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San Antonio officers explain why they wear the badge, despite danger and public scrutiny

 SAN ANTONIO - Nationwide calls for police reform are placing a microscope on a career choice long considered noble.

All while experts say recent protests and public scrutiny may be fueling a rise in mental health issues among officers.

San Antonio Police Department Badge With Member

We went behind the badge with members of the San Antonio Police Department.

Tear gas and rubber bullets versus bricks and bottles.

Tension over racial injustice often erupting in flames.

For uniformed officers on the frontlines of protests, the job they were once praised for has in some cases, led to persecution.

"It saddens me that it's like this," said San Antonio police officer Shanus Bennett. "It's hard being on both sides.”

Experts say policing can be more challenging for Black and Hispanic police officers who struggle internally to separate their alliance with their racial identity from the duties of their job.

"Being a Black female and being an officer, it's kind of a tug of war a little bit," Bennett said.

Her recent run in with protestors was caught on camera.

She was called a sellout.

A trader.

"When those protestors did see my black face, I was very much disrespected and called every name in the book," Bennett recounted. “It was like a slap in the face, it really was. I'm not going to lie."

When asked about the current climate and mistrust of police, officer Matthew Bernal says he works to restore the community's faith in police by positive interactions.

"It makes me want to try harder," Bernal said. “It makes me want to show them why I joined and the only way to do that is through action."

By all accounts officers on patrol have it tough.

The wrong move could cost at the very least cost them their career and pension or their life.

New research shows about a quarter of officers with the Dallas Police Department report past or present mental health problems like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

"I rely a lot on my faith and family," Bernal said.

We caught up with both veteran officers with their children.

Arguably their motivation to put on the uniform and badge every day.

Loved ones, who in the face of nationwide protests, have real reason to be concerned that they might not make it home.

"Be careful Mijo on the way out, my mom calls me and my wife, my kids they know dad be careful, because they do know we go into hostile, volatile situations sometimes and we try to deescalate the best we can," Bernal explained.

Bennett says her teenage daughter was worried when this video of her went viral.

"They were saying things to me and here's my daughter, watching, and she felt like wow is my mom in danger," Bennett recounted.

Despite the concern of family members, mounting pressure, and danger on the job, it's a career choice these dedicated officers say they wouldn't change.

Bennett said, "If it were easy, everybody would do it, and this is not easy."

"You can't wait to get back out there on the streets and do what you do best, what you were taught to do, which was help people," Bernal said.

"We've been put on this earth to do this job, I know I have," Bennett said.

SAPD has a team of psychologists and mental health clinicians on staff to assist officers and their families.

The department also has an active peer support program with officers trained in crisis communication.


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