Fear Ends Where Faith Begins

Greetings loyal readers from the Gumshoe.  I always found it somewhat amusing when some of my family members, as well as some of my close friends, would occasionally tell me that they could never do what I have done during my police career simply because they would be just “too scared”.  I would politely smile and respond to them that I was just too dumb to be afraid.  I would further explain to them that I was not drafted into police work – I readily volunteered just when I joined the Marine Corps – young and dumb![su_spacer]
Seriously, I would explain to them that actually enjoyed the challenging job in which many are called and that few are chosen.  Fear to me was never part of the equation.  Mind you, I was not naïve nor did I subscribe to some macho cop image – I just relied on my training, common sense, experience and my “gut” instinct.  More importantly, I knew that God had my back no matter what.[su_spacer]
I have lost count on the numerous occasions that I was truly scared when responding as a uniformed officer to unknown trouble calls; shots fired; violent mental cases; attempt suicides; man with a gun; barricaded suspect; officer down and officer needing assistance. Even more so when the police dispatcher directed me to proceed to the station to see the Watch Commander (Yikes! What did I do or what special detail was I going to perform).[su_spacer]
My “fight or flight or freeze syndrome” was constantly locked on “fight”.  I had a healthy sense of paranoia because I knew that even paranoids had enemies.  It was always a source of my outward appearance of collective calm that camouflaged my inward appearance of primal fear when I was confronted with an unexpected physical assault or a deadly threat in the most “routine” situations.[su_spacer]
The first rule in police work is to always be prepared (just like the boy scouts of yesteryear) for the “unsuspected”.  Don’t get caught with your pants down or your head up your a**.  The second rule in police work is that you just cannot always be prepared for the “unsuspected”.  Even boy scouts get lost in the woods.  This is where my best partner “God” comes into my sight picture.  I always relied on Him to guide me in doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time for the right reason.  He never failed me in my career behind the badge inside the black and white or when I was in front of the door that I was going to kick in pursuant to a search warrant.[su_spacer]
Working undercover as a “narc” on the street level also caused me some “butt puckers” when I was truly the Lone Ranger when I went into a stash pad to purchase some dope and then quickly directed inside to an adjoining location (beyond backup assistance from my fellow narcs) by armed suspects who were selling a myriad of illicit substances ranging from heroin, meth, cocaine, PCP, LSD and good old marijuana.  These suspects were routinely high on their own wares and always paranoid about dealing with undercover narcs.  Funny thing, I was always somewhat paranoid about being stopped by the cops when I was on my way to a buy or leaving a buy especially when I was not within my local jurisdiction.  I know how it feels to be the subject of a felony stop by the police; being introduced to the side of a wall and having pieces of my wrist skinned by handcuffs.  I met the profile and so it was part of the job.[su_spacer]
SWAT operations that I participated in were also emotionally stimulating for good old Gumshoe since there was always going to be a high-risk entry with flash bangs and armed suspects inside waiting for the OK Corral shootout.  My heart would work overtime like a racehorse and my blood pressure would rise like mercury on the surface of the sun regardless of how many survival breaths I took.  I managed my fear and I had faith that God was with me and my team.  I also would pray for the suspect for him not to be the victim of his own stupidity.[su_spacer]
Later on in the twilight of my career, I worked as a detective in the crimes against children unit.  Another source of fear raised its ugly head that I had to confront – pure, unadulterated EVIL human predators who preyed on the most vulnerable and innocent child victims.[su_spacer]
I would find myself on a routine workday sitting inside an interrogation room with an assortment of miscreants that included serial pedophiles, child rapists, child molesters, child pornographers, sadistic child torturers just to name a few.  These creepo-zoids tested my emotional, spiritual and my physical health (my mental health has always been in question).[su_spacer]
You see, in order for me to be successful in holding these gene pool rejects accountable, I had to make a connection with them.  Suspects only confess if they like you and if they feel that you really understand their perverted perspectives.  Sometimes all I had to do was to buy them a cheeseburger or gently touch them on their shoulder to let them know that I understand that they were just showing their poor defenseless victims love.  Afterwards, I had to wash my hands thoroughly until they were raw since I wanted their stink off of me.[su_spacer]
Ever one of my cases destroyed a little piece of my humanity in believing in human goodness and kindness and beauty and pure love did not exist in the dark worlds I had to frequent to gain the trust of these scum bags.  I definitely had God beside me when I felt the cold presence of sheer evil emitting from these dregs sitting inside the interrogation rooms across from me.  Sometimes I felt my immortal soul fracturing as their stories came pouring out of their mouths like untreated sewage.  They did it because they liked it and they only regretted getting caught.  They had not a scintilla of remorse for their innocent victims.[su_spacer]
Homicide detectives also say that they do God’s work for a dead victim by giving the immediate victim’s family a sense of closure and justice.  In child sex crimes, my victims were alive and breathing and deeply scarred – for them a sense of closure was elusive and validation only confirmed their individual pain and embarrassment.  I prayed for them and with them when called upon.  I saw God give them hope for healing and He also healed my fractured soul.[su_spacer]
They tell you in the police academy to leave the job at work and not to take it home.  That is a lie – I had to have a sincere passion for the individual victim and many a night my dreams would take me back to the interrogation room when I would think if I did everything possible to make the case – did I ask the right questions; did I get all of the evidence; did I find all of the victims; did I find all of the suspects; will the jury convict?  I would wake up and my dreams would center on the smirk of a suspect set free as the jury refused to see real evil or understand that it even exists.  I knew that he was guilty as sin but I took comfort in the fact that God’s justice will be perfect at a later time and place.  Man’s justice is imperfect and the devil dances.
I learned that God put me exactly where He wanted to put me for His purposes.  Sometimes God rewarded me when a child victim would sometimes leave their parent’s grasp and rug up to me and give me a hug or a mother would thank me.  It made my heart soar and my soul whole again and I knew that I would renew the fight.  Good always must confront evil and miracles do happen when the good guys win![su_spacer]
Well, dear friends, that’s my story and I am sticking to it until next time.  God bless and love the ones who love you and even the ones who don’t.
Blessed Thanksgiving!


Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

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  1. Danny, as I remember my last FTO while in training taught me to be afraid but to expect the unexpected, being afraid was not bad and that it could serve me well when I needed it. I remember many good point given to me by my FTO back then, points which saved my life. Great article!