Monday, June 22, 2020

A Brick, A Knife

A rookie cop found a sticker on his locker that read, "You've been visited by a member of the Ku Klux Klan."

He complained to supervisors and the sticker was removed. Outraged peers commiserated, decrying the injustice.  Young cops, black and white, began dreaming of the changes they would make one day.

As they dreamed of change, 911 calls pulled them into nightmares: domestic violence, homicides, kidnappings, assaults, rapes.  Thefts, stabbings, gunshots, suicides and car accidents pushed their dreams to the back burner. "Let's make a change," became "Let's make it home tonight."  One of the young dreamers was injured.

His home, described by his pastor as, "small town, white bread" was an hour away from work.  At work, younger cops learned from experienced cops. Rookies rotated from one training officer to another.  After a few shifts with a particular trainer, he felt familiar outrage.  He knew his trainer was one of several who knew about the sticker. He began to understand why citizens despised the police. He knew his injury was tied to the change for which he and so many of his peers wanted to fight. 

He was injured because a more experienced officer was heavy handed with citizens.  Citizens' complaints and court appearances produced little change. Some community members were frustrated and an ambush was set targeting anybody wearing blue. 

It all happened so quickly after he received a call about a missing child. Remembering his own niece and nephew, he approached the house with compassion. Climbing the porch, caution chilled him, though he didn't know why.   His knock on the door preceded the brick to his ear, the knife to his arm.  He hunched, rolled, drew and fired.

Seven, maybe ten, seconds on a block patrolled by a sticker-placing peer, changed his life forever. News cameras and headlines emphasized the racial tension surrounding his injury. The ringing in his ear, possible nerve damage and post traumatic stress disorder pushed his career to the back burner. 

Bills started stacking and his wife's belly started protruding. Officers who had placed, removed or ignored stickers, reached out with food, money and rides to pre-natal visits. They weren't perfect people but when he was down, they were family. 

The ringing stopped, the baby was born and he returned to work.  Night after night, close calls diminished his focus on fighting departmental injustice. "Let's just get home," became his mantra. He began to receive opportunities for promotion.  The obdurate "way we do it here" blunted his hunger for righteousness. 

He had hungry children and needed his job. The longer he stayed, the more cops retired. Sticker-placing cops retired; sticker-removing cops retired; cops unaware of stickers retired. Rookies began to ask him the same questions he used to ask.

Before he knew it, seventy percent of the officers in the department had less experience than him.  Less senior cops were hungry for righteousness and change.  They saw strife between cops and the community and wanted to do something about it.  Their idealism was tested when they rushed into nightmares far from home.  They looked to him for leadership.  "How do we do it around here?" they asked.

He thought about the stickers on his friend's locker; thought about his zeal at the beginning; thought of the brick and the pain killers; thought about his gratitude for brothers and sisters in blue.  He thought about the churches, families, schools and businesses that showed their appreciation.  He thought about his first marriage, ruined by police work and the second he really wanted to work.  He thought about the overdoses, the cars in the river, the sirens and wailing mothers; thought about the children and senior citizens.

"Work with what you have," he told the younger cops.  "Take care of each other.  Everyone goes home after the shift.  You are the author of your career; it is what you make it.  Wait for backup and remember your most important asset is between your ears. 

"Think quickly, speak slowly and listen.  Get help when you need it.  This job can take your family and sanity.  Keep them both.  Bad things happen so learn how to cope.  Exercise, get sleep and be a better version of yourself tomorrow than you were today.  Keep learning.  Shine your shoes.  Be on time.  Documentation matters.  Make sure you..."

The radio beckoned him to the next emergency call.  He hoped to finish telling them what he knew, but for now, he had to climb the porch to knock without flashbacks of the brick and knife.     


  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing a different perspective!

  2. Thanks for this, Alex. Your perspective is so valuable right now.

    1. Ed, we thank the Lord for the strength to write. Your words are life giving and gratefully received.

  3. Rev. Roger Mendenhall
    Thanks for the valuable insight you continue to share with us. And the upstanding job you are doing as Chaplin.

    1. Thank you for the words of life Roger Mendenhall. Together we are trusting Christ for changed lives.

  4. We appreciate your feedback. Thank you for the helpful link! All the best to you in the work you're doing.