We need to treat our people better

_DSC8694How many of us know someone who was injured on-duty and was off of work for an extended period of time. Now, think of how many times you called that person or sent them a text message to see how they were doing? Probably not often or at all. Over the years I’ve been guilty of not making that call also.

Recently I got to thinking about this and I wondered why we don’t call our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform when they get hurt. I’m sure a buddy calls, but what about the rest of us?

No one wants to be injured and away from work, but it happens to cops and firefighters all of the time. More often than not, they sit at home frustrated with their injury, works comp and the city. They do all of this alone with no word from their chief, immediate supervisor or fellow officers. It’s as if they were forgotten by everyone.

The deserve better and we need to make an effort to show them they matter when they’re injured. Anything can happen on the street, which means you could be the next cop or firefighter injured while doing the job you love.

Just something to think about.

Say A Prayer For Our Fallen Officers

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It is Christmas night and all of the chaos is over. All of the presents have been handed out and all of the relatives have gone home. Now there is peace. 365 more days and we get to do it all over again.

Christmas is about tradition. We all have our Christmas routines that we follow every year. Having brunch at my grandparent’s house is one of my Christmas traditions. We have been going there since I was in elementary school.

Today, I told my daughter we have been doing brunch since I was her age. She gave me a shocked look and said, “Wow.” I guess that means I’m getting old in her eyes.

My wife and I started our own Christmas tradition by accident. Many years ago it was dinner time and we were getting hungry. My wife suggested we go to a restaurant.

You don’t have many options on Christmas night, but we were lucky enough to find an El Torito restaurant that was still open. We walked in and were surprised to see that it was packed. I guess everyone else had the same idea too.

Ever since that night we make sure to have our Christmas dinner at El Torito.

I hope one day my kids will tell the story about how mom and dad used to drag them to a Mexican restaurant on Christmas night. Who knows, maybe they’ll keep the tradition alive.

I’m lucky to still have those traditions after all these years, but there are others who were not so lucky.

I’m talking about those killed in the line of duty this year.

There is one important thing to remember at this time of the year. We have to make sure we don’t forget about those law enforcement families who lost loved ones in 2014.

There were over one hundred police families who lost someone to an on-duty death this year. Some were killed in traffic collisions. Some were killed by suspects. Either way, their deaths left broken hearts. The on-duty death of an officer leaves a hole in all of us.

Their deaths left family traditions that will never be the same again.

These officers gave the ultimate sacrifice and we need to keep their memory alive. More than ever, it’s important to support those who wear the badge and protect us.

Say a prayer for those fallen officers and their families. We owe that to our brothers and sisters, who died while on-duty.

As the saying goes, “Blue Lives Matter.”

Be safe

A Christmas Trip to Payless

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One night, I responded to a collision involving two cars. One car made a left turn in front of another and they crashed at the driveway of the Goodwill store. The male who made the left turn was at fault and had a suspended license. I impounded his vehicle and took the report. It was a week before Christmas, about six or seven years ago.

The male told me he was going to the Goodwill store to buy shoes for his three kids when he crashed. From our conversation I found out he was no stranger to spending time in custody. He was very respectful and never asked for a chance about the car.

His three kids were passengers in the car at the time. I can’t remember their exact ages, but they were between ten and six years old. The youngest was a girl. My children were about the same age at the time.

I compared the Christmas my children were about to have to these three young passengers. My children’s lives were of comfort. These other children lived in a world where their father was in and out of jail. I knew they probably would never have a Christmas like my kids.

The next day I spoke to my wife and told her about the children. We agreed we were going to buy them shoes for Christmas.

A few days later, I went to the driver’s apartment after going 10-8. He wasn’t home, but a relative was. I told her the reason I was there and she said she would pass on the message.

A little while later, I spoke with the father on the phone. I told him we wanted to get his children shoes for Christmas. He was very thankful and accepted our offer . The next day I met him at Payless after coming on-duty.

