My Greatest Fear Was Failure


by James Livingston
Detective, City of Saginaw (MI) Police Department

Editor’s Note: Last month, we featured a story about the murder of Vince Sanchez’s daughter, I Was Not Able to Protect My Daughter. I asked if anyone from his department would like to share their story of how this death changed the dynamics of being a police officer that day. 

Peggy, it sounds like a very interesting and much needed thing for the law enforcement community. As an officer for the last 20 years, I must admit, I have seen, heard and done a lot and have chosen to forget most as a form of coping. If you will, I have attempted to separate certain realities to decrease the impact it may have on me or my ability to function as an officer, husband, and father.

However, on that day, my world was temporarily shaken beyond belief, as I attempted to grasp for answers and understanding how could this happen? I think my initial feeling was shock and disbelief, to be followed by anger, frustration and remorse. I recall receiving that phone call and the caller stating, “It’s Vince’s daughter.” Initially I did not want it, I could only think of the problems that such a traumatic event could bring. I was asked to investigate the murder of a friend’s daughter, to delve into her history to search for answers. From my previous experiences working homicides, I have found not all evidence and information were readily accepted by family members and friends; after all, I was asked to look into the deceased dark past to manifest answers that may prove to be links to her death.

I was concerned for Vince and how he would take the news. As a former homicide investigator, he knew the time consuming process and the demands required to reach an acceptable outcome and the pitfalls that were commonly encountered by an investigator. From previous experience, I have witnessed how such tragedies have created physical and mental stress, creating a multitude of other problems within a home, some resulting in emotional and physical abuse (alcohol and contemplation of suicide).

I believe my greatest fear was failure. How could I let Vinny and the department down? I felt an enormous load on my shoulders because at the time, I knew all eyes would be on me and the case would be heavily scrutinized in the press, the courtroom, public opinion, fellow officers, and, to some extent, self scrutiny. In my mind, I knew anything less than a conviction was unacceptable.
Since that dreadful day, I rarely think about it. I try to replace that night with happier thoughts. I try to remember only the good, while locking those things and others like it away in a deep peaceful abyss (I tell myself it’s just a part of the job and I must continue on).

Good luck and may your words of encouragement reach some perplexed soul seeking answers and help.
God speed!

Other articles in this series:

I Was Not Able to Protect My Daughter
My Greatest Fear Was Failure
Twelve Years Later, the Healing Continues

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