Monday, April 12, 2010

Incredible Woman #34 - Michelle Chapeau. Tuesday's Questions

KARA: "What is it like to be a police officer? Describe your job – what is the most interesting that has ever happened during your job?"

MICHELLE: "Well, being a police officer is nothing like you see on TV. It is not all car chases, foot chases and DNA coming back in ten minutes. The real world is so much different. I work traffic these days, so I mainly spend my days writing speeding, seatbelt and child restraint tickets. I work wrecks from the simple fender benders to the really nasty ones where people do not survive. I have been a patrol officer and detective as well over the years. I just take it all one day at a time. The best part of my job is that every day is always different. It is never the same. I get to meet new people every day, even though they are not always happy to meet me! I rely on my instincts. They keep me alive. When the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or I get an uneasy feeling about something or just work in general, I don't ignore it. I have found that I am usually right. People ask me how I go to work and not get scared. The day I quit having any fear is the day I retire. Fear makes me more aware of my surroundings and keeps me more alert. People want to know how I can do my job and deal with death at the same time. I know I have to job to do and me doing my job well, will help the victims and get them justice. I don't have time to cry or be upset. I have trained myself over the years not to allow myself to do that. There is time for that later. I go on what I call auto-pilot. I turn off my emotions and get down to business. It sounds very cold and callous, but that is what I have to do to be able to function, especially when there are children involved. I put my heart and soul into the cases that I work so that I can help the families get some closure. When I get home on those horrible nights, those are the nights when my little people get woken up in the middle of the night so I can hold them tight and tell them how much I love them. Those are the nights that we may all get in Mommy's bed and watch the animals on Animal Planet for an hour or so because they are wide awake. Those are the nights that I am so thankful to know that no matter how ugly the world is, my little people are safe and sound at home in their bed. Those are the nights that I never want them to grow up.

My job allows me to do things sometimes that most people don't normally get to do too. I have watched a lot of concerts from backstage and met many wonderful people, Toby Keith, Charlie Daniels, The B 52's, Willie Nelson, Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and countless others. I can watch a college football game from the sidelines and have been in the locker room when the team was in there. I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people over the years. I don't ask for autographs and rarely have my picture taken with them, but I know and that's all that matters.

I don't know what the most interesting thing that I have come across at work would be. What some find interesting and fascinating, I seem to think it is just another part of my day. I can tell you the one thing that I am most proud of in the last fifteen years. Without a doubt, Robert Taylor Jr. He would not know me if he saw me, but he is alive today because of a chain of events that I started. I was working one night downtown on bike patrol. There was an EMS call to one of the bars. I responded. As I was walking in, another officer walked out saying "I'm not touching him. I'm not wearing gloves." He did not go back inside. I ran inside to find a 19 year old kid who had head butted a quarter inch plate glass window The glass broke and his neck hung. His friends had moved him to a chair. It looked like there was more blood on the outside of his body than there could possibly be inside. He had cut his carotid artery, jugular vein and part of his trachea. I, to this day, do not know what part of my lower extremity that I pulled it out of, stuck my fingers in his neck and stopped the blood flow. I kept him from bleeding out. When they put him on the stretcher, I got on top of him. When they rolled him into the ER, I rolled in on top, bottom first. I did not let go until the ER doc told me it was ok and I could get off. That simple act started a chain of events that allowed the neurosurgeon to fix him. He had a large stroke and several small strokes immediately after surgery. His blood volume was replaced numerous times that night. They said he would have died if I had not done what I did. I am happy to report that the last time I heard, he had gotten 95% back from the stroke and was doing great. To this day, I still just consider it just a part of doing what I do and do not consider myself any kind of hero. I was in the right place at the right time and God guided me to do the right thing. The surgeons saved his life. The affect this had on my life was that I figured if I could keep a cool head with that much blood and craziness around me, I could handle EMT school. So, I worked full time as a police officer and went to EMT school at night. I would never work full time as an EMT because I could always make more money in a lot less time as a police officer, but it was awesome training. Being trained as an EMT has helped me tremendously in many situations over the years. Those Crown Vics just move a whole lot faster than those heavy ambulances!

It's kind of like I tell people... My job can be the most awesome job in the world and be so much fun, more so than any other. But, it can also be the absolute most awful job in the world. When it's bad, it's beyond anyone's comprehension. I have actually saved a life and I have watched many more die. I have been there for the celebrations and shed just as many tears. It is so hard not to take it all personally, but you just can't. You will lose your mind if you do.

KARA: "Everyone has trials – what have been some of yours, and how have you overcome them? What have you learned from your trials?"

MICHELLE: "One of biggest trials I guess would be being a female in law enforcement which is primarily a boys club. When you first begin your career, you are a rookie and you are learning and earning the respect of the people you work with. They don't know if you are going to run away from a fight or dive in. They don't know if you will be there for them when they are fighting for their life or will you drive slow, drive by, or run the other way. You have to prove yourself. It has taken a long time for me to gain the trust of the people that I work with. They know I will be there when times are rough. I won't leave them hanging out in the wind when they are being shot at. I will be right there beside them. That sounds dramatic, but it has happened and I have been shot at. Thankfully, I have never had to shoot anyone. I have overcome it by being there when I am needed and not being afraid to get dirty or hurt. I have learned that it is always best to talk someone out of a fight or bad situation than it is to let it progress to that level. I know that it is best to stop and think about the possibilities of what could happen and take a minute to plan what should happen instead of running full speed ahead. I have learned to be patient, though not as much as I should be, and to wait and think it out before acting."


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