When we got home from aikido tonight, I returned a call to my best friend, Jenny.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"I was just wondering how you were, in light of what happened today to the police officer in Phoenix."
"Ohh. Um, I'm sad, but I'm ok."
"Are you sure? I know that this gets to you."
"Sure, Jen. I'll be fine." (Then why am I so upset?)
Today, unfortunately, a veteran Phoenix police officer was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.
I get asked alot about "How do you do it? Don't you worry?" when people find out Mr W is a police officer. And I tell them that every job has potential dangers, some more than others. That I have faith in him and his training, and his fellow officers. That I know he's not gonna do anything stupid, and it's the other (bad) guy that I have to worry about.
People have the misconception, in my opinion, that it's a dramatic, shoot-em out situation when an officer goes down, like something out of a movie. In the nearly 11 years since Mr W has been a police officer, I've come to the realization that while bad things happen all the time, it seems they usually happen during something routine.
A motorist doesn't see the motorcycle officer standing by the car he pulled over, and hits him.
A domestic violence call goes bad, and the boyfriend pulls out a gun.
An officer is in a pursuit, and someone runs into him as they run the red light.
And then there's the routine traffic stop, the thing they all do everyday, all the time. Speeding. Expired tags. Drunk drivers. No lights. Unsafe lane changes. The things people complain about the most "I can't believe the stupid cop stopped me because ____! (grumble, grumble)"
These guys are just doing their jobs, the thing they have been trained to do. While it's easy to berate the person standing there writing you a speeding ticket in one breath, in the next, should you be calling on them for assistance in the middle of the night, who are you happy to see standing on the other side of the door?
Everyday, they go to work, carrying a gun and other equipment on a duty belt that is a constant weighty reminder of what potentially lies ahead. And all they want to do at the end of the day is be able to go home and take it off. Would you be willing to do this, day in and day out; to go to work carrying a gun and know that you might have to use it? Or that you might have one used on you? I'm not saying that they don't know this when they sign up for the gig, I'm just saying that before you complain about having to go to driving school, you should think about what the job really entails for them besides inconveniencing you out of a Saturday.
I'd be lying if I said I never worried about Mr W anymore. Of course I do. Just like I worry about my brother and the other officers that I know. It's something that is constantly just under the surface, far enough down so it doesn't consume me, yet close enough that when things like what happen today happen, I am in a state of heightened alert for a while. The fact that he is potentially not coming back is something we face everytime he walks out the door to go to work. Overly dramatic? Maybe. But I'm being true to the job, and that's something that I just can't turn my back on.
Right now, he leaves while we are still sleeping, but I usually hear him. I lay there and watch him go from room to room, checking on the kids, patting a head or two. If I'm awake enough, I try to get up and close the door behind him. I have my little 'be careful' that I say to him as he's walking away. When he comes home for lunch or something, should we all be home, the kids swarm him before he leaves, getting in a hug and making me smile as I hear a chorus of 'be careful, Dad.' And unless he has to bolt out the door for a call, he always stops and lets them. As for me, I try to keep our relationship ducks in a row. I never want to get that visit, but should it ever happen, I don't want our last conversation to have been about who forgot to take out the trash.
Today, Officer David Uribe, a 22-yr-veteran police officer, went to work, just like any other day.
He just isn't gonna be able to make it back home.