By now, only someone who has been living in a cave would not know that since May, Chicago has lost three Chicago Police Officers, all of whom were off duty. I have no idea why, since I do not come from a Police family, but I know or have known quite a few Chicago Police. The earliest was a family friend, way, way back when the CPD was quite different. I was a little kid back then, so I only know little snippets of what I remember, being that my world was of Barbie dolls, and whatever little kids did back then.
In the 1990′s my ex and I moved to a place in Andersonville and lived in a building managed by a friend of our family. The owner’s son at the time was a CPD Detective. Somewhere between then and now, I’ve met another Detective (now retired), and another patrol Officer, a Sergeant and a guy I met on Freecycle (who is a PO), and a friend of mine from high school is also a Chicago Police Officer. This is in addition to the retired PO who lives on my street and the sons of my neighbor, one of whom is a Tactical Officer and the other a Detective. Of this group, one of these people is a very dear friend of mine.
So when I hear or see a Breaking News Report of an Officer killed, a part of me tenses up, never wanting to hear the names of any of my friends, or the children of neighbors, relieved that it was not they who were murdered. It isn’t that I don’t feel a heavy heart for the loss of any PO who serves our city, but I also feel the stress leave when I know who it is not.
For civilians, until we actually hear about what goes on from day to day, the job of the Police is usually a mystery, outside of the obvious traffic ticket most drivers have received at one time or another. When you have a very close relationship with someone who works on the street, you get a completely different view of “the mystery.” Yes, there are adrenaline rushes, we all know that. But there is also the pathos of humanity that Officers deal with. They see most people on what can be the worst day of their life, the loss of a loved one, being a victim of a violent crime, a bad traffic accident, etc.
What they also see, sometimes frequently within one week, are dead bodies in varying states of decay, floaters, suicides, the actual murder scenes, families distraught due to whatever reason they needed to call 911, angry people, hateful people, vengeful people, beaten men, beaten women, beaten children, murdered and abused children and adults, elderly people who are victimized and / or traumatized. This is in addition to crimes involving drugs, gangs, robberies, fraud, and the list goes on.
One of my friends said he has a “switch” that he turns off when dealing with traumatic type of events, and this allows him to be present and do what needs to be done, without taking on and absorbing all the pain, misery and negative energy of the moment. Switch or no switch, the events are still in his memory. It is perhaps why Police have a high rate of suicide, for some, their “off switch” had broke. In any event, these are the people we call when we, everyday folks, have an emergency. These are the people we look to for protection, for help, when something is beyond what we can take care of ourselves.
As the stories came out about these outstanding officers — Thomas Worthham, a passionate neighborhood volunteer who served two tours in Iraq; Thor Soderberg, who helped a blind friend train for triathlons; Michael Bailey, who was active in his block club and determined to protect his neighborhood — it struck me that there are thousands of similar stories about the men and women of the Chicago Police Department that normally never get on the news…
Occasionally a spectacular act of heroism by a police officer will make the news, but every day Chicagoans like officers Soderberg, Wortham, and Bailey are doing hundreds of little things helping people in every way imaginable with little or no recognition at all.
“It’s just part of the job,” they’ll tell you.
Remember that always, and honor those who serve.