Where I sit, at my paper-strewn mess of a desk, I have a scanner by my right elbow (next to the coffee cup). Of course, right? News guy, finger on the pulse, it only makes sense there's a scanner going. I like music - maybe more than most people - but the background sound for getting this paper out week in and week out is the scanner rattling off the radio traffic as emergency services go about its affairs.
And I bring this up because it's National Police Week. A tradition started in '62, during the Kennedy Administration, a week set aside for us to honor the cops (the proclamation has a more formal language, of course).
You do this job, you talk to a lot of cops. It's just how it is. You sniff around, find out what's going on, what's not going on, what might happen next, blah blah, maybe take a break, have a coffee, you get to know people, people who are cops. You get to listening on the scanner, listening to the stories, read the police reports, these people, they got a lot going on. More to the point, they got a lot going on with other people, and things, I'd just as soon not mess with.
Just recently: Clinton Police had to get a rattlesnake out under a car in a parking lot (six rattles and a button, thanks for asking). The snake got aggressive so they had to kill it with a shovel.
Let me be clear: You got a rattlesnake under your car? Don't call me. I mean if you want to, go ahead, maybe I'll want to take pictures, but the most you'll get is “Oh that's a shame. You should call a cop.”
And that's one thing (not a thing, really, big enough to turn into a stand-alone new story against everything else that's going on). We got people passing counterfeit money, we got people stealing and what not, making the kind of decisions you make when you've been using drugs to influence your outlook, we got - and I don't report this in the paper without a really good reason - families fighting (and it can get ugly). We got people too drunk to drive, we got sober people driving like they're in a road race, we got people tearing up property and stuff 'cause they know how. We got, I don't know how else to put it, jerks, we got jerks, out there being a jerk. There's the danger borne of stupidity floating around out there, and it seems to be in fairly endless supply.
And against this, we got cops.
Not flush out a rattlesnake? Hey, you also can't count on me to detain a guy stealing from your store, or getting a drunk driver off the road, or breaking up a big ol' mess of a fight. My training is more limited to sentences, and anyway: We got cops.
And these are cynical times. Hence “The Cops” tends to be one of those “them” groups that we socially push off to one side. On one hand they have to do it that way, signalling out specific cops in specific instance could actually make the world more dangerous for them. So you get “a police spokesman said….” or “the [name of police force] issued a statement today….” and it, with whatever safety, removes the human from it, the person, the people.
People, folks, people like the rest of us who, you know, go fishing, got a kid playing sports, like to play music, got family, got … lives, the lives of people.
People who, in wretched incidents, face danger. In Yell County last week, Lt. Kevin C. Mainhart, during a, of all things, traffic stop, killed in the line of duty.
And sure, all sort of people on that scanner, not all of them are the people who are police, but this week, in the tradition, let's take a minute and send a prayer up, thanks for those people who are cops.
We appreciate it.