It has often been said that being a police officer is like having a ringside seat on the entire spectrum of the human condition. When I appear at neighborhood forums or recruits ask you to talk about calls we've been on, you never have to embellish or make stuff up. . .life is truer than fiction! While stories of "shots fired," SWAT incidents, or tracking a "high profile" criminal case may be the sort of thing that we have been conditioned to expect from media coverage (and why I continue to decline offers to have some cop shows "shadow" MPD), these episodic events do not have the same shelf life as do some of the more unsettling incidents that never see the light of day for purposes of "sweep weeks," ratings, or boosting circulation. I am referring to the daily grind of providing service(s) to constituents who are struggling, really struggling, just to make it through another day or facing another trauma-inducing moment.
When exposed to the fragility of individuals at their most desperate hour, what is the immediate challenge to our officers? To embrace their role as guardians and respond to calls of "desolation" (pain, sadness, anger, abuse, addiction, and chaos) with "consolation." No small feat. But in spite of all odds, our cops still amaze by rising to the occasion! They seek no accolades for a vocation that often "rewards" nobility with graphic, haunting images of despair and echoes from critics pronouncing what the police "could have done or should have done" differently. Ah yes. . .the wisdom of the Monday morning quarterbacks!
Sometimes, I'm inclined to wonder if our people can continue to dig deep in pursuit of our sacred mission: protecting and defending the vulnerable, voiceless, and invisible souls living in our midst. The "green" folder provides just the elixir I need to give me a booster shot of validation; knowing that our people remain both resilient and resolved!
Affectionately, the "green" folder (exactly as described) is my last order of business on most days. My administrative assistant gathers all of the compliments that have come to our attention through correspondence, phone calls, walk-in's, emails, and our web site. While the police response in these various settings may never make an episode of "COPS," it is just the sort of policing that makes this Department special. So for this blog (and in periodic installments to come), I want to share some stories that will warm your heart and gives hope to the notion that one officer can make a difference!
The first of the three stories I will share occurred at a major box store a few weeks ago. An officer was sent to the store to handle a "disturbance" call. Apparently a woman was upset and getting increasingly animated and agitated because she could not return an item that a friend had purchased errantly on her behalf. When the return was not authorized, the woman became distraught that she would be unable to purchase milk needed for her child(ren). The woman also explained that she had spent four hours on foot and on the bus to get to the store and now she had reached a tipping point, resulting in a very public and frustrated outburst. One of our officers arrived, immediately developed a rapport with the woman and then subsequently reached into her own pocket and purchased two gallons of milk for this mother. The officer then assured our subject/mother that her transportation issue(s) would be handled and the officer then provided a ride home, personally. The manager of the store was pleased that this incident did not have to be formally resolved (i.e., ticket and/or arrest) and the tears of frustration had turned to tears of joy. Couldn't have asked for a better resolution!
The second incident was a call where a man requested the police come to his home. Upon arrival officers determined that the caller was upset that both his phone and televisions were not working properly. Dispatch had further advised that this man had indicated his wife was present but she was sleeping and he did not want her disturbed. At first blush, this is certainly NOT the kind of call that would warrant the police. But the officers did not have an immediate call in queue, and observed that the man's affect was consistent with manifestations of dementia or possibly Alzheimer's. While one officer chatted with our caller, the other officer diagnosed a satellite problem. The officer moved furniture around, climbed on her hands and knees to get at the components, and even changed all the batteries in the various remotes. Voila! Back in business again! Before leaving, this man's wife woke up and spoke with our officers. . .turns out this couple have been together since they were in the 8th grade (now 83, this reflects 70 years of life together!)! As they were preparing to leave, the wife spoke about how hard it is to watch someone you love deteriorate. . .particularly since this was once a man who could do anything. Alas, this man's struggles with Parkinson's presents challenges on a daily basis. When I read about this account, I had to say a prayer of thanksgiving for officers who viewed servicing this call as an honor and a privilege.
My last story originated, from all places, a complaint that came in and was assigned to Professional Standards (aka: Internal Affairs). Each Monday I meet with our Lieutenant and Sergeant assigned to this unit and go over the status of pending matters as well as "new" complaints. This particular complaint alleged that an officer was seen using an official vehicle (a marked squad) to take his kids out for dinner. We opened a case and assigned it to a fact finding stage. As it turns out, MPD was sent to an address involving a man yelling and banging on the complainant's door. Upon arrival, the officers could not calm him down, the man persisted in erratic behavior, and was ultimately placed under arrest (disorderly conduct). Given the fact that one of the officer's recalled the man screaming about getting back to his children, this same officer decided to do some follow-up. The officer located an address and went to check on whether there were children at this location and conduct what we refer to as a "welfare" check. When the officer arrived, he saw two children locked out of the house (ages 5 and 7) and their mother did not respond to repeated knocks on the door.
Keys were obtained from management to check the welfare of the mother. Mom was not inside and was eventually located elsewhere, evaluated, and conveyed to detox. The officer now had to notify child protective services to secure a temporary placement for the two kids. This can take quite a bit of time and eventually someone driving from Milwaukee would accept responsibility for the kids. But it was getting late and the officer, a dad with kids himself, knew full well that the children on this call were hungry. So, as you probably surmised, the officer loaded the kids into his squad, drove them to a fast food restaurant, and bought them dinner! Give me "complaints" like this all day!
The foregoing is just a couple of the "wins" that I am privy to every day. Decided it is high time I "shared" with others! :)