I vividly remember the first time my dad showed up to school in uniform...boy, was I proud!
My father hasn't always been in law enforcement. In fact, according to the book he's yet to write, he was on the other side of the law for many years. He was a hellion and a rebel but the guy that would lay down his life for someone he loved, even if it meant a short stint in Andy Griffith's jail cell in the process. My dad grew up quickly. My grandfather, a former officer himself, got promoted in the 60's and worked for the state most of my father's childhood, so he dubbed himself the "man of the house" and made it his duty to take care of his mom and little brother. He took some rocky roads and narrow paths, but after finding that working at the plant like most of my family members wasn't for him, he found his calling.
The 90's began with my dad taking what would become known to us as, "That Leap of Faith" and entering and graduating the police academy. That’s when he took on the role of not only our family's protector, but one of the people, as well. It was early 1991. I don't remember much of the early days. I was tiny. My first real memory of my dad and his occupation is a tough one to think about. Within the first months of service, a gentleman named Rodney King was severely beaten in Los Angeles County, CA. The riots that followed were not just in California, they took place all over the United States, and even right here in Mobile, AL. My first memory of my dad as a police officer was through the eyes of my mother as she watched the local news affiliate waiting to see her husband in any camera shot, or more realistically, waiting for the phone to ring and hear his voice saying he was ok. My mother, the rock of our family, was terrified. I would later find out that the mother of the girl who would become my best friend in the entire world some years later, was on duty and by his side that night. She’s now not only one of my heroes but a guardian angel. My second mom, Vick.
As a child I was enthusiastically open about what my dad did for a living. I LOVED when he showed up at school and all of my friends ran up to hug him. He even took time out of his normal job to give Drug Awareness talks and seminars at local schools and churches, and helped women with addiction battles get clean and on their feet. I know this because I loved being his sidekick anytime duty called. We were Batman and Robin. I (until college) saw myself following his footsteps and becoming a profiler. I wanted to be just like him, but it was the last thing he wanted for me. He never wanted to think about me in the danger he had been involved in throughout his career. As a parent now, I understand. To this day, he remains one of the most decorated officers in this humble city of ours and has too many stories from working around the world with many teammates and agencies that "I'll hear about someday". Can you tell I'm a little proud?
Things are different now. I'm still proud. Maybe even more so now than ever. But I'm scared. Parking a police vehicle in front of a home isn't necessarily the safest feeling anymore. Next time you think to call a police officer a "pig" or dub them the villain of the story, take a step back first and breathe, and then refer to this post if you must.
Remember first that one season when I was 10, instead of catching all of my softball games, he made 3 because he got called to help. Some of those calls could've been you or your family. HE ALWAYS ANSWERS THAT CALL. Instead of going on summer vacations as a family, this man worked as much overtime as possible to afford me the opportunity to get an incredible education and travel doing what I loved, playing in a highly competitive softball league. He and my mother both knew we would never be millionaires, but he was doing what he loved, and I feel I am doing and teaching my daughter the same thing today because of his influence.
Remember secondly that just like police, there are bad doctors, bad lawyers, bad politicians and bad journalists. In any every profession you can think of there is probably someone who is tainting it's name. You don't look at all doctors as trash or evil because some of them are dirty and backwards. Nor do you judge or threaten their families based on the decisions they made.
And last but certainly not least, think of the families. When an officer gets killed we immediately run to comfort their spouse. We line highways during funeral processions and go to benefits after their death. We should. But what about the families living the day to day? What about the wives watching a local broadcast wondering if their spouse will come home from the chaos, or ever again (shout out to my mom who is a TOTAL BADASS)? What about the teenager that just wants her dad to walk her down the aisle someday but someone could take that opportunity from her because he wore a certain uniform? What about the grandchild of an officer that will grow up wanting to protect others every single day like his Grandma but will quickly develop trust issues in this society because the people they think are protecting them are by their peers and mass media being called "bad guys"?
It's 2019. I am blessed to have grown up in a family of law enforcement. I'm blessed to still have my dad, but I know tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow he will wake up and don a uniform. He will answer your call regardless of your sex/age/profession/race/ethnicity/religion/sexual orientation /etc. He will hold children in his arms that need to be comforted and will try with his entire being to make this world better.
Cheers to my classic R&B-singing, bad-dancing, cabinet-building, Notre Dame-loving, Disco Boots-owning, bad joke-telling, gentle, funny, kind, stern, hilarious Pop. You are the best man I've ever known.
Happy National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.