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Sneed: Tough time to be a cop

It’s a tough time to be a cop.

Mistrust over how young African-American men are handled by police officers is now fueling a national dialogue.

Good. Needed.

Gunfire as common as sparrows in neighborhoods on the South Side and the West Side is now a daily headline.

Shocking. Horrible.

But is the cop who takes the oath to serve and protect — and follows through — getting lost in all this violence?

A few years ago, I wrote a column about police officers and the evil, degradation and horror they often witness.

It occurred to me then that police officers begin to die the day they take the job.

No human being should have to see what a cop sees when he walks in on scenes choreographed in hell.

“What they see and smell and touch and taste, no human being should have to endure,” a Chicago Police Department chaplain told me.

• To watch someone shoot and kill a 3-day-old baby.

• To see an infant microwaved in an oven by a crackhead.

• To walk into a house where a 92-year-old woman has been confined to bed for seven years in feces, her toenails seven inches long.

• To witness the physical and emotional damage done to children used for sex by drug addicts.

• To stand over the body of a 5-year-old girl accidentally shot by a gang-banger while riding her Big Wheel down an alley.

Then, there’s the internal stuff: struggling for a fair and just system of testing and promotion.

And the feeling that the city is basically anti-police.

“I’ve watched my husband’s heart turn to stone over the past 30 years,” a cop’s wife said.

Police officers are good at compartmentalizing. Keeping all the corruption and depravity and hideousness in a watertight compartment.

One can’t be exposed eight hours a day without that having an effect. I’ve often wondered how they keep their sanity.

“Cops live in a world of intense ambiguity eight hours a day,” a police source said.

“Nothing is real, and nothing is sacred. It’s like making a decision based on what one sees in a distorted funhouse mirror.

“It’s like going to work in a minefield every day.

“Many feel half the mines are planted by the enemy, while the other half are planted at work.”

It’s a tough time to be a cop.

“The devil walks this earth like a natural man,” a female victim of a crime once told a friend of mine.

Imagine living in that minefield every day.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Joan Collins, 82; Drew Carey, 57; and Jewel, 41 . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Bob Dylan, 74; Patti LaBelle, 71; and Tommy Chong, 77.