Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brothers in Arms

"Who was wrong, and who was right? It didn't matter in the thick of the fight."*

The man was clearly having a mental health episode.

Denver Police HomeOne of our motor officers, a big guy with many years of experience, stopped at what looked like a motorist assist. The driver did not believe he was a police officer. Two Denver officers - a guy with a '93 badge number and a thirty-ish woman - arrived, because the guy had been on the phone to their dispatch alleging a crime in their city. The driver didn't think they were cops, either. The fight was on, and the three officers cuffed the guy up and loaded him into a Denver car. Then I showed up.

Friday was beautiful; 60s, sunny with just the mildest breeze.Cycling weather. I wore a blue uniform polo top (a "jersey" to bike riders), cargo cycling pants and arm warmers. I'm the one he thought was the police officer. Plainly, we needed to get this guy to a hospital.

I called for a caged car. We chatted while we waited. That's what cops do. The topic? Our loss last year, the duty death that took Jim Davies' life. Not a perfunctory "How ya doin'" kind of chat, but one that was sincere, heartfelt. We weren't Denver or Lakewood. We weren't male or female, old, young.... We were cops. A good man had died and good people wanted to know how we were healing, how his friends and family were coping.

Denver has had its share of tragedy, with the loss of Officer Celena Hollis last year (One Hundred Red Bows). When we expressed our sadness at her death the conversation moved back to Jim. "Really, I can speak for all of us," the male officer said. "We are right there with you. We felt your loss very deeply."

The law enforcement profession can be one giant shit sandwich, sometimes. It wears people down, burns them out. Most of us who have enjoyed long careers can remember the times it sucked to be us, the moments (or long stretches) when we'd have done any other job in the world, wanted to be anywhere else but wearing blue, carrying a gun and trying to fix things that will always stay broken.

Then, two very kind Denver Police officers remember an especially good man. I wouldn't trade that moment for anything.

*"Goodnight Saigon, The Nylon Curtain, Billy Joel, 1982.

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