For what seems like a long time now, Judy has been working part time, on and off. Just a couple of days a week.
And lately, not even those couple of days, having been on sick leave again for some time.
Part time work struck a great balance of continuing to give to the community as a public servant, whilst preserving her mental and physical state.
Years ago now, after getting fresh police officer behind her, general duties was reasonably quickly something that Judy yearned to also put behind her. It really wasn't nice. So through doing her time, and then seizing an available opportunity, these days she is a specialist Crime Scene Officer, doing photographing, DNA swabbing, fingerprint dusting, CCTV gathering, and boot print measuring.
Sadly, it's nowhere near as glamorous as the show on TV.
Police officers give, and give, and give to the community, with very little returned but a modest pay packet. Also returned is the odd spit in your eye, the occasional kicking, constant verbal abuse, and real personal danger. Par for the course. They give to the community as only a police officer can.
It seems amazing that this work could in any way preserve mental state, but really the preservation is found in the camaraderie and friendships bonded in this paramilitary organisation.
Being paramilitary, everyone knows that there is a system of rank involved in police forces. It would seem to me that one of the most important aspects of this rank system is reward for service and effort by way of getting further away from the everyday shit of the job. The higher up you climb the ladder, the less crime shit you encounter.
Through perseverance of service, Judy has reached the rank of Leading Senior Constable. But sadly that hasn't taken her very far from the shit.
"Why aren't you running the crime desk, and not still one of the lackies?"
- Jo Jo
To climb further, a series of "upgrades" to Acting Sergeant would be needed, plus also passing an exam that shows you've filled your beautiful brain with the prerequisites. Judy wasn't that interested, but it would have been nice to be asked. That she hadn't, I think has been a massive missed opportunity for the police force, given how loyal, dedicated, diligent and smart she is.
"Even Boris [name changed] got upgraded! I've never been upgraded. It still bothers me... Am I a dick head or something?"
The job is never glamorous, and often disturbing.
There's loads of theft from motor vehicle, thieving from houses, armed robbery, motor vehicle accidents, and drug labs.
And dead bodies.
Crime scene officers like Judy go to every dead body in their patch, unless the death is clearly violent, and caused by someone else (there's a separate team for that). By comparison, general duties officers while "on the van" only get the odd one now and then.
The business of people dying often sounds quite nasty, and it seems to me that jumping off things, like bridges is sadly over represented.
There was someone spread throughout a tree after a leap, with her head going one way and her body going the other (Judy's career first). Another impaled on a fence post, then component parts of her spread throughout the surrounding fence in such a way that a fireman's hose could do little good.
No one can un-see that shit.
Judy reflected that it's hard to believe someone could be so sad to do such a thing. For her it is especially hard to grasp, given the terminal cancer that she has, which she fights so hard against to still be here, refusing to lose.
"Some fisherman had tried to do CPR on her. Did he notice that most of her brain had shot out the side of her head? Dick head."
Cop humour amazes. On finding a Nike shoe still attached to the leg of a prominent paralympian who'd represented Australia, then later hurled himself off a bridge, a colleague murmurs to our Jude: "Those Nike Air Flights... They don't work."
Beyond the scum and gore there have been some great moments. Like seeing the band Scissor Sisters on duty and playing volleyball in uniform with festival goers. That game attracted quite a crowd, as you'd imagine. And seeing Robbie Williams in concert, then being in the line with other coppers to usher him into his waiting limo, so close she could feel his cheeky smile.
"It was so hard not to wave like a crazy person and yell: Hey Robbie!"
Men seem to love to flirt with an officer wearing bright red lipstick. I know I do when she comes home. From the public this is at times annoying, sometimes disturbing, and occasionally flattering. Years back, while on the beat at St. Kilda Road an Asian guy half her age took a lusty shine to our Jude in blue, and asked: "What's your number, honey?" Her reply? "It's written on the side of the divvie van if you want it. Triple zero."
More recently she's attracted the affections of a stalker. I imagine him as a dirty little dweeb, but he's apparently actually not a bad looker for a crook. We think he's harmless, though... We think.
Back in a prior story, a long time ago it seems, I wrote on the subject of journeying with cancer, and I skipped over our 10th wedding anniversary declaring it totally beyond my control. I love anniversaries, and those divisible by five are increasingly grand celebrations that I have organised over the years. That special 10th date, though was right back at the beginning of Judy's time in policing, and we marked it at the police academy with an intimate dinner for two in the cafeteria, surrounded by Judy's squad mates. We certainly won't forget it, even if it was a budget affair. This is the only known record of that candle lit shared dinner for "two":
The academy was Hell. She spent five months away from home, living in, immersing herself.
