Inside the uniform, anxiety emerges anew

Following the latest police shooting, some Philadelphia Police officers fear for their lives and the lives of their comrades, driving some to consider alternative careers.

Thomas Hyers undergoes a transformation every day.

After putting on his police uniform and going to the 23rd Police District, located at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue, Hyers becomes Lieutenant Hyers. But last week, the lieutenant thought, for just a moment, he wouldn’t be able to transform the next morning.

“I was in the room, standing next to [Officer] John Pawlowski’s body, and I thought to myself, it’s time to do something else,” Hyers said. “But then, you get some sleep, and you wake up and come back the next day.”

Pawlowski had been a student of Hyers during his time at the Police Academy. Hyers also knew four other police officers who have died in the last 16 months.

Last year, C. Scott Shields, the attorney for the National Rifle Association, said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’d advise every resident of Philadelphia to go out and buy their guns now.”

At the time, Philadelphia was fighting for the right to enact city-specific gun control laws in an effort to curb the number of shootings. The NRA filed a lawsuit, which was followed by a decision by the commonwealth to deny Philadelphia the ability to “ban possession or sale of assault weapons within city limits” and a one-gun-a-month limit.

If it’s evidence the commonwealth needs, it should visit the station where Hyers works.

“The captain and I look around and are concerned about [officers’] mental health,” Hyers said. “I’ve had a lot of officers in here, and they’re upset. Inside the blue shirt, behind the badge or the vest, is a person. Officers cry. They get upset. They get scared. [They do] all the things every one else does.”

Hyers added that the human health of police officers is being carefully monitored. The day after Pawlowski was shot, they “got right back on their horse, as heartbroken as they were, and they did their job.”

With husbands, wives and children urging them to quit, doing their duties is becoming increasingly difficult. Hyers said he received a text message from his daughter that day in regards to his safety.
If the NRA is concerned with the basic right of the Constitution for Americans to “bare arms,” the association should consider Philadelphians’ natural right to live.

Living scared is not the proper way to attend work every day, yet the police force in Philadelphia has to do so.

Limiting the number of guns sold and to whom they are sold will not make violence in Philadelphia evaporate, but it certainly will aid the process.

Philadelphians themselves need to think a moment longer before they choose violence.

“Nobody calls us for birthday parties. Nobody calls us for bar mitzvahs or christenings,” Hyers said. “If you’re called there, it’s because they’ve already tried to work it out, can’t, and someone said, ‘We better get the police here.’”

When people cannot control themselves because of domestic situations, Hyers said it puts everyone in danger.

“That’s why police officers are killed.”

Though people need to take responsibility for them, if they didn’t have guns, no police officer would have a gun pointed at his or her chest.

Ashley Nguyen can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. I agree that much, much more needs to be done to protect our police officers. Laws making the possession of an illegal gun punishable by a mandatory minimum of at least 5 years in prison would go far to keep these people off the streets, not being paroled straight back onto them (as was a major part in the deaths of at least two of those police officers). However, I do not agree that simply banning handguns is the answer. It does not lower the crime rate, and it is not legal. Washington D.C. banned guns, and the Supreme Court ruled that the ban was illegal. Not only was this ban illegal, but the D.C. violent crime rate actually increased per 100,000 people during the ban. Pennsylvania is actually one of the more difficult states to buy a gun, and anyone who wants to buy one goes through extensive background checking from the Pennsylvania State Police. Criminals aren’t walking into gun shops, obeying every law, and registering their guns. They already have a felony conviction most likely, and they get them from some guy on a street corner; then they use them to commit another crime. The solution here is not to keep law-abiding citizens from getting a Constitutional form of self-defense. The solution is to make mandatory sentences that can’t be paroled away for anyone caught with illegal weapons.

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