This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. More info

Justice Studies Instructor Reflects on Recent Police Officer's Death

police week bannerRose Pogatshnik, School of Justice Studies Program Coordinator, shares her personal story about the death of Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker, who was shot and killed November 2012 outside a bar in Cold Spring, Minn. She explains how it affected her.

In the hours after police officer Tom Decker’s death, I found myself hugging my husband, also a police officer, as tightly as I could, crying and asking him not to go to work. He kissed me and told me that he loved me and headed out the door for what was going to be a very difficult shift. I quickly realized it wasn’t fair for me to ask him not to go.

As I headed to work, I knew the day would not consist of what was on my lesson plan for my students. Instead, we had a debriefing of sorts. This particular class consisted mostly of future law enforcement students. These students had been asked multiple times since the murder if they still wanted to be a cop. I looked at them and asked, “Well, do you?” I received a unanimous nod in response.

Shortly after class I received a phone call. It was from a concerned mom whose son was in my program. My initial reaction was this was going to be a very difficult conversation. She asked me if, in good faith, I could still recommend that her son enter this field. My response was simply that I believed that was her son’s choice. She started to cry and explained that she was afraid for him and didn’t want him to continue.

I explained that I was not a cop; my experience is in corrections. However, I am married to a police officer and through teaching have become very familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of the field. I explained that law enforcement appears to be a calling. I don’t think people choose law enforcement, I think law enforcement chooses people.

Rarely do I have students who don’t say they have wanted to be a cop their entire life. I explained that, after all, do you think someone would choose to work terrible hours while receiving less-than-adequate pay, dealing with our struggling population, and putting their life on the line for others, day after day?

I also explained there are great benefits. I can’t think of another occupation where you care so much for your coworkers. I explained that having an opportunity to truly help someone, whether it be a problem they can’t solve on their own, a medical emergency or getting someone out of a dangerous situation, are all experiences we can’t measure. After all of this I think she finally understood her son’s dream. She thanked me and hung up.

I found myself staring at the phone. I never realized these conversations would be part of my profession, and at the time, I was a bit frustrated because I did not see myself talking to college students’ moms. However, I now think having class and this conversation was probably more beneficial for me than anyone else. Both reaffirmed my dedication for teaching about a field I am so passionate about. No matter what aspect of criminal justice a student wants to pursue, there are benefits and drawbacks. Some of these drawbacks are mind-boggling to others, and the benefits can’t be truly understood unless you have been there.

Officer Tom Decker, your death will not be in vain. It will inspire us to continue our hopes of justice, whatever that might mean. No matter if someone works in the field, a related field, or just a “normal” member of the community, I believe we all have a common goal: to live life to the fullest, albeit with ups and downs. This is not a goal we can achieve alone. We need to be part of a society. Criminal justice professionals are the protectors of that society and we should be forever grateful for responding to their calling. I am honored to be a small part of that.

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college.

chart-credential-laddering-healthcare-management 0 Credits 90 Credits 180 Credits 48 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE Start Here MASTER’S DEGREE PURSUERS End Here BACHELOR’S DEGREE End Here MASTER’S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsb 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 90 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsd 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 91 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 181 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsjs 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 91 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsn 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 91 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 181 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-bank icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-paperwork icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-mglass icon-scales icon-camera icon-filter icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-share-square-o icon-spinner icon-tag icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-testimonial-quotes icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-developement icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-national icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-button icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-button icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x