Hiding in Plain Sight

by Captain Robert Cubby (retired)
Jersey City (NJ) Police Department

Robert Cubby
Robert Cubby

Once again, we hear about another officer killed in the line of duty. We mourn the loss of Police Officer Randolph Holder of the New York City Police Department whose end of watch was October 20, 2015. May he rest in peace.

I have attended too many police funerals in my career. Two of the funerals that I attended, I was personally involved with the case and was there when the officer died.

I remember how these particular funerals felt different. They felt as though they had a deeper sense of loss, a deeper sense of grieving than others did. And the grieving process took much longer to get through than the others. The images lingered, the scenes remained intact and revisited me often in my sleep. The screams for help, the seemingly long time for medical help to arrive, it all seemed like a slow-moving nightmare.

With the first incident, I leaned heavily on my partner and the back up unit who was there in seconds. We had no one else to talk to so we talked to each other. To this day, so many years later, we still talk about that fateful day.

But, now, I have other concerns besides the possibility that I suffered PTSD all those years. I know what I went through. I know that in the second death of a police officer where I was present, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I know how hard it was for me to seek help after each death.

Why, you ask. This is strictly from my own experience. I understand that yours might differ. But in my case, I felt with all the officers that were involved in the death of this second officer, with all those who mourned his loss and for all the tears that flowed during the funeral, who was I to say that I’m hurting more than all of you?

But I was and I knew it, and I thought that I could get through this grieving process by hiding among those who were all hurting and crying. I could let these emotions fly because it’s OK to cry at a police funeral, isn’t it? We lost a brother officer so who would question tears and heartache. Maybe after I let those emotions fly out, I’ll regain my composure, and resume my life again.

Although my chief granted me administrative leave to recuperate at home, I opted to come back on full duty to be with my officers, my brothers and sisters. Crying at home alone, with a wife who tried to understand but couldn’t, and two young children too young to understand, made that choice easy. Go in, be on duty surrounded by those that could understand was my best option, I thought.

No problem, I thought. And yes, we cried and hugged and supported each other and it was what I needed so badly at that time. The funeral was a beautiful send off to a true hero. The crying, the emotions out of control, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the visions of still being there, hearing the gun fire and the screams for help should have left by now. But they didn’t. No talking to brother officers seemed to help anymore.

My wife, thank God, saw that this wasn’t going away. Not with going back to work, not with the funeral, not with talking to friends. Finally, something had to be done and I sought professional help.

Right now, you will be dealing with the loss of your friend, your partner, your brother in blue. Right now, you’ll be dealing with all that a police inspector’s funeral entails. Right now, you can get lost in the details or in the company of comrades. Right now, you think you can handle this on your own. Right now, you should also be thinking about what you’re going through, and do something to help yourself.

About the Author: Robert Cubby was born January 4, 1950. He attended Montclair State College (University) earning a BA degree in psychology. Shortly after graduation, Robert was sworn in as a police officer for the Jersey City Police Department. After attending the Police Academy, he was assigned to the patrol division. After seven years of working in two patrol districts, he was transferred to the Emergency Services Bureau where he was an instructor for the Police Academy. After 8 1/2 years, Robert was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the Property Unit. This was followed by assignments back in patrol as a sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. As a lieutenant, Robert was deployed to assist in the efforts during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. As a captain, he was assigned out of title 50% of the time as an acting inspector/city commander. Captain Cubby retired from the Jersey City Police Department in 2011 after 38 years, 4 months of service. As the result of his service to the department, he was diagnosed with PTSD and continues to struggle with it on a recurring basis. Robert also appeared in the film, Code9 Officer Needs Assistance.