clothing? There‘s a word for that. It‘s called profiling and I don‘t like it any more than you do.

When you judge me based on nothing more than the uniform I wear or the job I‘m called to do, you‘re completely missing the human that exists underneath. I have emotions, stress, good days and bad days, just like you. I enjoy many hobbies, love to travel and have a passion for music. At the risk of sounding overly confident, I‘d say that you‘d most likely think I‘m a pretty good guy.

I got news for you, the overwhelming majority of my peers in public safety are just like me. We‘re just a bunch of tax-paying, God-fearing, family-raising Americans, just like you.

Nobody enjoys being stereotyped. Not the person being pulled over and not the person suiting up to go protect the public. You may assume that because I‘m a paramedic, that means I‘m a good person. I got news for you, I know a lot more bad paramedics than I do bad cops. On the flip side, I know cops that have more compassion and regard for human life than some of the best paramedics I know.

The only lines that divide us are the ones created in our heads. How is it that I can open a thread on a local news article and see people calling my partner and I heroes for resuscitating a small child, then less than one week later see the EXACT SAME PEOPLE calling me and my team “cowards” and “criminals” because we were called to protect the public from an individual who wished to harm others?

Coward or hero
Which is it? Am I the coward or the hero? Do I change as a person when I change uniforms?

The answer is neither. I‘m the guy in the grocery store who held the door open for you, let you cut in line and wished you a blessed day. You don‘t want to be judged by your skin color, religion or sexual orientation, so why judge me on the clothes I wear?

This message goes just as much to my peers in public safety as it does the general public. When we allow ourselves to be divided, we all lose. Instead of pointing fingers, let‘s try getting to know each other before we make opinions. I think we‘ll find that we actually like each other a lot more than we thought.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.