by Ed Byers | You have no idea what it’s like. Our friends from lunch are now fighting for their lives on some lonely road or dark alley. Acquaintances that we care about are struggling with life-threatening injuries. People we spent time with on fishing trips or backyard barbeques cannot respond to our frantic radio calls. We rush to find them, to help them.
Seconds become hours when nobody is there to stop their bleeding or give them comfort and shelter. Chances are they were not fully aware of the situation before it began. If they had been, they would have called for more of us to help.
We’re not there to hurt anyone; our goal is to help. Sometimes you ask us to put our safety on the line and we do so without hesitation. If our training works and our split-second judgments are correct, we can escape an encounter with no injuries to ourselves or others. Even though that is what you expect of us, you rarely give us praise. Often the results are not optimal and some of you think we are lunatics behind a badge. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
We deliberately put ourselves into harm’s way like no other public servants. Firefighters, paramedics, and public service employees can analyze their opponents and take time to implement measures to enhance their safety. We are never quite sure what to expect and usually do not have time to make every safety requirement possible. Often, we are alone, and the danger becomes real in an instant. When the moment of truth comes, we can never be too prepared. Law enforcement has been called hours of sheer boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror. How very true that is…
For the next couple of days, we will wear black ribbons around our badges as a public sign of mourning. We will hear the bittersweet sounds of Scottish bagpipes at the memorial service and tears will cloud our vision. But we will be back for next shift, dealing with all of the uncertainties again. We are your protectors. You will see us and not know what to say. Some of you will offer your condolences, but most will try to ignore the issue and tell us to have a nice day. Nice days are for fishing trips with our friends and backyard barbeques with our acquaintances. Not for time spent on lonely roads or dark alleys.
Tell us something that really matters. Tell us to have a safe shift. And give us the credit we are due.
Godspeed, Sergeant Bertram.
Ed Byers is a resident of Charlestown and a retired United States federal agent. He is finishing his Ph.D. program at the University of Louisville in Criminal Justice with a specialty in policing and is an adjunct professor at that university. His dissertation examines factors involved in police shootings.