MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - As a law enforcement officer you deal with traumatic experiences almost daily, and it's easy to become desensitized over the years to the heartache, but Riley County Police Detective Steven Tucker is keeping his compassion, and empathy alive after spending decades on the force.
Detective Tucker has spent more 30 years protecting and serving the public. The first 25 years in law enforcement were in Arizona, even serving as the Sheriff of Greenland County for eight years during that time.
"I was at a place where I could draw retirement, I didn't need to work anymore, my kids were all grown," Tucker said.
Then he came to Riley County, because his then girlfriend, and now wife got a job here, but retired life wasn't for him, and he quickly found out he could be useful at RCPD.
Tucker said there's been times he's been able to help fellow officers understand the administrative side of law enforcement if they've never been there themselves yet.
Tucker believes his own experience as a child with domestic violence also helped him strive to be a better officer and see ways law enforcement could connect better with the public.
"I think cops could do a better job of listening, and instead of saying well you don't understand where I've come from, think of that about who you're stopping, and who you're talking to because they have an experience that you can't fix," Tucker said.
But striving to understand and help people during their worst times takes it's toll on a person.
"The first case I ever handled was a a small child who got ran over in a parking lot, and killed her, I can tell you what she looks like today and that was 30 years ago," Tucker said.
Tucker estimates he's seen at least 10 dead bodies a year in his three decades. Totaling around 300 people, but he expects that number to be closer to 500 in his career.
"I think what's kind of ruined me in this job is to become compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, understanding, because you can't, without personalizing it, you can't be those things, and when you personalize it, its hard not to take it home with you." Tucker said.
So while the job is tough, Tucker believes beyond the heartache the impact is worth it.
"We don't just go home at the end of the day, and leave our stuff in our locker room," Tucker said. "500 dead bodies, with 500 dads, and moms, and children, and grandparents that I've had to have the experience of saying, hey your loved one is dead, your loved ones been murdered."
Tucker said he hopes the community understands the emotional toll it takes on a person.
"For the community to understand that this isn't a job that’s just easy, it's a job that requires commitment, and requires a burden on your soul," Tucker said.
Detective Tucker has no plans to retire anytime soon, and hopes one day for law enforcement to have more mental health services available for troubled individuals.