The clerk had a confused look when we walked in. The parents helped their kids with sizes while I waited.

The boys got tennis shoes and the little girl put on black dress shoes. They were not exactly what I was thinking. I had a more practical shoe in mind, but the smile on her face was awesome. When we were done, I paid for the shoes and we walked out together.

The man and his wife thanked me and we parted ways, wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas and be safe.

The Death of a Child

A child’s death is never easy for the first responder, who has to experience it up close and personal. A friend at work related this personal and touching story about her experience at this type of call.

When she was sixteen, her 2-year old brother suddenly passed away. About eight years ago, this officer was working patrol and in her mid-thirties when she and a sergeant were dispatched to a call involving a dead child.

When she arrived on scene, she saw the child’s body in the bedroom and was instantly filled with the painful memory of her brother’s death all those years ago. The agonizing memory was made worse by the child’s family being there, which reminded her of how her mother had felt.

In that instant, the memory flashed into her head of performing CPR on her brother’s lifeless body as she tried to breathe life back into him. The memory of him lying in his coffin also flashed into her head like a bolt of lightning striking into her heart.

The officer had to get out of the house because she needed to separate herself from the situation. Distance was her friend and the only thing that was going to help her at this moment. Distance from the death, pain and grief that this house symbolized to her. She told the sergeant about her brother’s death and that she needed to be alone for a few minutes.

She quickly got out of the house and sat alone in her patrol car as she cried. She had no one to talk to at this painful and personal moment, which had just flooded back into her mind after seeing the dead child.

After a few minutes she composed herself and was ready to go back in. I asked her, “What did you do?” She replied, “I went back in. I had to handle the call.”

She went back into that house, which had been an emotional trigger and did what we’re supposed do. That was to be strong when others needed us to be.

All first responders have gone through similar emotions at one time or another while at work. Our job is not to stand by. Ours is to be strong, despite the tragedies we have experienced at work or in our personal lives.

This is what makes the first responders special. We are still doing the job that has to be done even though our emotions might be fighting an inner battle.

Stay safe

The Drowning

 

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The other night I was parked in the rear alley of the police department when I heard dispatch broadcast a medical aid call over the radio reference a possible drowning. At first, I wasn’t sure where the address was, but a quick check of the computer showed it wasn’t far from where I was. I was on the phone at the time and told my wife I’d call her right back. I then drove off with lights and sirens.

As I drove off, I had prepared myself for a positive ending. I didn’t expect anything else because the last drowning call I had involved a child, who had lived. I raced to the address and arrived as I saw a woman waving her arms at me in the street. I exited my car as she pointed to the house and said, “He’s in the back.” I ran into the house and went straight to the backyard where I saw him on the concrete pool deck with people around him. He was a 16 year old. The entire backyard was dark, even the pool didn’t have a light on.

I hurried to his side, expecting him to be breathing because people shouldn’t die on you like this. Not on me like this. We’re the good guys and we’re supposed to win.

The look on his face told me a different story than I expected. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. I touched his chest and was shocked by the sliminess that I felt. The chest did not rise, nor did I feel a heartbeat.

I then started giving chest compressions as I waited for the fire department to arrive. As I pushed down on his chest, I kept expecting to the kid to wake up, cough or do something. I hadn’t prepared for death tonight. It seemed to take forever for help to arrive, but it was probably a minute before another cop went on scene. I touched the kid’s neck to check for a pulse and felt the same sliminess that had been on his chest. I wanted to feel a pulse so bad that probably I imagined one was there as I asked the other officer, “Do you feel a pulse?” He replied, “No.” Crap!

I kept pushing down as I did the compressions, still waiting for a positive outcome. The compressions finally stopped when the paramedics arrived and took over. It had been dark the entire time and I didn’t know what the sliminess feeling had been on his chest. It wasn’t until after the firefighters had used their flashlight that I knew it was vomit.

