Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Price of Public Service

Another cop murdered just because he is a law enforcement officer. "Because he wore a uniform."

America had better think this one through very carefully. If police officers are in danger just because of who they are, we risk losing their willingness to step into the breach to protect us. That is a frightening thought, one of which I have very recently been reminded.

Cops at work, near my home, after I called 911.

Just this past Friday evening, I was prompted to call 911. I was walking my dog in the sunny late afternoon, around 6:00 PM, as I have thousands of times before without incident. But this time, a strange man started following me. He wasn't merely following me; he was repeatedly bellowing "Satan!" at the top of his lungs.

He crossed to my side of the street and, although I had picked up my pace, he started gaining on me. Although I don't usually carry it, I had my phone with me because I was listening to a podcast. I shut the audio down but kept my earbuds in; I kept moving, and I dialed 911.

As the operator answered, I took a quick look over my shoulder so that I could give a physical description and answer her questions. "We'll send an officer in the area," she finally said. Thankfully, the nut job following me took a left turn down a different street, but I could still hear his blood-curdling shouts of "Satan!"

I stood in place at the location I had given the 911 operator and waited for the patrol car. It arrived within five minutes. I waved to the police officer, and when he pulled next to me I pointed to the street where Satan-man had turned. "Be careful," I said. "Thank you for your service." He smiled as he answered "No problem," and drove off in the direction I had indicated.

I quickly finished my walk via another street in the opposite direction, but when I got to my corner I couldn't resist going the extra half block to peek down the street and see if there was any activity. Sure enough, Satan-man was lying across the hood of the patrol car being handcuffed. I counted a total of three police officers standing around him. Satisfied that "my cop" was okay and had backup, I turned homeward, feeling much safer.

There are a couple of lessons here. The first is to always carry my cell phone when I'm out walking. The larger, more important lesson is that cops don't have the luxury of picking and choosing which calls to take or when to take them; they must respond, immediately, when a member of their community summons them. Any one of those answered calls could mean danger, injury, disability, or death to an officer. Still, despite the heavy potential price, they come for us when we call them.

We hear a lot of talk nowadays about skin color in police incidents. In my opinion, it's a stupid sidebar that avoids the perilous reality of the vital public service our police officers provide. Danger comes in all colors; so does protection from it. Sure, I'm a white woman. Guess what? The nut job following me on Friday was a white man. "My cop," as I call the police officer who initially responded to my call, was a black man. When I saw the handcuffs on screaming Satan-man, I thanked God my cop was safe.