An appreciation of law enforcement

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

A number of years ago one of my daughters had car trouble in front of a convenience store. It was a convenience store I’d driven past hundreds of times. I drove over and we waited for the tow truck. I was struck by how unsafe it felt, watching the people who came and went, and watching them sizing us up. I realized that by becoming vulnerable in front of this very familiar landmark, we had somehow stepped into a “parallel universe.” A definitely uncomfortable one.

I had the same type of feeling after having served on a grand jury earlier this year. A number of the cases we reviewed involved places I was very familiar with — but now I was seeing them in a very different light. They were no longer just happy-go-lucky places I had been — now they were also places where something dangerous or troubling had happened. Just two weeks of grand jury duty has permanently changed how I look at those places.

I have come to realize that what I experienced in those two weeks is just a regular shift for anyone working in law enforcement. On a daily basis, police deal with the worst people — or regular people at their worst. They don’t just have two weeks of hearing about incidents, or a single incident that colors their world. For law enforcement, they have those kinds of experiences every day. They don’t just get rare glimpses into the “parallel universe,” they have to live in it.

And then they have to go home and be regular husbands and wives, dads and moms, neighbors and little league coaches. They have to be around people all the time who have no concept of the “parallel universe.”  It has to be incredibly isolating.

On top of that isolation, they have to deal with the stress and very real danger of everything they do. Every car they approach. Every door they knock on. They can’t even let down their guard when they’re eating. And then there’s the media and all the armchair quarterbacks to second guess everything they do.

The Curry County sheriff was recently interviewed in The Oregonian. He said “My deputies see the worst that mankind has to offer, but they still run to the calls, they still knock on the front doors in the middle of the night to tell parents their child has died.  They still investigate traffic accidents and homicides. They see human bodies in conditions that no person should have to see. And they serve our communities with pride and honor, and commitment. Most all of, deputies do this because of their commitment to the communities in which they live and raise their families.”

It reminded me of another one of my rare glimpses into that “parallel universe.” My wife and I were helping a girl many years ago who was being abused. She sat in our kitchen and poured her heart out to a child services worker and a police officer. It was heart breaking, horrifying stuff. It was very hard to hear. I realized later that that horrific afternoon and life altering experience for my wife and me was just another hour in the shift of the child services worker and the police officer.

I am so grateful for all the men and women who put on the uniform every day and for ALL of the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

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