Thursday, March 7, 2013

With Arms Wide Open

I know it's been awhile.  Although it may seem to the contrary sometimes, I generally feel that, if I have nothing worth saying, why take your time making you read something not worth reading.  Today, I have something to say.

Today was a cop funeral.  There was a funeral cortege that stretched from the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz to the HP Pavilion in San Jose.  There were flags flown from fire trucks.  Salutes from fellow officers.  There were police officers from across the country in cars and on motorcycles.  There were bagpipes.  I didn't know Butch Baker or Elizabeth Butler, officers of the Santa Cruz Police Department but I knew cops like them.  I KNOW cops like them.  I know Santa Cruz.  I know Santa Cruz Police Department.  I know their badge numbers, 172 and 105 because I DISPATCHED those badge numbers.  Those were numbers that belonged to officers I knew, people that meant something to me.

All of the publicity from the time of the horrific shooting barely more than a week ago clutched at my heart as I read Facebook posts and Twitter feeds from media and from people I know who knew them. People whose hearts were breaking.  People who didn't know them also feel that pain because they do the same job every day that those officers did, the same jobs they were doing when their lives were taken.  I also thought back to my days as dispatcher and some of the more memorable calls, all of which paled to the job those dispatchers did on that day.  What put me over the edge, what brought me out from behind a curtain of unfamiliarity was a reference on Twitter to the dispatchers. Mark Woodward, @NativeSantaCruz on Twitter tweeted: "I've listened to police scanners for years but was not prepared for what just happened".  I knew at once what he heard.  This FINAL CALL went out....the End of Watch for Sgt. Butch Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler called by a Santa Cruz Police Dispatcher who knew them both.  I found the recording on YouTube and listened.  As she ended her call.."Santa Cruz clear....KMA233"., I cried.  I heard those FCC call letters I recited dozens of times every day.  That girl is tough. Of course she is, she's a dispatcher.  Tough.  Cool.  Calm.  I cried.  I cried for two people I didn't know.  I cried for the people who know them. I cried for the people I know who do that job every day with little respect.

I know  that, for the next week or so, the officers in Santa Cruz will receive hugs and respect and offers of coffee and lunch which, of course, they are not allowed to accept.  The citizens will go back to their lives, their jobs.  They'll go back to speeding to work and cursing the cop that gives them the ticket.  They'll go back to growing dope and teaching their children that cops are the bad guys... unless and until someone tries to rip them off  at which time, of course, they will call for help.  As for the cops?  They will have taken their black ribbon and "thin blue line" from their Facebook profiles.  The flags will once-again be raised to the tops of the flagpoles.  Life will return to patrolling their streets and taking reports and investigating crimes.  They will be even more aware than they were two weeks ago, however, of their safety.  They will be more vigilant about wearing their body armor.  Their husbands and wives will breathe even more deeply a sigh of relief when they walk through the door safely each night to kiss their family and do it again another day. To quote Sgt. Phil Esterhaus..."be careful out there."

NOTE: My titular reference was for James Durbin who sang that Creed song at the funeral.