I found this book while browsing my local library’s audiobook app and thought the blurb sounded interesting, I mean, how boring could a book be if he stars in his own TV show? Detective Lieutenant Joe Kenda narrates his own book in a very deadpan, matter-of-fact manner, sharing his own thoughts while at various crime scenes throughout this career. You can tell he is a very dedicated person who has hardened after years in law enforcement, investigating child abuse cases, murders, and all kinds of violence due to drugs, alcohol, and mental health issues. He is at the front lines, witnessing the devastation and chaos, the blood and the bodies, broken families and grieving ones. I admire and respect people in law enforcement– there is no way I could bear to see what they do and be strong enough to compartmentalize it in order to lead a somewhat normal life.
One thing that struck me with Kenda’s book is how little experience/education he has in trauma-informed language and looking into the systemic reasons for violence and abuse. Trauma is known to be transgenerational, meaning if someone was abused as a child, they are likely to abuse their own children. Kenda frequently says he wants to do to the abuser and the abuser has done to the victim, and while I understand that may be the gut reaction, it is critical to address why violence occurs in the first place. Are there mental health problems that run in the family? Is there high levels of toxic stress in the family? Are finances unstable? Do they have access to healthcare? Food? Stable housing? All of the instability in people’s lives contribute to drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence rates and crime in general. To merely arrest people and throw them in jail is not stopping the cycle of violence. It can actually be extremely traumatic for children to have incarcerated family members– it is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). Other ACEs include physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and divorce. If Kenda had known about trauma-informed language and looked at violence from a public health perspective, he may have had a positive impact by helping to actually break the cycle of trauma. If he worked closer with social services and service providers, maybe things could have been different. Violence is preventable; by strengthening economic supports around parents and shifting the narrative away from “it’s a problem with the individual” to it’s a transgenerational problem, we can stop abuse before it happens.