Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh’s Messenger column of January 20, entitled “Proud of our law enforcement,” struck a chord with me. I agree with him that even in situations where the use of force could have been justified, our law enforcement officers use courage, knowledge, wisdom, and training to risk their own lives to avoid doing harm to others.
I recently spent time with some law enforcement people. No, I’m not in trouble. But I haven’t had much experience with those in dark uniforms and badges who wear belts dangling with nightsticks, tasers, handcuffs, and other paraphernalia. And then there’s those holstered handguns. So we were hanging out with mutual friends at a gathering where cops were on the guest list, and I learned a lot (Yes, social distancing, with masks). By the end of the evening, I felt honored and humbled to know some kind, interesting and pretty normal guys.
Like most people, I get a little intimidated when in the vicinity of law enforcement, so imagine my initial trepidation when I heard who we’d be spending time with that evening. At first, I couldn’t tell who was the retired highway patrolman, undercover narcotics guy, public safety officer or beat cop. They were dressed for this social occasion just like all the other people there. They talked about their pets, told hunting tales, looked forward to ice fishing, discussed football, argued what kind of tacos are best, and pulled out pictures of their kids.
As the evening wore on, these guys grouped together and engaged in “cop talk.” I was fascinated by the jargon – “a domestic ... incarceration ... baby daddy ... perp.”
To my surprise, the conversations centered on how often they’ve considered changing professions because their jobs and schedules are so stressful and how tough it is to work nights, holidays, weekends, and shifting schedules. Every single one worried about personal safety and that of his family. The undercover guy explained his panic when he thought he’d been recognized in a shopping center while pushing his son’s stroller. Another told how he’d not even been thanked after responding to an emergency call where he saved a choking baby’s life. One said how tough it was to have to refuse a Christmas gift from a family whose child he saved from drowning (but anonymous gifts appeared on his doorstep anyway).
I’m surprised how real and likable these guys were. If I hadn’t known they were cops, I wouldn’t have realized it. I’m humbled by what law enforcement does for us. We don’t even know if they may have been up all night, saw someone die yesterday, or had to endure verbal abuse while arresting a drunk. I think they deserve gratitude, not criticism. These are real people just like us, doing a very tough job. For us.
Mary Wasche is a Messenger contributing writer.