One Friday night last spring, I rode along with the Cleveland Police in the 4th District/Buckeye Neighborhood from 2-10pm. It was a fascinating and touching experience. It was also a sad indictment on American society to see kids (and grownups) in a neighborhood where there is so much in the way of a flourishing life…physical toxicity, economic insecurity, emotional scarcity, minimal fresh food, underperforming schools, and more. But what struck me was how police men and women are touch points of humanity in their everyday work – in big and small ways:
- Offering kindness and understanding to an 11-year-old girl already traumatized by life…while helping the adoptive/foster mom restore peace in her home
- Taking detailed notes in a non-judgmental way about a robbery (that was probably not robbery at all…)
- Making a habit of checking on an elderly alcoholic because no one else does
- Giving stickers to kids out walking with their parents in the dark
- Being a visible, peaceful, proactive presence in the park so the after-school fight posted on Instagram never materializes
- Thoroughly checking every door of a big factory to make sure there wasn’t a break in
- Talking to everyone, from the night shift employee to the 80-year-old man arguing the 6 pack of donuts are not bad for his diabetes (he did look good!), with respect and good humor.
It was clear that the community was grateful for their presence. The team work among the officers was also evident. The sense of history, driving and reminiscing through the neighborhoods at night, made us feel connected to something bigger. Riding along gave me a nourishing window into humanity, even though it was sometimes sad.
Nothing big happened that night (well, there was the guy who lost his pants to a dog). Just lots of little things. Business as usual. In that work, it felt good and right to be of service. To help people. To solve problems. To resolve issues. To put business owners and residents at ease. To show that someone still cared. It was a small taste of why most police officers do the work they do.
There should be a podcast about THAT.
Reprinted with permission from the October 2018 Cleveland Division of Police Employee Assistance Unit Newsletter. Thanks to Officer Jimmy Thomas, Detective Chris Gibbons, and Commander Brandon Kutz for the ride-along.