I think the #1 question most of my family and friends have been asking me in the last few days has been:
What was the ride-a-long like?
Probably because I posted a photo of my feet standing on a street corner and they were all wondering why I was standing on a street corner! To which I add, it’s not appropriate or safe for ride-a-longs to go everywhere the officers go. It was for my safety!
I replied with “I need to finish thinking about it and I’ll write it all out”.
Honestly, I was still processing it.
To lay a quick back story, I was a dispatcher for a large agency and a small one. I am trained to take these calls and in the training, I spent a lot of time in the passenger seat of patrol cars learning what they go through, so I could better help the officer’s when I was inside the ‘dungeon’.
Just about every 6 months I would go out, mostly on my own time. And when I met and married my husband I would go out every 4-6 months with him. Those were some of the best dates we ever had, with amazing food eaten in some very dark alleys blacked out while we caught up on reports.
So I am familiar with this line of work. This morning in question I sat across at the lunch table and said, “I’ve got to be honest. I am a little scared going tonight. “
He was shocked and I continued to explain. “The last time I rode-a-long was 5 years ago. Before all this vitriol hatred towards officers and I wonder if you are like the frog in water and just slowly growing used to the hot water. Here I am a fresh frog, I’m a little scared to be thrown into the pot of water.”
He got it. My frozen dispatcher heart had thawed over these years and I was actually scared of what I would see given the recent hatred towards officers in the news.
Yet, I wanted to know how to better help my officer during these challenging times in this career. So, while he gave me the ‘out’ I politely declined and off we went.
Our shift was the evening of a major holiday. So, in a way, it wasn’t a real shift. Most everything was closed! But here is what I learned.
Briefing was a small event, mostly of the Sgt checking in on everyone from a horrible few calls the night before. There was small talk as they checked out vehicles and wrote out their forms. The nightly instructions were given to them as they headed to the streets.
They loaded up their vehicles with their gear, checked all the lights and siren and signed in to all the different computer programs. It’s a process! Then they were off, scattering through the city heading to their beats. Some finished up reports, others snagged the calls they already had waiting, they hit the roads.
The calls started immediately and while the holiday made it not as busy, the calls still came in. It was also freezing, and snowing, so there was that.
Here is what grabbed my heart – The hatred! The out and out hatred that was screamed out at the officers as they were doing their jobs. Literally, not involved citizens are screaming “F*ck the Police” as they drive by. Let me paint this picture, (Since I can’t share the actual real stuff, let’s see if I can paint it in a different way.)
Someone left Ice cream out in their shopping cart as they get into their car and you see them driving away. You waive to them, as you point towards the ice cream in the cart. It’s 90 degree’s outside and it’s going to melt. The driver stops and as you explain to them they forgot their ice cream some complete stranger drives by and scream they “F*cking hate you!”
But knowing they don’t know the real story, you help the person that forgot their ice cream load it up and continue safely on their way. And then it happens again:
You see someone with their coffee cup on the roof of their car. They are getting ready to drive away and you motion to them to let them know they left their coffee cup on their roof. They didn’t realize it, and at first they were upset you were looking at them. You tried to explain to them and they weren’t getting it. Till you reached up and handed them the coffee cup. An awkward smile and an explanation later you are helping them get back on their way… when a not-involved citizen drives bye and yells again, “I f*cking hate you!”
They have no clue what you were doing, or the love for coffee that you have. You dismiss it and head to your next call.
Except this irrational behavior of the hatred for police doesn’t go unnoticed. Yes, It’s the uniform that they are yelling at, but any officer will tell you, there is no such thing as an off duty officer. This has got to be taking its toll on them.
And I wish I could say it was just a few places. Keep in mind I have been riding along for well over 20 years now and this was not what I experienced even 5 years ago. The underlying hatred for officers as they walked up to people that literally called them to respond, struck me hard. The first time I observed it I wrote it off as a stressful event. The second time, holidays are stressful. The entire night had a theme to it and it wasn’t a nice one. By the end of the night I couldn’t make excuses for the citizens any longer.
Through the whole night I never once heard anyone say thank you. I am sure it was because it was cold outside, and a holiday. Yet, all night I heard every single officer that showed up on the calls with us ask how they could help them, if they were ok, and go above and beyond in helping them solve the issues they had. Every single one!
Here’s my final example. Again, I’m not sharing details… but the tone/degree of what they have to deal with:
The caller wants to make Hot Cocoa so they grab a bag of marshmallows. Someone else at the location wants those marshmallows so they grab the bag and lock it in a container. This is something they do often, because they love marshmallows that much! Tensions rise and the caller then calls 911 for help. Yet, when help shows up they proceed to yell at you and treat you as if you are the mean one’s and picking on the caller for showing up when they called you. You attempt to reason with all parties involved but no one will listen. All parties there are set on fighting for their rights for the marshmallows. So you look at the registered owner of the marshmallows and ask if there is another way to get in? There isn’t.
Can we force the box open for you? Someone suggested. And it’s denied.
Let me stop here and say, even though they know they fight over these marshmallows often, it has never dawned on the owner to hide a key somewhere close so they don’t have to bother anyone else. The closest key to the locked box of marshmallows is 30 minutes away!
So you wait.
Can we call for help from the marshmallow makers? Another suggests? And it’s met with a NO. This person actually works for the marshmallow company and knows there is nothing that can be done.
(When I go on Ride-a-longs I hold a very blank look on my face. Always. My internal facial expression was showing a puzzled look. Think of, you called them to help you and yet you are declining all forms of help!)
Suggestions are flying and everything is being met with a hard no.
Till there is a moment of hope when the marshmallow box is unlocked by the one with the key. And one of you slowly makes it so the box can’t get closed again. Except now, the caller and other person are freaking out and screaming and marshmallows are flying and even though they called you for help they are refusing to let you help and are now fighting with you… As you stand there, trying to calm them all down. The marshmallows are being crushed.
R.I.P said Marshmallows.
You might read that and think, how silly to write that. But if you were on the call, that literally is the best way to explain what the officers were going through when they respond to all the calls that night.
Someone calls 911 for an emergency, and then when officers arrive they are met with pure hatred for merely showing up to the location they were called to. By the exact person that called them! It was the theme of the night.
Through-out the entire night I saw officers heading to the calls. Educating themselves on the call they were responding to. Talking with the caller and assessing their concerns. Trying to get enough information where they could find a way to help all the parties involved. They showed care, compassion and a true willingness to help all the involved parties. They offered help and services and they were constantly denied. I was warmed by the compassion they were showing to the citizens.
My heart broke by the pure selfish hatred I was seeing from the other parties and even the non-involved citizens.
To answer my friends who asked: What thoughts did you have? I say this: It was bad. If I was a frog I would say the water is unbearable. Yet, our officers are still holding the line. They are still responding and still trying to help. We as a society are losing our human dignity. Our family structure is crumbling and we are yelling at the rescuers that are trying to offer us ways to save it. Citizens don’t want to listen, they want to blame, and the officers are the easy target. Personal responsibility is a thing of the past. Morality is slipping away. The healthcare system is not working. The judicial system is broken. To quote a dear Law Enforcement friend, “The damn is full of holes and we are just using our fingers to plug the leaks… but we are running out of fingers and the holes keep coming”. You might not relate to this because you don’t hate police, but you are still a part of this society. It is still your issue.
To my fellow LEOW’s: Our Officers need us way more now than ever before. Be the bright light in their day. Find ways to create a world of outside activities that bring joy and laughter into the home. Now, more than ever do we need to find ways to build a healthy loving community around them. And build up your support system around you. The ride is a bumpy one, you are going to need the help.
I am praying for you all.