In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt interviews Randy Sutton: Founder of The Wounded Blue
Recently I interviewed Randy Sutton, the Voice of American law enforcement and Founder of The Wounded Blue.
Clarissa: Randy, you advocate for the positive public perception of law enforcement, but as of late it seems that we hear more and more negative news about the police and their problems in the community. What’s going on out there?
Randy: There are a number of different things that are really germane to the safety of the American public. They’re not getting the full story at all. Before I even talk about The Wounded Blue, which is my organization that assists injured and disabled law enforcement, I’m going to talk about some of the issues facing the American law enforcement officer and the law enforcement community and how it affects everyday Americans. Here’s what’s going on. Very disturbing. There is an effort that has been underway for quite a while to undermine law enforcement. It was started as a social movement and has been called a number of things.
But in essence, it’s a movement that has in its plans to dismantle the criminal justice system of America. Now, that sounds kind of outlandish, doesn’t it? The unfortunate reality is that it’s actually begun to take place. There is a true lack of law enforcement recruitment; retention and getting qualified people into the job to take over the reins for those who are leaving. When I say ‘leaving’, I mean running out the door leaving. Police agencies around the country are feeling so besieged that people are taking their retirement as soon as they have their three years in or they’re not even waiting for retirement, they’re just leaving or they’re just not doing any policing because they’re scared to death that they’re going to get in trouble for doing it.
Clarissa: Police officers not making a whole bunch of money every year to be putting their lives on the line every day of the week. Did you want to touch upon that? Also, let’s get one thing out of the way. Corruption exists everywhere. There are corrupt cops. So let’s take that off the table. It happens in pretty much every industry. I wouldn’t want to put my life on the line, as you all do every day. The adrenaline factor alone would be enough to scare the pants off anybody.
Randy: Let me illustrate this with a story that happened not too long ago. I do a radio show, called Blue Lives Radio, the Voice of American Law Enforcement. I do a segment called ‘End of Watch’ where I announce the names of the officers who died in the line of duty that week. I had done that portion of my show and talked about a 25-year veteran from Pennsylvania who had been murdered in the line of duty. He walked up on a domestic dispute and was shot at the door and died as a result. Not two weeks later, but one of his co-workers contacted me and said, “Randy, I don’t know if you know this, but he was making nine dollars and twenty eight cents an hour when he was killed. Nine dollars and twenty-eight cents an hour!
Clarissa: I’m letting that sink in. And I want everybody else to let that sink in for a moment. How is that possible?
Randy: I thought so, too. It actually sounded so impossible to believe that I called his Chief of Police the next day and asked her if it was true. She didn’t comment and hung up on me.
Clarissa: Do you ever really stop being a cop?
Randy: You know, I think once you’re a protector, you’re a protector. I haven’t changed service. I’ve changed who it is that I am servicing. Now instead of protecting the public, I’m protecting law enforcement officers all over the country. Service in my blood; that’s who I am. My focus is now on the men and women of the American law enforcement community who are literally facing physical threat, emotional threat, and psychological threat on all fronts. What I’m seeing is disturbing me greatly. The American public needs to understand that if you don’t take care of those who take care of you, there will be nobody left.
Clarissa: When we last met, you spoke of something that deeply upsets you, deeply affects you, and it’s affecting a lot of people that are on the force.
Randy: Yes, let’s talk about that post-traumatic stress injury. Every law enforcement officer will see over the years and the decades that they serve will get overdosed on cruelty, on violence, on death. Sometimes it’s one traumatic incident to trigger post-traumatic stress injury. That is, your brain simply doesn’t understand how to deal with the images that it’s seeing. Seeing a dismembered corpse and their child is sitting there looking at their parents in pieces. You know, the human brain can only understand so much and when it gets overloaded, post-traumatic stress and injury have become the result. Now, post-traumatic stress injury doesn’t necessarily have to become post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s an injury and like everything else, left untreated, and you ignore it, it can become a disabling injury.
