Today The Hudsucker welcomes Edward Koczan—a man of many hats. As a social media marketer, entrepreneur, and former law enforcement officer, the congenial and sociable Indiana native is also the mastermind behind the lifestyle blog, Epic Fit Life.
Edward Koczan is a social media marketer and entrepreneur on a journey to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle while helping others do the same. The Indiana native who fancies himself as a sales leader and trainer in his day hours, is the creative mind behind Epic Fit Life—a lifestyle blog centered on the passion and journey to a fit and healthy life. By sharing his stories with others, Koczan hopes to inspire and push readers to do the same and pursue their goals. As a former law enforcement officer of nine years in northern Indiana, Koczan decided to retire from public safety and return to the private sector for stability and a steady family life.
I’ll preface this with the fact I have never been an engineer, charged with calculating load requirements of a bridge so it will not fall apart. (Although I can possibly tell you which wall in the house is supporting the weight of my whole place).
I’ve never made a medical diagnosis to a patient, nor given a routine checkup. I also have never tried to land an airplane with 178 people behind me in the tube counting on ME to get them on the ground in one piece. So although I know what their basic job is, and maybe a little of what it entails, I don’t feel comfortable enough trying to assume I can even perform their tasks with any accuracy whatsoever.
I, however have held a limp, blue four-month old baby on one arm while desperately giving him chest compressions and breathing for him. Praying to God ‘Please save this little one who deserves a chance to live’, while somehow trying to remember the different techniques of infant CPR vs adult CPR—all while dad looks at you terrified and helpless, counting on YOU to be the one to bring back his color.
I’ve also pulled up to a burning house, being the first person there. You ever seen a burning house, with all the flashing lights and fire trucks, and people standing around watching the commotion? Now imagine you SEE the fire and call it in yourself, driving toward it knowing the fire department will be there in about four minutes or so, except you’re here NOW, and someone is inside trying to put it out. You run up. No cool fire jackets or 3″ hoses—just you in a poly-cotton blend and no breathing apparatus. You pull that guy out of the burning kitchen, and let it burn because ¼ of the house is already fully engulfed.
I also worked a 4th of July where I was off duty, but on call. Figuring for one time in five years, I could be “normal” and enjoy the day BBQ-ing and seeing some fireworks, but the shooting at the car wash (that was really a front for selling drugs) that day scratched my plans that most of the rest of the nation enjoys. Yeah, that sucks, but what was even more surreal about it was that while I stood with my partner in the parking lot taking measurements of where the shell casings landed, we soon realized that the pops we heard one half a block away were not the firecrackers being set off behind us. You see, in some bad neighborhoods, they celebrate the 4th of July with firearms. And it so happened that the policemen doing nothing more than using the surveying tools and “minding our own” (so we can simply get out of there and go home to being off work again) became a target of sorts.
You see, I was a police officer for nearly a decade. I decided to leave a successful and lucrative career in a Post-9/11 America, to “help people”, and chase the dream I had since I was four to “be a cop”. I took quite a pay cut to do so, but I figured with overtime I could close the gap. I wanted to be OUTSIDE, in the world. To have freedom in the day and not have a routine. To not have to ‘ask for the sale’, and to open doors to rising up through the ranks.
Along the rigorous interview process, you are always asked WHY you want to become an officer. It turns out that telling a truth like “I’ve wanted to be a cop since I was four” may well disqualify you alone, so you come up with a canned response like “I want to help people”. And you do. What I realized not too long into the job is how few people you deal with actually WANT your help.
That may sound odd, but think about it. We’ve all seen COPS on TV, right? Those houses they go into to resolve a family domestic? AT MOST only 50% of the people even WANT you there. Sure, they may call 911 and report the problem, but the simple truth is more that people call the police as a means to deal with a problem they often caused themselves, or simply won’t deal with their own problem. At the same time, they don’t usually like the recommendation you propose. Huh?
Stay with me: On a repeat known domestic address for us, Shelly calls the police saying “Rick is back” (which is bad when everyone including the 911 operator is on a first name basis in a city of 100K plus residents). Now, Rick is back, because she invited him. And for the past four days everything was fine, until the alcohol dried up and so did the money. Now the fight starts. We get called, and the solution you may think is to arrest Rick simply because he has battered her again. Which we do, but Shelly doesn’t WANT him to go to jail. Despite that, we do anyway, get her treatment, offer to get her victim services available, and she later refuses to cooperate in prosecution—because she loves him. And it’s just a bad revolving door that we deal with on a bi-weekly basis.
My point is not to tell stories—of which I have MANY. My point here is that with events like Ferguson, MO becoming a hotbed of anti-police sentiment and mistrust of police, law enforcement officers are in an increasing spotlight by the media and the general public like never before. Law enforcement culture often breeds an “us vs. them” mentality, even when we don’t mean it to. It’s just that when you spend 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week dealing with the pure 5% bottom filth of society, it changes you. Off duty, you are the one who is introduced at parties as “Hey, this is my friend Ed—HE’S A COP”. I’ve never been at a party where it’s “Hey everyone, meet Steve, HE’S AN ACCOUNTANT!” But your job ends up becoming not what defines you, but it does become who you are defined AS, even when you simply want to be known as “Ed”.
