Robert Staycoff and K9 Rocco
My name is Robert, I am 32 years old and have been a Police Officer for just over seven and a half years. Depression is one of those feelings that can feel impossible to overcome. In the words of Rocky Balboa, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it…” I let it hold me down for too long because in today’s culture, you are looked down upon if you seek out help. Especially if you are a man. It took me far too long to realize this before seeking out help.
I started my law enforcement career in 2013 as a CSO. In 2015, I was hired by the same city as a full time officer, which is also a first ring suburb of Minneapolis. My career started off exactly how I planned it would go, as I got in vehicle pursuits, foot pursuits and made several dozen arrests my first year. My idea of a perfect career was short lived due to several injuries, critical incidents and personal tragedy.
Up to this point, I had seen several dead bodies and even pointed my firearm at people, but didn’t realize how critical each of those incidents were until I sought help. In 2017, I was involved in what I thought was my first real critical incident in the freezing winter. As we arrived on scene to a call for a domestic, we were greeted from a second story by an individual wearing body armor and holding a rifle. After several hours of my partners and I personally negotiating with this particular individual, he chose to go inside and end his own life. This started me down a dark path of depression and trauma that I had no clue how to deal with.
In March of 2018, I responded to a medical for one person down inside of a residence. We observed the person inside laying on the ground and not responding. I attempted to break out a window on the door to gain access and in doing so, I broke a pane of glass and severed four tendons and damaged seventy percent of the nerve in my dominant hand. I was rushed to the hospital with my only thought being that my career was over after three years. After surgery and six month of rehab, I was able to return to work.
2019 is when things started to snowball out of control. In August of 2019, the girl I had been seeing on and off for six years took her own life. It was by far the most traumatic thing I have ever had to deal with, personally or professionally. The toll this took on both my physical and mental health was eviscerating. It was unlike any gut-wrenching pain or mental exhaustion I have ever experienced. This would go on to play a role in every aspect of my life going forward.
Without explaining, 2020 was one of the worst years for law enforcement in history. The mental toll this played on not only me, but every law enforcement official in the country was grueling.
2021 would be the year that I almost quit being a cop. In the months of July, August and September, I dealt with three of the hardest calls I’ve ever experienced in my short 6 years as a police officer at that time. These three calls in succession took such a toll on my mental health, my physical health and my emotional health as a person that I was on the verge of looking for a new career. If not for being appointed to our Drug Task Force that fall, I don’t know what I would be doing at this point.
2022 started off strong in this new position, having a much better work schedule and not having to worry about responding to that next call and wondering what if. This year was looking promising until I hit my most recent speed bump in this journey. And by speed bump, I mean a life altering incident. On September 9th, 2022 I was enjoying a Friday afternoon shopping when I was struck with massive chest pain, followed by neck pain and ultimately losing my vision. That was the last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital Friday afternoon being told I was rushed in for emergency open heart surgery Friday evening due to an aorta dissection caused by an aneurysm on my aorta. Long story short is that I was told by several medical professionals and even my surgeon that individuals with my condition usually don’t make it to the operating room. After an eight hour surgery, I am now on several different medications, blood thinners and have been told that after only seven and a half years that law enforcement may not be a part of my future going forward.
I am forever grateful for the support in my life, but sometimes you need more. It took me a long, long time to reach out and get the help that I desperately needed and being a part of this program would not only be an honor, but could be a momentous help in taking back some control in my life that I feel was lost.