There was so much to learn, about the law and how to deal with the often shit behaviour of our fellow man. There was marching. There was being yelled at while marching. Then just being yelled at. Yelling at others. Defensive tactics. Loads of the law. Scenarios. Loads of role plays. First aid. Early mornings. Shooting. Advanced driving. Being yelled at while advanced driving. Being yelled at while shooting. Observational skills development. And sometimes a bit of fun, too.
"I'm a princess, not a police officer!"
- Little girl in the movie Kindergarten Cop
She passed with flying blue colours, while figuratively leaving her big red lipstick mark all over the place. Plus literally, I think there is still a first aid doll that bears the shade of Lancôme Rouge 183N smeared all over its face.
Many years later, on balance I think Jude likes the job, but I also think the job likes Jude even more.
"You were such a pleasure to work with. A beautiful kind person. Always smiling. A gift to our organisation."
- Belinda, an old buddy from a former station
There have been beautiful things written as personnel file entries. Beautiful comments about how Judy makes the office happy. There have been comments from the boss that she's the glue that keeps the office together, and that everyone flocks to her as soon as she comes in. He's even used in addresses the love that she and I have for each other, and all the shit that we deal with so very well, as an example of strength and courage to inspire all in the office.
When that boss was moving on to another role, he asked Judy "What do you want people to get out of this?" Her reply? "Carpe diem. Be happy in the moment and look to the future. Realise how precious life is, and not squander time being miserable."
Amen to that.
As metastatic breast cancer invaded our lives so completely Judy drew down heavily on her sick leave entitlements. We were also so grateful that her employer provided a special entitlement, beyond standard. On top of that there was an additional special leave period generously provided by the police association.
When you've got a great employee, a great employer and their association shows it. And when the chips were down it was greatly appreciated to not have to think about something as trivial as sick leave.
After diagnosis, she returned after many months care and chemo by Dr Rob, on light duties for her two days a week, taking care of many of the aspects of running the Crime Desk that others were totally disinterested in, or really bad at. In the time since there have been a few more stints on sick leave, too, including right now.
"Do you still get out drawing chalk lines around bodies?"
- Steve "SRC"
"Nah. I just order the chalk these days."
So when to give it away?
The decision to quit doing the job comes down to two simple aspects: Can she still do it? And does she still want to do it?
"Mum, you always have this huge sleep for two days after you've been at work. It's a pattern."
The first aspect, can she do it, is one of health.
As time goes by, more and more little things add up with cancer which has spread. You're tired. You're on more pain medication, and more drugs. You're more wobbly on your feet. You're going to stay on light duties, as to re-qualify to carry a gun, spray folks with pepper and whack them with a stick is not going to be possible. Even lifting a camera and a heavy kit bag of crime scene stuff requires strength, and can hurt. Not to mention wearing 15kg of belt, cop stuff and ballistic vest.
Plus there will be more chemotherapy, more treatment, and more shit in future, like the present battle of cancer having now spread to her central nervous system.
More treatment and more progression will take its toll, barring any miracle.
"I'm not prepared to do anything that would even rob us of a month together."
The second aspect, does she still want to do it, I guess is also one of health: both physical and mental.
Working takes away precious time that would be far better spent with family (we all agree with that!), and ours is such a tight and loving unit, still with all four of us under the one roof, so maximising that time would be the definite winner in a work/life shoot out.
The impact of working in terms of wearing her down is also a simple choice of self preservation or self sacrifice, because being able to get good rest is so important in giving your body the best run at coping and repairing, or letting drugs do the repairs.
Police officers may be self-sacrificing sorts, but there are limits.
I think also that Judy loves being around the brilliant people she works with, and she'd miss them greatly. They'd also greatly miss her, but that relationship would have to be set aside in a choice of sacrifice or preservation.
"It's time, isn't it? ... I'm so not going to miss doing the fucking roster."
It is likely that closure is looming on an at times arduous, and other times confronting journey with the police force, but a journey that has been fun at times, and personally satisfying despite the shit. Judy loves so many of the people, and is in awe of the amazing job that they have done every day shoulder-to-shoulder with her to keep others safe and well.
To the Chief Happiness Officer, I love you, I adore you, and I salute you.