Midday, I returned home in my patrol car. This is an odd time to return home, especially working nights. Turns out I had to go in for a court subpoena for a case I was on, which happens every so often. So some jokes go, you get subpoenaed when your report isn’t good enough to speak for itself.
Well, that joke doesn’t apply, because I didn’t write one. Before you spout out the next joke, the reason why I got listed as a witness is because I got “name-dropped” by another officer saying they what they did because “Sarge said so.” Which is fine, as it’s true, but it’s an annoying reason to get called in.
After about an hour and a half, I was notified I wasn’t needed. This means they realized how my involvement wasn’t pertinent, or the perp took a plea deal. Either way was fine by me, so I collected my chips and went home.
When I pulled in, my neighbor across the street walked up. He waved and asked if I had a minute. Of course I did. We shook hands. I hadn’t met this gentlemen, in fact I hadn’t seen him in the last couple months since he and his family moved in. I had met his brother- having waved at him a half dozen times and chatting about something law enforcement-related once.
New brother said he had to tell me something. Ok- shoot. Being a cop, you never know what exactly to expect. So, like most cops usually do in this scenario, I took a breath, raised my eyebrows. I held onto my belt and widened my stance, as if needing to physically brace myself.
Ready for anything, but probably nothing too surprising. Yet, I was surprised. He came over to tell me his brother was dead.
He had been killed in a car crash. Just the other night. I’m sorry, I hadn’t heard… He said his brother and I had talked before so he just wanted to let me know. I said I was so sorry for his loss. He said it was okay and he suggested maybe hadn’t hit him yet. I asked if they needed anything, he said they didn’t. His friend came out, too. We shook hands as well.
I put my Peer Support hat on. I offered what I could. I told him I didn’t have any brothers. But I did have a friend who was in many ways like a brother, who I lost in the line of duty. He looked up into my eyes and nodded understanding. I told him it isn’t something you get over. It’s just something that is. That you take one day at a time. That will change everything hereon.
His eyes said he wanted to hear more. I told him I know that I live my life differently because of loss. We never know when it’s our time. It reminds us to live truly in the moment. It reminds us to be with the people we care about. He agreed with his face and his words.
We shook hands again. I told him to let me know if he needed anything. He said he would. Both men thanked me for my service. Then we went to our respective houses.
He thanked me. Back inside, I almost shook my head, thrown off a bit. Here was a man who lost his own brother, who he was clearly close with. Nothing about our interaction should have been about me. Yet, I was thanked.
I wondered if it was the uniform. This uniform, which lately, has been the target of critics: politicians, the media, celebrities, activists. They have associated with vitriol. With conflict. With brutality and controversy. With fear.
Yet, despite all that noise, this uniform doesn’t signal those themes and images for everyone. I was reminded how many people see a blue uniform and a badge and see a good guy. They see Strength. Protection. Comfort. Hope.
I then thought about how I should be the one thankful for the interaction. Thank you, neighbor. For providing a simple reminder. That we aren’t bad- we aren’t hated.
That we are good guys. We are Strength. Protection. Comfort.