As the firefighters started working on the kid, I walked over to someone and asked where the bathroom was so I could wash my hands. I washed them twice. Once for the slimy vomit on my hands and probably the second time, to wash the death off of them.

I walked back outside and watched as the firefighters continued CPR. I wondered if I had done enough. I wonder if my chest compressions had been deep enough. If I had done all I could. I watched each chest compression that was done by the paramedic and I compared it to how I had done it.

I spoke to a witness and took his statement before leaving. I stood out front with two other officers as we talked about the call. Before I left, I learned that the kid had been pronounced dead at the hospital.

I got into my car and drove to Starbucks for a drink. As I drove away, I could still see the kid’s face in the dark as I gave him the chest compressions. The first thing I thought was, “I don’t want to see that when I go to bed.” Every cop knows what I mean because they have all seen the faces of dead people when they have closed their eyes at night.

As I stood inside Starbucks, I was in a funk. I looked around at the people inside as they went about their lives without a care in the world. None of them knew I had just kneeled beside a dead kid, with vomit on my hands, as I tried to save his life. None knew I had a moment of self doubt, wondering if I had done everything I could.

I took the drink and walked back to my car, stared at my computer screen and pushed the 10-8 button, putting myself back into service. Part of me felt weird when I pushed the 10-8 button because now it was time to move on to the next call, which was dispatched to me within minutes. Death is part of the job, but this felt different tonight. I felt bad for the family, who would soon learn the news of a child who would never come home. As a father, I could never imagine that, but the phone call would soon come to those poor people.

I handled two more calls after that and was still in the funk. At each call, I dealt with people who had no idea what I had just seen and done. I completed the calls and then went back to the traffic office to do paperwork. Within a few hours, I felt better because I had been busy with stuff that needed to be finished.

As I walked out to go home, the watch commander stopped me and asked about the drowning call. We talked about it for at least a half an hour. I told her how the call had come out and what I had done at the scene and how I had felt afterward. She was very comforting and told me a story about how she and another officer had saved a woman’s life with CPR, but who died three months later. She also told me how she had been invited to the funeral by the family, who had been so grateful to them for what they had done.

She told me some details about the call that I did not know about, which had been learned after I had left the scene. I walked out of the building feeling rejuvenated and feeling better. My thirty minute drive home had no feelings of self doubt any more as I listened to George Lopez on a comedy station. I walked in the house grateful to see my family safe. I climbed into bed and played a game on my phone for a few minutes to relax. Thankfully, the kid’s face did not appear when I exhaustedly closed my eyes at 5:30AM.

I really think talking with the WC before I left helped me feel better. Her comforting words probably chased away the image of the kid’s face, that surely would’ve been there when I closed my eyes for bed, had she not caught me in the hallway before I left.

The next night I spoke to friends at work about the call and I felt better inside. I even got an email from a lieutenant to call him. We had only spoken on calls or during training and we had never had a phone conversation before.

I called him up and he told me about a call he had twenty years ago. He said, “I once pulled a kid out of a pool.” He told me a very personal story about how the child had died despite his efforts to save him with CPR. He told me about the self doubts he had immediately after the call and the feelings I had afterward were normal. He told me about how he had felt at the scene when the sergeant basically told him to suck it up and how he went 10-8 right after that call. He told me how he felt all these years since that drowning and to talk about it with other officers to help get it out of my system.

Another friend told me about a fatal they had driven up on while still in training. Their description of what they had seen was very vivid, despite it happening 19 years ago. It was nice to see other people at work with similar stories and how they felt afterward.

And finally, my role on this drowning call was best described to me by another friend at work. In the past, my role at fatal collisions had been as an observer. On the night of the drowning, I had been a participant and that’s what made it different. Bingo!

With the help of my peers, I am happy to say I have not seen the kid’s face at night, nor have I had a dream about it. This incident has made me wonder how many of my co-workers have had similar incidents and feelings, which were just bottled up inside?

It was a good lesson after all these years to talk about it with your peers because they have all been through it,