Having served and now back to “normal”, boring civilian life, I can only offer you a simple perspective on a very brief glimpse of what cops do. Here it is: Officers are human beings. You ever see two police officers parked door-to-door in a parking lot and wonder what they are doing? Chances are they are seeing their co-worker for maybe that one time a shift, where they are actually discussing plans on the days off: The wife is taking the kids to her parents this weekend, but you have to work because your days off that week are midweek; meanwhile your partner is sharing that Scotty’s baseball practice is tomorrow, and he traded shifts because he coaches and needs to be there. Sound kind of boring and normal? That’s because it is.
Now wait a second, that’s not like the jerk-ish behavior I saw of those cops in Ferguson on the news!
Right, but understand one thing: Remember how I said law enforcement is just a job? What do you do for a living? Do you work with any jerks in your office? Do you deal with a-hole customers?
Does that sometimes change your demeanor, even if briefly? Right. Because you are a human with a job as well. So yeah, maybe there are some officers who ARE jerks. There are some who make bad decisions. In fact, I know there are, because I worked with some—I could tell you their names. I can also tell you about the jerks I worked with at every job I’ve ever had.
I get asked a lot about “Did you see where…” presumably because I have this insight. Truth is, I tune out most news media. I don’t watch COPS anymore mainly because I watch that show and see the sheer amount of bad tactics that are used. Officers have, like many other professions, a LOT of specialized training on how to do things correctly. The main difference is most other jobs, doing something incorrectly can get you written up. It can cause an accident. In law enforcement, cutting a corner (like failing to pat someone down for weapons) can get you killed. I read of an officer who dealt with a frequent flyer drunk dozens of times who was shot in the head as he took Otis to jail for the umpteenth time to sleep it off. Because he got complacent and was never given any trouble in the past, so the guy wasn’t handcuffed and he paid for it with his life.
The result of this on the officer’s psyche is that of a never-ending state of hyper-vigilance. You literally cannot turn it off—even when you want to. I’ve been out of The Game for four years now and I still scan license plates looking at the ones that are out-of-place, expired, whatever. I still go with my wife to a restaurant and she automatically sits in the seat that isn’t facing the door so that I can—she just knows how it is. I’ve talked to several officers who, like me, decided they had enough and took better opportunities in the normal, private sector. The common theme we have all shared is “I feel like I have a life again”. You can have opinions. You can speak them freely using your constitutional rights. You work day hours. You can be home with your family on holidays. All things I always took for granted before, but never will again.
Public events highlighting law enforcement officers seem to cast an ever-increasing dim light of the police doing their jobs. The call is louder than ever for body cameras to be worn by officers, and if I were still in, would embrace the use of because—and I know this is hard to believe—people LIE about their interactions with police.
I had a woman file a complaint that I cursed at her and “threw a ticket at her” because I didn’t give her a warning for doing 62 in a 30. Not ‘5 over’—DOUBLE the speed limit in a residential area. Lest you think “well, all cops cover for each other”, I actually told my supervisor that our discussion was over until she went to my car and watched my dash cam video playback for herself, because this woman was SO convincing to her over the phone of my conduct. Once played, she looks at me, apologizes and said “She’s so full of sh-t”. You think?
Are racial tensions playing a part in police-citizen relations? Ask most any officer, they are dealing with the situation, not the color. In my area I dealt primarily with minorities every single day. I stopped cars for traffic violations because of what I saw. My radar picked you up 1980 feet away, and by the time my brain processed it all, I remembered it’s the red Chevy coming at me. Add tinted windows, you can’t tell if the driver is green—and you simply don’t care. Racial tensions are insinuated and perpetuated by groups and individuals—and in some cases, even the media—to bring divisiveness and tension to already strained relations—not to make it better.
People ask “so why did you leave?” For me, I had a chance at a ‘dream job’ in a part of the country I always wanted to see. To have those normal hours and to raise my family in a better environment, combined with burnout—it was a once in a lifetime shot at the time. I also get asked “do you miss it?”
- I miss the adrenaline of the job.
- I don’t miss office politics.
- I miss hearing a mom who thanked me that the one on one talk I gave her 15 year old daughter helped “straightened herself around and she’s back in school, thank you so much for that”.
- I don’t miss seeing the FOUR year old that flipped me off as I drove by patrolling the neighborhood.
- I miss the practical jokes we played on one another in roll call.
- I don’t miss watching a woman die in front of me who was run over at 40 MPH as she walked down the street by a jealous ex and feeling entirely helpless to be able to do anything to help her in her final moment but try to speak comforting words to her, knowing the graveness of her injuries.
- I miss the co-workers.
- I don’t miss seeing the sheer inhumanity man brings upon man that only the police see.
And honestly, the times HAVE changed in the last few years. Society is an ever-increasing “not my fault” mentality. It’s easier to blame others than accept personal responsibility and we tolerate it as a society. More cameras. More distrust. Lack of effective parenting. Criminals who aren’t prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. More restrictions placed ON police in doing their jobs. It was a difficult job a decade ago, and it isn’t becoming one bit easier.
But at the end of the day, behind that Kevlar, the poly-cotton uniform and the mirrored shades, is an officer who is torn with daily personal emotions and struggles directly related to the job (PTSD is real…), and who enjoys the normal off-duty routines that we all do. I know that guy, because I was that guy.
I feel ya brother, because I know what it’s like to walk in those boots. Hopefully now so do you, even if only a little.