Friday, April 15, 2011

To Serve and Protect

According to the Concerns Of Police Survivors website:  "Each year, between 140 and 160 officers are killed in the line of duty."  As of the writing of this post, there have been 58 line-of-duty officer deaths so far this year.  We are currently on day 115, so if we do the math we see that on average an officer has been killed every two days so far this year.

Can you imagine going to your job every single day, not knowing if it is going to be you next on that list?

There are so many people who bad-mouth the cops.  They see a news report of an officer injured or killed and they celebrate.  Maybe they even participate in the violent protests against officers. 

A saw a video on Facebook of three officers chasing down a crazy fan that was interrupting a soccer game.  The video shows the officers tackling the man and then fighting with him.  Shortly thereafter, hundreds of spectators descend on the officers, attacking them.  The comments that were made in regards to this video sickened me.  People saying the officers got what they deserved. 

Really?  Three officers doing their job, taking care of the crazed fan who chose to fight them and resist arrest...they really deserved to be attacked by hundreds of people all at once?  Yeah, that sounds fair.

People are so quick to complain about the police.  I am fully aware that cops are human.  All humans make poor choices from time to time...some more frequently than others.  I also believe that those in authority should be held to a higher standard.  However, to make blanket judgments regarding an entire profession is ludicrous.  Are all officers brutal and over-the-top?  No.  Are all officers crooked?  No.  Most actually are not.  Unfortunately, as our society loves to gawk at the negative rather than applaud the positive, all that is brought to our attention are the "bad apples". 

And even then, when we look at the various videos out there that show us the "police brutality", we are watching one short clip from a silent film!  Can you really determine the entire story from such little information? 

How about you put yourself in their shoes:  You have to fight for your life on a daily basis.  You frequently encounter people who hate you and want to seriously harm you and/or kill you.  And you never know at the onset if this particular person approaching you belongs in that category or not.  You always have to be on your guard.  You cannot assume that the person you are contacting is a rational, kind human being who just wants to live in a peaceful society.  Because as soon as you let your guard down, you could lose your life.  When others are running away from the gunshots and the fights, you run towards them.  You work long hours, dealing with people on the worst days of their lives.  You are constantly using yourself as a shield to protect others from danger.  You are regularly making split-second life-and-death decisions.  You rarely have a day that is not utterly draining physically, mentally and emotionally.  You see things that you wish you could erase from your memory:  the young family that was plowed down in a hit-and-run, the woman who was brutally raped and left to die, the man murdered and stuffed in a barrel, the mother sobbing uncontrollably at the news that her son who just graduated college and had a promising future ahead of him died in a tragic accident...just to name a few. 

Does this really sound like a job you would want?  Most of us would say absolutely not.  And yet there are so many people who are quick to criticize the men and women who do willingly take on this job. 

Thousands of men and women get up each and every morning, noon and night to face yet another shift full of catastrophic events.  Nobody calls the cops to celebrate a fantastic day in their lives!  They call when their world is falling apart and exploding all around them, and they expect the officers to come take care of the situation, then complain that the officers did just that.

What does your average work-day look like?  What is your job?  What constitutes a bad day at work for you?  I am picturing the work-safety signs that are found in most factory-type settings such as this one:

Now imagine having this poster in your workplace...and the number never gets above 2...and that's just for the fatal accidents.

I know some may feel that I am being a bit dramatic.  I wish it were only that.  Unfortunately, I have sat through numerous police officer funerals.  I have witnessed the pain and sorrow and devastation and shock.  I have also seen the honor and bravery and respect shown to those officers by their brothers and sisters in blue.  I have sat through those funerals full of the knowledge that I could be the one in the front row tomorrow.  I have dealt with the gripping fear that comes from that realization.  And it causes me to get very angry when I hear people spewing hatred towards officers.

These officers are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, best friends.  When you celebrate an officer being beaten, shot or killed you are celebrating a child losing her father, a wife losing her soul-mate, a father losing his son.  That sickens me.

Four years ago, I sat next to my childhood best friend as she received the news of her husband's death.  I spent every moment with her that week as she faced her new reality of being a widow at 30.  I watched her twin daughters' 3 year old faces as they tried to comprehend the fact that Daddy was never coming home.  My heart physically ached as I watched the officer hand her the folded flag that had been draped over her husband's casket during the funeral.  So many tears shed.  That week is forever burned into my memory.  How painful it was to watch my dear friend go through that!  Every wife's worst nightmare.  Emotions I cannot even begin to describe.

So yes, I get a little worked up when people bash cops.  I have seen it during large-scale protests here.  Hundreds of people who want to kill my husband just because of the uniform he wears.  Many others who would stand by watching and not feel the least bit sad.  And that angers me. 

I want my husband to come home...each and every day.  I want us to grow old together and live to see our great-grandkids.  I pray that we get to.  But I am also painfully aware of the other possibility. 

For my husband, the risk comes with the job.  He knew what he was signing up for.  For me, the risk comes with the man.  I knew what I was getting as well. 

It is truly a noble deed to die serving and protecting others.  And I honor that fully.  But, it does get a little personal when others are wishing harm and death upon your loved one just because he is doing his job defending their rights.

So, please, next time you see an officer or hear the sirens, take a minute to pray that God would protect them and let them go home to their family unscathed.

On behalf of all the wives and families out there, I thank you.

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