And I couldn’t believe the carnage in Dallas yesterday, July 7th. Watching police run to help a comrade, a friend, on the ground bleeding was just too much for me to handle. Seeing it on a screen makes it two-dimensional, abstract. In real life –the adrenaline, the terror, the smell of blood and concrete –watching someone you know and love, die, is not abstract. It will tear you apart.
So much death. So much suffering to come. So fucking tragic.
But this story is about police officers and kindness. As a firefighter, I work with state police and sheriffs all the time, responding to drug overdoses, domestic violence calls and car crashes. It’s hard work. Police deal daily with a host of problems that most of us never encounter. It takes a toll.
Here is the story.
We responded to a car crash. A single vehicle crash in the median of the interstate during rush hour. The driver — drunk — had tried to drive across the median and got hung up on the barriers.
Pulling up on the scene, I said a little “thank you” for the barriers, having been at more than a few horrific crashes when drunks had crossed over a median and caused head-on collisions.
On this night, it was dark, cold and, with all the traffic, loud. Our patient, a woman, was drunk, upset and clearly mentally “unstable.” She wasn’t hurt, although that can be difficult to assess with a possibly drunk patient.
Once our medics had done their assessment and felt comfortable that the patient was medically okay, the deputy sheriff began his interview.
Our patient sat on the bumper of the med unit, crying and fidgeting. She stood up and one of the medics reached out his arm to help her and she bit him — not hard, but still, this was a volatile patient.
I watched the sheriff, a big burly guy, walk her through the standard DUI tests. Follow the light with your eyes, don’t move your head. Count down from 63 to 47. Touch your fingers to thumb in order. Say the alphabet, but don’t sing it. He had to repeat a number of these steps.
But he never was impatient, standing in the cold, traffic flying by us on both sides. He was calm, patient and even gentle.
Finally — and we all knew where this was headed — he said, “I’m going to make your day a little worse. I’m going to arrest you for DUI.”
She dropped her head, but she also had calmed down. He gently cuffed her and led her to the squad car. This was a good cop doing his job.
It seems like a little thing, but after decades of watching DUI arrests — many ending in yelling and screaming with suspects face down and cuffed — I truly appreciated this deputy sheriff’s ability.
This was yet again another call out to me. We can do our jobs and we can still be kind. We can run on our 100th drunk, and we can still be kind. We can roll our eyes at yet another crazy, homeless person’s lies, or we can still be kind.For me, it comes down to who I want to be in my life, how I want to be remembered.
I choose kindness.
This officer — and I’m sure he’s had bad days like all of us — chose kindness. That night he taught me a lesson.