Monday, March 23, 2009

Indulge Me For A Minute

As many of you know, I used to work for the Oakland Police Department. My time there was marked by some amazing highs, and some frustrating lows. Some day I plan to write a book about what life is really like for a civilian woman working in one of the busiest Special Victim's Units in urban America. While there, I worked with some amazing men and women, and experienced some of the most incredibly rewarding moments of my career. I also saw what really happens in one of the most violent communities in the country.

I'm sure by now you have all heard the news reports about what happened in Oakland this past weekend. Four brave police officers were murdered by a parolee with an outstanding warrant and access to assault weapons.

Every officer's shift starts out the same. They go down to the basement for line-up, where they get the daily news bulletin, learn about what has gone on during the previous shift, and gather to get any new assignments and warrant information. The basement teems with expectation, camraderie, adrenaline, and solemn reflection. I have been a part of these line-ups on days and nights when I would go on ride-alongs or present a workshop to the officers. It was an amazing privilege to be a part of this world. No matter how many times I sat in that basement, I was always moved by the way that they would close their meetings. "Be safe out there" the Lt. would say. Every single night. And everyone would get up, shuffle their things together, and hit the streets.

Two of my close friends are law enforcement officers. I think of how they risk their lives every day to keep us safe. How we take for granted that they will come home each night. One of them is on the SWAT team in the town neighboring Oakland, and could very easily have been in a house like the Oakland officers were this weekend.

The officers that died were someone's father, someone's best friend, someone's son, someone's field training officer, someone's hero.

So why am I writing about this on Max's blog? For a few reasons:

1) It is up to us to teach our children about why police officers are the backbone of our communities. I remember being very small, and hearing from the other kids at school that cops were called "pigs". I practiced that word while my mom was driving us somewhere, and I will never forget being on the bridge over the bay, and my mom responding sharply that "We do NOT say that word in our family". As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure that we raise kids who respect the police. Children who know that they can rely on law enforcement to keep them safe. I could talk for days about what led this convicted felon to kill 4 cops, but doesn't it all come back to parenting? Yes, of course I know about the broken parole system and the jails that don't rehabilitate. I've worked in the archaic social services system. I know that welfare doesn't raise children. I'm aware of the problems with race and class and gang warfare. BUT.....doesn't it REALLY all boil down to how we parent our children? Food for thought.

2) Thank your cops. Model your gratitude in front of your children. Cops often laugh that fire fighters get all the glory, because when fire fighters show up they're saving the day. Cops only show up when someone is in trouble. Buy the cup of coffee for the cop behind you in line. Say thank you when you pass a cop on the street. Bring Girl Scout Cookies to the patrol station in your neighborhood. Point out to your kids when you pass a cop who is helping someone on the side of the road. Remind them that cops take care of us, by taking care of them. Max will grow up knowing that there are people in his life who love him, who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe.

Please keep OPD in your thoughts and prayers this week. I will be saying a silent thank you to the wives and children that they left behind. Their husbands, their fathers, aren't the only ones who have been brave and strong. For these families to send their loved ones out into the night, to keep OUR families safe, is a courage that many of us will never know.

Be safe out there.

1 comment:

Snapped In Sin said...

I almost wrote you an email asking you how you were doing with this. But now I want to send this to everyone I know. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for reminding even me that there should be more appreciation and good modeling of appreciation towards our police officers. This is tragic, and sad. So many articles I have read this week about fearful retribution by "angry cops" has shown me how deep the distrust goes, how long it has been engrained - that there would even be thoughts of "revenge" on innocents by the people who are supposed to protect us. Even I need to remember they are just as glorious as firefighters. Thank you for putting this here to remind us.