My late grandmother used to say, “There’s good and bad in every race—even the Irish.”
Her point–while not exactly accurate (are butt white Irish descendants such as moi REALLY a race???) was well taken by me.
Over the past several years, my blog, this blog, has ebbed and flowed from the silly to the funny to the sparingly somber. I’ve dabbled in DIY, and now am working full time and as such, haven’t had time to share a lot with you (five) readers who have hung in there.
But I don’t think I can be true to myself and be silent right now.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve watched, mostly silently, as collectively “the police” have been maligned in social media. Mostly by strangers; sometimes by friends. I’m not here to debate what happened in Missouri and New York City. I am not looking for an argument. What I’m looking for is some understanding. Some perspective. I’m looking for someone to acknowledge that the police do a damn difficult job. They make split second decisions. They are real people who have real spouses and real children who want them to come home at night. They are not superheroes. Nor are they villians.
They are not murderers.
I’m not here to sanctify the police. But conversely, my question is, why are so many villifying the police? Why are the police guilty til proven innocent, while law breakers seem to be innocent til proven guilty?
Am I taking this personally? Damn right I am. My late grandfather and late father were with the Boston Police. My brother is a police officer. So, yes. It’s personal.
Every time I see an officer get killed in the line of duty, it’s personal. Today, two New York police officers were executed in cold blood. Their names are Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
Will you remember their names five minutes from now? Five hours from now? Five days from now? Five weeks, months, years from now?
Eight years ago, a police officer was shot in the line of duty in a neighboring community. His name was Michael Briggs. It’s been eight years, but I still remember the story. I remember his name. Where he lived. He was a bike cop. He went to help someone and was ambushed. I remember the accounts that when he left for work that fateful and seemingly routine day 8 years ago, he kissed his boys goodbye and his wife. In interviews I think she said he pecked her on the cheek–I believe she was at the stove, and that life was so busy she merely glanced as he headed out the door and she said she saw the bottoms of his shoes. I’ll never forget that part. I’ve had mornings like that with my husband. The big blur with the kids and the rushing and the routine and the whole nine. But I always expected my husband to come home. And he has. I didn’t marry a police officer. I don’t know that I honestly could have. Could you?
I’m sure Michael Briggs’ wife thought she’d see him at the end of that day. That he’d be there to bring home milk and look at report cards and put bikes together. But someone killed him in cold blood. I wrote the following eight years ago and it was published in the local paper. I think it’s time to republish it. I want people to know….I want people who are plumbers and bankers and engineers to know….there is good and bad in every profession, in every race, even the Irish, even the police.
As my father used to say, “Everyone hates a cop til they need a cop.” The next time you are maligning one, try to imagine needing one. When you call, will they come?
It’s their job. And likely, their calling.
To the editor:
I am deeply saddened by the brutal and senseless murder of Officer Michael Briggs. My heart goes out to his family, both immediate, as well as his family within the police department.
His murder hits home for me, as my father was a Boston Police detective for 36 years and my brother is currently a police sergeant. It is the worst fear of every wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, friend of a police officer that their loved one will be hurt or worse, killed in the line of duty. Before my siblings and I were even born, my father was shot in the line of duty, but lucky for all of us he survived. If not, I would not even be here to write this letter.
The general public does not see what police officers do every day both in plain view and quietly behind the scenes. I think most people don’t give a thought to what the police do. Some people think the police are “out to get them”, or that they just pull people over for speeding—not for safey reasons but just because they can, or they think they ride around town eating doughnuts! What they do is maintain safety in our communities, sometimes putting their own lives in peril to protect the lives of you and me and our loved ones. For all this, they receive a salary that by most people’s estimation would not be nearly enough, and worse, they encounter the obvious disdain of some and the lack of respect and understanding of many.
The average person doesn’t know how much stress an officer brings home after work. These folks are real people with real emotions. They sometimes see the worst of what the human race has to offer. So when an officer investigates a child molestation or a brutal assault or rape or a heinous murder or a hate crime, they carry that with them. They feel for the victims and for the family of the victims they encounter more than most people would ever imagine. The majority of police officers get into this line of work because they genuinely want to help others. They want to prevent terrible crimes from happening, but when they unfortunately do, they take very seriously their responsiblity to apprehend and see that the perpetrators are off the streets so they can’t harm others. Finally, they hope these perpetrators will be appropriately punished by our sometimes all too lenient judicial system.
The police work on holidays, their children’s birthdays, during little league practices, dance recitals and wedding anniversaries. They work in 100 degree heat and on freezing cold days and in the pouring rain when the rest of us are happily hibernating. They are the ones who will make you sigh with relief when they pull up when you’re broken down on a dark road late at night or curse under your breath when you’re pulled over going 80 in a 65—even if they are only trying to save you from hurting yourself or others. They will be the first to arrive if you call in trouble and the last person you will think to thank when crime is down where you live and all is well in your world. They will put their life in jeopardy in an instant to save you, whether you are a doctor or 7-Eleven clerk, whether you are a saint or a sinner, whether they know you or not.
They are people who play Santa at social services Christmas parties, who quietly collect donations and pool their own money to buy toys and food for kids during the holidays who otherwise wouldn’t have anything. They are the ones who try to positively influence kids who might not have any role models in their lives and who are at risk of getting into trouble.
Michael Briggs died doing his job, a job that countless others do every day. I hope that most people will stop and pause and appreciate Michael Briggs for the heroism he displayed not just the day he was shot and killed, but every day he had the courage to show up for his job. The next time you see a police officer, maybe you could pause a minute and thank them for being a professional who does a thankless job, or say a silent prayer that they will be safe another day to see their family..