There are 18,000 different police agencies in the country. There are some that really make an effort to do the right thing. They treat their people the way they should whether the injury is physical or emotional. On the other hand, there’s a whole lot of leadership that is letting their people down. The reason I created The Wounded Blue is because I was getting the most heartbreaking messages from cops all over the country telling me heartbreaking tales of being shot and their Chief not even coming to visit them in the hospital, being ignored by the department, getting their pay cuts so dramatically they had to have bake sales to feed their families. This is happening all over America. That is the tragedy. This is something that most Americans don’t know about. It happened to me. When I retired it wasn’t because I wanted to retire, it’s because I had a stroke and my police car and it ended my policing career – almost ended my life. My own department after serving 24 years just didn’t pay my medical bills. They just said no. This almost put me into financial ruin. I had to sue and go to court to get them to pay my medical bills. And eventually they did. They hope you’re going to either to die or give up. This is happening all over the country.
Our film, The Wounded Blue Service, Sacrifice and Training, we’ve highlight six individual stories where you will come to understand the severity of the situation. I guarantee you, anybody who sees this documentary will ask themselves how this is possible in America. You can find it on Amazon.
Clarissa: Tell us what happened in May when you went to Police Week in Washington, D.C. and your trip to the White House.
Randy: We actually officially launched our organization during Police Week. Police Week was begun by John F. Kennedy, who delineated that particular week, National Police Week, and that is where our memorial wall is located. The names of every law enforcement officer, thousands and thousands and thousands of them are carved in granite on a huge wall. This is where law enforcement officers from all over the country gather in tribute. The President spoke, it was really a somber time, but also a time of celebration – celebrating the lives of those people and those who continue to serve. I had our organization there in force. Most of my Bureau team people were there, helping to get the word out. While I was there, I received an invitation to go to a ceremony at the White House where the President was going to be giving medals of valor to 12 different police officers, two of them posthumously. So this was a great honor for me. It was a very small ceremony, only for the families a few dignitaries. I guess I got listed in the dignitary check off list, although almost kind of amusing that I would be considered a dignitary. I mean, it was an amazing thing to experience. I spent three hours in the White House with the families and these officers who were shown amazing courage under fire with the families of those who actually lost their lives who were being honored. The President very willingly gave of himself to honor those men and women. Obviously, this was a huge honor for me.
Clarissa: Randy, why do you it? What drives you every day to get up and advocate for law enforcement? I mean, police work wasn’t easy and it can’t be easy doing what you do now. I even go out on a limb and say it’s got to be at times very depressing for you and maybe even up to a point where you’re feeling like you’re the only one putting up the fight and maybe feeling a little alone.
Randy: No, no, you’re right. You’re right, Clarissa. Well, I know that I have some great allies. First of all, I have my team of men and women who have really faced a lot of pain shot. Some are in constant pain. And yet, what do they do? They drive forward to help others. That’s an inspiration to me. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I mean, I absorb pain. You know, when you’re talking to somebody who is contemplating suicide because of circumstances in their life that you can’t help but absorb some of that because you’re human. So, yes, there have been times when I’ve asked myself how much longer can I do it? But it’s a duty. This isn’t just isn’t a hobby for me. It’s a necessity. I see it as a mission, and I’m mission driven. There’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things. And the wrong thing has been done for years towards this very vulnerable population. They don’t have a voice or at least they never did have a voice.
Clarissa: Well, they have a voice now! How can we help you? What do you need?
Randy: We’ve created a membership. Thirty-six dollar donation tax deductible. You get a sticker for your car with a Wounded Blue logo, driver’s license holder, which identifies you as a law enforcement supporter. We’ve also negotiated with three hundred thousand businesses across the country, so when you’re a Wounded Blue member, you get a really good discount. Go to TheWoundedBlue.org. Sign up to become a member. You’ll also be getting our newsletter.
The police need to know that the public supports them. Right now, they’re feeling pretty kicked around. There are so many more people in the public that support law enforcement, but the silent majority. Well, we need to join together. We need to create an environment that is safer for the police. That includes giving these officers the knowledge that people that they are protecting support them. This is a great way to do it.
Also, Loaded blue dot org. And also watching the movie, please download this movie on Amazon The Wounded Blue Movie or iTunes or the Microsoft Store. Proceeds go to The Wounded Blue,
And then there’s Law Dog Coffee monthly coffee club, or as I like to call it “coffee with a cause!”. LawDogCoffee.com. – So good it ought to be illegal! It’s a dynamic new company that is selling coffee to private people and also in stores. A percentage of the proceeds from every bag is going to be donated to The Wounded Blue. ✧