On Saturday, August 24, I made a trip over to Ellensburg with my old partner Rob to attend a memorial for fallen Deputy Ryan Thompson. We got there a little early, but people were already there, and more were showing up. Before long, there were hundreds of people, families, laughing, drinking beer and celebrating a hero who exemplified who we think we are and did what we believe we are capable of: putting our lives in front of the lives of our community and taking on criminals with bad intentions. Community members, fire fighters, cops, deputies, families, everybody.
I always imagined the scenario, heck I trained in the scenarios, where I got into a shoot out with the bad guy who had committed a terrible crime and was clearly a danger to society. A story in the paper would revel about my actions and I would be praised by my command staff for protecting my community. My family would be grateful that I was safe and be proud of my actions. Other officers would pat me on the back and tell me good job.
In Seattle, I cannot imagine this anymore. Our politicians have put the black hat on your police department. To listen to some of the elected officials, it is the criminal who needs protection, who deserves praise for ability to preserve under the harsh social justice which is clearly against them. It is the criminal’s family who will represent the community and who receive a huge cash settlement for having been so unjustly deprived of their loved one. Never mind the felony convictions, or the weapon he was armed with, the police are wrong. That is the new narrative. That is the scenario your police department goes to work with and thinks about. Why?
As I sat in the small beer hall, I happened, as almost is the case, to sit down next to a professor from Central Washington University. Our views were divergent, our respect for our community and the fallen hero were not. We talked, we shared opposing opinions, we reached no conclusions other than we liked each other. We respected each other’s opinions and we listened to one another. We laughed, we hugged, and we joked. We both understood that life needs to be sorted out. What is happening to us?
As I am now retired, I can freely discuss what it means to put a gun on and go out into the night and stand between my community and the danger which will always prey on it. To act with courage, to process a million bits of information while concentrating on the front site of a Glock and praying I don’t have to do this. That I won’t become a racist, or a homophobe, or a whatever I would become with a life and death decision I am making on all of our behalves. I had to protect my friends, my community, myself. In a flash, all will change. Please dear God, don’t make me do this. 8 pounds of pressure, a surprising bang and I am no longer me. Who will the press make me become? I never had to do this…but I would have.
Today, like yesterday, old men and women, tired of the crap they endure, showed up and donned the uniform of the Seattle Police Department. They went into roll call with the younger men and women who represent the next twenty years of law enforcement. They joke, they pick on one another, and they share their wisdom with then next generation. Tomorrow, this will happen again. Someday, if these kids don’t leave the department like so many are, they will become the old men and women tired of the crap but ready to share. This dedication, this cycle of passing on what it means to wear a badge is sacred. It is known but to a few and it is being disrupted by an unknowing but self righteous group with only their own self interests in mind.
Your police officers are here for you. We will stand in front of you. We will protect you. We will not give in to that which is in front of us. Ever. Are you behind us?
Todd Wiebke, retired SPD