As a police officer, I have worked many accidents. Most of the time your training and experience helps you to emotionally deal with the victim’s injuries (or carnage) that you may find at the scene, but sometimes it doesn’t.
About 10 years ago I was working as a School Resource Officer, monitoring traffic in school zones after school.
As I was watching traffic, I was dispatched to an injury accident in front of my high school. I pulled up and saw that the front of one vehicle had impacted the driver’s side of a second vehicle. I positioned my patrol vehicle to protect the accident from traffic, radioed the situation to dispatch and made sure other police units and EMS were responding. I exited my vehicle to check the welfare of the victims involved in the accident and at the same time was assessing what I needed to do for traffic safety until assisting police units and EMS arrived.
Other police units arrived as I approached vehicle, which had been hit on the driver’s side. I looked through the broken driver’s window and saw the female driver covered with glass and the driver’s door caved into her seat. There was another girl in the front passenger seat. At that moment I realized the driver was a student I was working closely with on school projects and her sister was sitting next to her. It was like seeing my own daughters sitting in the car.
At that time, an officer came up to me and asked if I was alright (I was later told that when I looked into the car that the color just drained out of my face). This accident caught me emotionally off guard and I felt like a panicked parent. I pulled myself together once we had ample officers on the scene. I stepped back and let them work the accident.
In my years as an officer, I have worked serious injury and fatality accidents (felt empathy and worked with victims and families of those involved); however this accident was different for me because, unexpectedly, it was someone I knew.
Vehicle accidents affect everyone, even those who are in emergency services.The collision can not only be life altering for those involved, but also for the responders who are trained to provide rescue services. Since then I remind myself that as an emergency responder, I must be emotionally prepared to handle whatever situation I encounter. However, we responders are still only human.
The driver and her sister had minor injuries. Since the accident, the driver has completed college and she is now working in the criminal justice field.
Lt. Donald B. Roberson, Jr. is the Patrol Commander/Training Coordinator with the Andover Police Department