Cop or Criminal

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| This is the 272nd story of Our Life Logs |


I grew up in the 1980s in a small New England town. There was nothing extraordinary about where I grew up, but my parents always said that it was a great place to raise a family. It was one of those towns where everyone knew each other and you could leave your doors unlocked. The everyday scenery in town consisted of corn fields, tobacco fields, and barns as far as you could see. With so little to do, teenagers hung out and partied in the barns. Life in our community was slow—with the exception of the one intersection where my family lived.

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My childhood home.

Our home was located on the main road in town at the corner of a busy intersection. From as far back as I can remember, I had awoken countless times to horrific sounds of cars colliding, screams, and bloodied crash victims at our front door seeking help. I was young, but no one needed to tell me that not everyone survived one or more of those crashes. The police lights would light up the dark sky, and the sounds of ambulance sirens arriving on scene shattered the quiet night. I would peer out the window, safe in my room, at the chaos outside of our home.

I had always wondered why those incidents didn’t terrify me as a child. Instead, I can only remember how I wanted so badly to be out there helping, but all I could do was watch.

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Me on the walkie-talkie, c. 1980.

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Eventually, the town fixed the intersection to make it less of a hazard, and thankfully, there were no more crashes. Things remained quiet for many years until one lazy summer day when I was an adolescent. As I rode my bike to meet my best friend, the house that sat across the street from hers caught my attention. I thought it was odd that all of the shades and curtains were drawn on such a beautiful day, especially in the middle of the afternoon. I was very observant even at a young age. It had given me—something I would come to know as—a “gut feeling.”

As my friend and I were riding our bikes back to her house, on a quiet side street, a police officer pulled up and blocked the road right in front of us. More police cars came barreling past us, sirens blaring, interrupting the tranquility of the warm summer day.

The officer would not let us go up the street. My friend protested and explained that she lived there. When we told him the address, he informed us that there was an armed hostage standoff at the house across the street. He stated that it was a very dangerous situation.

As we stood there trying to process what was going on, I recalled how I knew something was off. Suddenly, police officers jumped from their cars with their weapons drawn. They scattered into place as if they had practiced a thousand times. They communicated through their radios and moved with urgency. My friend was scared and crying. I consoled her while being fascinated with what was going on in front of us. I wondered once again why I was not scared. In fact, I realized at that moment, I was hooked. I felt something I hardly ever felt while living in our small farm town. Excitement!

These early experiences would be the beginning of where my life would take me.

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Unfortunately, boredom and a deep desire for excitement are a bad combination. I got myself into a lot of trouble in my teenage years trying to escape the mundane. I hung with the party crowd and rarely missed a barn party. If I was not allowed to go somewhere, I would simply sneak out of the house. I pretty much did everything I could do to rebel.

I didn’t have the best grades in school, but I was street smart, observant, intuitive, and too brave for my own good, though, my bad attitude got me nowhere fast. When I was 16 years old, I got arrested. I had been pulled over while I was driving my friends to a party and had alcohol in my car. You would think that would have been enough to scare the attitude out of me, you know, being underage and inexplicably guilty. Instead, I looked the officer straight in the eyes and told him he couldn’t search my car. That quickly landed me in the back of his police car, and I even got a private ride to the police department. There, I waited for my parents to come to pick me up.

After I got arrested, my father would joke that I was either going to become a cop or a criminal. I had all the attributes of becoming a police officer if I used those qualities for good. Consequently, the same qualities, such as my street smarts and intuition, could be also be used to become a slick criminal. As a teenager, however, no one quite knew which direction I would go in, not even me.

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There is no one factor that caused me to turn my life around. I can look back and see it was a combination of many different people believing in me. My English teacher who made me work hard to turn an “F” into an “A” so that I could move on to senior year, my high school boyfriend whose stable presence in my life drew me away from the party scene, my yearbook teacher who would cover for me when I came into school late so that I wouldn’t get suspended, my mother who was (and still is) my biggest cheerleader, and my father who never gave up on me, especially about getting into college.

And sometimes all it takes is one moment in time to alter your path in life. It can be something as simple as five spoken words.

One day when I was almost 17, I was at the mall with some friends. We were standing outside the mall entrance smoking cigarettes, thinking we were so cool. I never really thought anything of it, until the next day when my gymnastics coach pulled me aside.

“We have to talk,” she said. Her face was very serious, with a look of disappointment in her eyes. She never told me who, but someone saw me smoking at the mall the day before. Then, in one simple sentence, she changed everything for me.

 “Jennifer, you are an athlete,” she said.

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With my gymnastics coach, 1993.

This simple statement had a sudden and forceful impact on me. I suddenly saw myself as who I wanted to be. I knew I had to change my ways. I started to focus on my grades and my health. From that moment on, I saw myself as an athlete and a student. At one time, people may have wondered if I was going to graduate high school, but in June of 1994, I walked across that stage and received my diploma.

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In my high school graduation gown, 1994.

I had wasted a lot of time academically, but I did manage to get into college. I majored in Criminology and Psychology and ended up graduating with honors.

Then, the ultimate question was answered. In 2001, I graduated from the police academy. I became a cop. I served on the police force for seven years, before moving on to get my master’s degree and pursue a career in government.

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With my parents at my graduation from the police academy, 2001.

As a police officer, I responded to countless car accidents. At every crash scene, I recalled myself as a young girl looking out the window, wishing I could help. Finally, so many years later, I was able to.

There is nothing more exciting than driving a police car with lights and sirens, rushing to the scene of an emergency. I made arrests, was involved in high-speed car chases, and helped track down criminals on foot. I worked the evening shift, which was the busiest shift. From the moment we left roll call and went out to patrol our beats, the calls would start coming in. There were many nights, especially in the summer months, that we went call to call from beginning to end of our shift.

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In finally finding my excitement in a career in law enforcement, I learned that what I really wanted was a family. Today I find my joy and excitement in the everyday typical moments with my husband and children. Of all the excitement I found in life, there has been nothing more exciting than the day I met my babies for the first time.

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My daughters.

Now, I look forward to the mundane, the weekends in which we have no plans, and all the simple moments I used to think were boring. I hope to have a wall full of framed pictures documenting our memories over the years, and a kitchen table that has witnessed thousands of simple, everyday moments. These are now the most rewarding moments in my life, and everything I never knew I had wanted.

 

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This is the story of Jennifer Farmer

Jennifer has traded in her exciting career in Law Enforcement and Government to be a Stay-at-Home Mother. As a little girl, Jennifer just was drawn in by the excitement of the police officers and first responders in her town. From that adrenaline, she spent years chasing excitement, though, more so on the other side of the badge. As the people around her helped get her life on track, Jennifer eventually became an officer herself.  Jennifer has her own website called Grass and Roots Family (https://www.grassandrootsfamily.com) where she writes about family moments, camping, and outdoor adventures. In this fast-paced world, she is teaching her daughters to embrace the simple life, and enjoy the silence.

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Jennifer and her daughters, 2018.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on February 28, 2019.

| Writer: Jennifer Farmer | Editor: Colleen Walker |

8 thoughts on “Cop or Criminal

    1. Well, this just MADE MY DAY sweetheart!! Thank you so much for your kind words, and thank you for reading, my precious Niece.

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