By Brian Thiem
With the COVID-19 Pandemic affecting everything in our lives, I worry more than ever about our law enforcement officers. The job was tough enough before this crisis. Crime hasn’t slowed. Add demands to enforce vague and ever-changing emergency orders in communities where half the population opposes the guidelines, and the potential for violence is brewing.
I can only imagine how difficult it is for officers trying to protect and serve sick, frightened, and stressed citizens while worried about becoming infected themselves. Cops, along with other first responders and medical professionals, are becoming sick in record numbers. They fear infecting their families.
Now is the time to support and show kindness to our first responders and medical workers. I pray the officers’ leaders—the sergeants, lieutenants, and above—step up and demonstrate the support and kindness toward the working cops that they so desperately need right now.
As I racked my brain this morning for a topic to write about in this blog, the normal subjects of crime fiction writing and such seemed unimportant. When the “stay at home” orders started coming out across our nation, I thought it was a sort of godsend for my writing—an opportunity to spend more time writing with fewer distractions. However, as most other authors have discovered, I find it is incredibly hard to tap into my creative side when the world outside is in chaos.
The divisive fringes of our nation are more divisive. Social media feels meaner than ever. I thumbed through a file of old memories that I had saved to possibly write about some day. I found the following, written four years ago for an automated email group of active and retired Oakland police officers. The author remembered a day in 2004. I edited it a bit for brevity and anonymity.
Today is my son’s 11th birthday. Over cake and ice cream I was recounting some of the highlights of his early days with him. He had some significant health issues when he was born, and on about the 5th day of his life he was forced to make a trip to UC Davis for one of those life or death type surgeries. I advised my chain of command of my circumstances and my commander released me immediately. I raced home and drove the boy to UC Davis Medical Center. Within hours of my arrival I received two phone calls. The first from my District Sergeant. He was upset because in my haste to depart I had failed to turn in my patrol “stat sheet” for the day. God forbid! Hours later the second call was from my commander. The lieutenant called to check on the status of my son and to tell me, “You take as much time as you need.” His concern for my son’s well-being was genuine. No discussion about work, only questions concerning my family and an advisement that if I needed anything to call him directly. I’m certain he’s forgotten it after all these years, but I never will. Many a young leader today would do well to mimic the leadership qualities of that Lieutenant.
I remember all too well the challenge of getting the job done when I was a police sergeant and lieutenant. Too much crime and insufficient resources to combat it. Bosses constantly on my ass to do more. Politicians screaming whenever we made a perceived mistake.
But what will we be remembered for long after we retire? Will it be for achieving a 70% clearance rate as a homicide investigator? For reducing burglaries in our sector or thwarting a home invasion spree? For instituting the latest community policing program?
No. Citizens remember the officer who treated them with kindness when they were the victim of a rape or robbery. Citizens remember the detective who not only arrested the man that murdered their son but took the time to listen to their stories about their child’s life. And police officers remember those supervisors who cared about them more than they cared about pleasing their superiors or getting the next promotion.
To the working officers during this difficult time—it’s about helping the citizens and your brother and sister officers. To police supervisors and managers—it’s about taking care of your communities and especially taking care of the working cops. And finally, to the officer who had written about that day in 2004, thank you for remembering, and for reminding me that it is our acts of kindness for which we are remembered.