Hi protesters, it’s me, Don.
Do you remember me?
I’m a police officer.
We’ve met before.
Excuse me? Did you say Ferguson?
No no no, not there. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but never in riot gear.
You, the lady with the black shirt on. I remember you from what I think was your house, or maybe that was your grandma’s house.
Do you remember that time your 23 year old sister swallowed a good deal of toilet cleaner because she was distraught at being pregnant again?
Gosh, I remember it like it was yesterday.
That’s right, I was there with that young, black officer.
He is handsome, you’re right.
Yes, that was me that knelt down on your dirty, roach infested bathroom floor and turned your sister onto her side to keep her from choking to death on her own vomit.
That’s right, I stroked her cheek and rubbed her arm to comfort her while we waited for the ambulance to come.
When she finally came to, she was in no mood to go to the hospital, was she? Wooo, she was pissed.
You asked me to make her go to the hospital, and I was going to anyway since she tried to kill herself, but people are funny about being forced to go to the hospital against their will.
Your mother was understandably upset, but that handsome young officer and I, along with some firemen and you were able to sweet talk her into going without having to fight her into the ambulance.
That’s always a win for us.
Yes, you thanked me that night and I appreciated that.
You don’t know it, but I stopped by your house again a few weeks ago to see how everyone was doing, but you weren’t home. I happened to be on your street, so I thought I’d check in. I like to follow up on my calls sometimes.
Maybe I’lll catch you next time
Hey, you there with the dread locks. Yeah, you, the big guy! Do you remember me?
Don’t be embarrassed, it’s a funny story.
Remember when I saw you sprinting across Baden Street and then down the sidewalk?
You had the look on your face of a man who’d just seen a ghost!
When you saw my car, you flagged me down and tried to jump in my back seat.
Sorry about locking the doors, but there are a lot of people out there who’d hurt a police officer, so I have to be extra careful when people come running frantically at me like you were. Plus, you’re a big dude.
I got out of the car and held your gym bag for you so you could catch your breath. You pointed while you tried to say something about whatever it was you were running from.
Remember, I asked if you were hurt or being robbed or shot at because these are the sorts of things that happen on Baden Street. You shook your head no and pointed towards an alley at the suspect.
“Whoah!” I believe was my exact response.
What I could only guess was the result of a pit bull mating with a Clydsedale horse sauntered out of the alley right towards us, so I did finally let you get into my car.
I was going to join you, but you remember that little girl?
Right, that cute little girl about my daughter’s age. I remember that she was walking right towards the dog. Remember the dog lost interest in us when she saw that little girl? The dog turned and was going right for that little girl, who I had assumed couldn’t see the dog because she was on a hill.
Oh good Lord, I thought. I’m going to have to shoot that dog, if it gets near that girl.
I sure didn’t want to, because I’ve never shot an animal before.
We drove the patrol car past the beast and into a driveway to cut the girl off.
When I rolled down my window to warn her about the dog and tell her to get into the car, she pert near peed her pants laughing at us.
“That’s my Baby,” she said.
“Your baby?” I said.
“Her name is baby. She’s my dog and I’m so sorry she got out of the yard.”
That wonderfully mannered little girl then walked right around our car and gave Baby a big hug while telling her what a naughty dog she’d been.
We were both embarrassed because that dog/horse thing couldn’t have been any sweeter with that girl.
“She could ride that thing home,” I said as we both watched her walk alongside the dog into a nearby yard.
You laughed and laughed and called me stupit, but not in a mean way.
We shook hands and you thanked me. I appreciated that.
That was a pretty funny ending. Much better than what could have happened.
“Hey, I remember you too, Officer Don.”
Hmmm, I’m sorry but your face doesn’t look familiar.
Wait a minute, I know you now. I didn’t see your three boys there behind you.
Wow, the boys are looking good.
Last time I saw them was that time you were all huddled on a bench in the cold. I remember driving up and asking you if you needed any help and you said you didn’t.
Well, your words said you didn’t, but your face said otherwise. Your face and the faces of those handsome boys.
I asked if you were sure and you said yes, so I let it be.
I drove into an adjoining parking lot and waited for my next call. I parked just close enough that you could call to me, if you changed your mind, but you never did.
Your older son finally did walk over though and asked me if I had any baseball cards.
Holy crap, I thought.
It’d been a long time since I’ve been asked that.
Remember when we used to get Cardinal baseball cards with safety messages printed on them? They would be a mess all over the police stations, but the kids loved them. I don’t think we give them out anymore, but man that took me back thinking about all the cards I’ve handed out over the years.
Anyway, I told your son I didn’t and he said, “Thank you, sorry to bother you, sir.”
Wow, I love a kid with manners.
“How old are you, son?” I asked.
“What are you guys doing on this bench? It’s pretty cold outside”
“Momma’s boyfriend kicked us out. We’re waiting for my grandad to pick us up.”
“Do you want to sit in my car and warm up with your brothers for a minute?” I asked him.
I remember he nervously looked to you and you told him to stop bothering that man.
“He’s no bother,” I shouted to you. “He wants to see the inside of the police car. Are you okay with that? They can come too.”
You smiled because you knew those boys wanted out of that cold.
“You’re welcome too.”
You declined, so the boys and I sat in the car for a few minutes while I showed them all the bells and whistles. I was happy that you trusted me enough to let your boys in the car. A lot of people don’t.
I forget what’s mundane to me is still fascinating to others, especially kids. It was fun watching them goof around and ask questions about what everything does.
As usual though, I got a call on the radio and had to go.
Before they got out, the youngest one mentioned that his stomach hurt.
When I asked if he was okay, the oldest one said he was probably just hungry since they hadn’t eaten in a couple of days.
“Please don’t arrest my mom!” The middle one said suddenly.
Ugh, I remember that one stung my heart. I hate that he thought that’s our answer to such a situation.
I gave the fifteen year old all that I had, which was a $20 bill. It’s not a lot when you have three growing boys to feed, but that’s not chump change to me either, and I assure you that I only give money to people I deem worthy of my charity.
I remember your kids were good kids and it was a pleasure to part with what I would have probably just spent on beer anyway.
I told them boys to make sure you spent it on food.
You had what?
I’m glad. Oh stop, you thanked me enough that night, and I appreciated it.
I have many more memories of so many of you men and women, and so do all the other officers you’ll see during your protest and beyond this mess as well.
Please remember the good times as well as the bad.
None of us are perfect and I won’t deny that some terrible things happen at the hands of some police officers.
I hope you’ll remember also that most of us struggle as you do too.
We’re just regular men and women when we’re not working in your communities.
We coach your kids and go to your churches and eat at the same restaurants.
We pass each other in the gas station all the time, on and off duty.
Please don’t destroy our gas stations or churches or restaurants. That won’t accomplish anything.
If you talk to me, I’ll listen to you.
I don’t know how to fix all the problems of all the people in a crowd this size, but I know police officers aren’t really what everybody is upset about.
Some of you are, sure, but I suspect that most of the people are upset about more than how the police behave.
We know we have some bad apples, but that’s not really what’s getting to most of you, is it?
It has to be the lack of job opportunities or unequal educational opportunities or the decades of violence in your neighborhoods that have finally caused you to say enough is enough.
Hey man, I couldn’t agree more.
Enough is enough.
Michael Brown’s death isn’t the cause of all your anger, it’s just the straw that broke the camel’s back, I think.
Let’s put this camel back together with each other’s help.