OPEN LETTER TO A POLICE OFFICER

Dear Officer,

I need to thank you, for a long list of things.  I don’t pay much attention to you in my ordinary day.  I work in an office.  I drive a car.  I go out in pubic occasionally to dine or walk or exercise.  I don’t much worry about crime or violence of any kind.  You are the reason why, and until recent events I hadn’t paid much attention to that fact.

 

Crime and violence exists in our community.  There is drug use and drug dealing.  There is prostitution.  There is theft and mugging and even murder.  Yet people freely walk our city streets and play in our parks and sun themselves on the beaches of our Great Lake.  You make that possible.  We put you on the front line between us and that crime and violence, and you succeed, day after day after day, in so limiting that crime and violence that the vast majority of citizens can walk free and fairly mindless of any danger.

 

I have not thought much of the fact that putting you in this position is asking a great deal.  You spend a great deal of your time looking at and dealing with the seamier side of our community.  You face crime and violence as a daily routine.  Yet we ask you, we demand of you, that you deal with that seamier side with great care and consideration.  I have not thought much about how hard it must be to work in that atmosphere all day (or night) long and then come home to wife and children and the peaceful world that your work has provided all of us.  Thanks for that.  Huge, unlimited thanks for that.

 

Over thirty years ago, you stopped me and arrested me for drunk driving.  Because you did, I began the recovery in which I remain to this day.  Thanks for that.  I don’t know how to adequately thank someone for saving my life, but thanks for that.

 

You’ve pulled me over for speeding, for not renewing my license plate, for having a headlight or taillight out, for diverting in traffic.  You’ve checked my home and my office for break-ins.  You’ve tended to me in auto accidents.  You’ve waved me through intersections, helped my kids to cross streets, guarded my passage in public events.  The list goes on for a while.

 

And, through all of that, I have never said thank you.  I have thought about you mostly only as a curb on my activities, watched out for you while driving, emptied my pockets for you when entering a public building, and generally grumbled about the inconvenience of having to deal with your protection of me.  You’ve taken all of that without complaint.  Thanks for all of that.

 

There are many differences between civilization and savagery, but one major difference is that we don’t have to hide behind walls and face our fellow citizens with constant vigilance and hostility.  You are the guardian of that privilege, that freedom to wander our community with a modicum of fear or concern.  I have not said it much in the past, and I will not likely say it or even think of it much in the future, but thanks for that.  My undying thanks for the difficult life you lead and the difficult work you do.

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