THAT’S A VERY BLUNT STATEMENT
I heard it from one of the salty older guys at a time when I remained a starry-eyed rookie ready to save the world.
“The only ones you can really help are the very young and the terribly old. As for the others: all you can do is stand by and watch ‘em destroy themselves.”
If we are lucky, we might minimize the damage.
That’s about it.
EVERYBODY HAS THEM
Thoughts of self-doubt and questioning whether or not, “It’s all worth it,” in the grand scheme of things. You wouldn’t be human if such notions didn’t cross your cranium from time to time.
Glenn McGrew was my first Lieutenant. He didn’t talk a lot – because he didn’t need to. When the LT spoke, folks listened.
He is the guy who revealed these thoughts to me along with others along the way.
I can only really affect the very young, eh? REALLY??
THOUGHTS WHILE SHAVING
None of the events that follow are earth-shattering. I suspect that some readers will think them to be mundane. That’s OK. MY experiences aren’t what’s important here.
What I REALLY want to do is trigger memories that are TUCKED AWAY in your mind of similar incidents.
Why? Now that I’m almost 100 years old, I’ve come to recognize that it is the LITTLE EVENTS in our lives that are most likely what had the greatest impact on others.
After all, that’s what WE are about: Effecting change on others. WE are here for a reason. It’s usually to do the Good work.
The Ambassador Bridge crosses the Detroit River between Detroit, MI and Windsor, Ontario CANADA. Thousands of vehicles cross daily.
Sometimes there’s a wait in line to get through incoming inspection. Some of those folks waiting judge they are much too important to wait in line with the common folks.
One such weeknight around 2130, three lanes were open; three were closed. A car bolted from the line and raced toward an idle lane where I happened to be walking. “Another person of proclaimed self-importance,” I figured.
The car suddenly stops. The driver’s door is flung open. Out jumps a young woman with an infant in her arms.
“MY BABY HAS STOPPED BREATHING. PLEASE HELP ME.”
My training took over. I did exactly what I had been trained to do. Everything ended well. The baby came through the ordeal just fine.
To the young Mom, I was a hero. I knew better.
I reflected on Lt. McGrew’s words, “You can only REALLY help the very young.” Damn, he is smart!
STANDING ON THE SIDELINES
I was on a ride-along ahead of a training class. It’s a weekday afternoon around 1600. My partner and I respond to a suspicious person call in a tough area of the city filled with Section 8 Housing.
We approached the specific apartment in question. It was occupied by three females, one of whom appeared to be ready to deliver a baby at any moment.
There were young children (under the age of three) in abundance running around the parking lot, dashing in/out between parked cars. The young mothers seem completely unaware / unconcerned with the risk to their kids. The pregnant one joyfully announced that following the impending birth, her next government aid check would increase as a result.
As my partner and I cleared the call and drove away, I realized that these young children were destined to a failed life of misery and there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I could do about it.
It was the night before Thanksgiving around 2030. Dispatch sent my partner and me along with two other units to a single family residence. There was a male on premise in violation of a No Contact order from the Court. The female in the home had called to report his presence.
He might be armed, we were advised by dispatch.
After a stealth arrival, our point man led the way in. I was at the back, providing cover. The male was quickly in cuffs, without incident.
I looked around the home. Barely any furniture. No sign of food in the kitchen. The refrigerator was opened and was mostly empty.
Three young kids – one in Mom’s arms – were screaming in fear of us: the cops.
Tomorrow morning it would be Thanksgiving for me and my family.
What did these kids face? Not much.
To this day, it still damn near makes me cry.
Helpless. It’s all I’ve got.
I was partnered with Tony – a pal I wrote about recently. It was a summer weekday in suburban Detroit around 1530. Dispatch sent us on a DOA.
We were not first on scene, but close; entrance had already been made by a different team. As we entered, I could hear a female in another room who was crying. We were ushered to the basement of the single-story home.
A nice gym setup caught my eye: weights, machines, rubber floor – all the trimmings. Until my eyes caught sight of the body hanging by a rope from the rafters in the ceiling above.
A young guy in his mid-twenties. Lived with his GF, planning to marry.
No longer. She will now help to plan a funeral.
Why can’t I do something to prevent this kind of tragedy?
I think back to the words of Lt. McGrew.
I was working with the “partner” who had been about the best teacher I had ever known or worked with. It was Ron of Warren PD. The southern border of Warren is the infamous Eight Mile Rd (of the movie fame) with Detroit on the other side.
For me: I was a rookie so green that I squeaked. Time: 2330; shift ends at 2359. Dispatch sent us to a residential apartment on Van Dyke Ave; the front half was a retail store. While en route, Ron asks if I’ve ever worked a homicide. Nope. Well, you’re about to.
Hard gulp. OK. Tell me what to do and I’m on it.
It was one of those calls for which no one can fully “prepare.” I tried really hard to look like I knew what I was doing.
Outside the apartment door, near the alley, lay the lifeless body of a twenty-something male. Most of his innards were lying on the sidewalk alongside.
We performed a quick safety sweep of the dude’s apartment and got out until a warrant could be had. FD arrives and they jump on him likes flies on a pile of manure. Dude’s dead; what’s the point I ask Ron.
“They need the practice and this is the real deal. Also, it makes ‘em look good.” Got it.
Over the next three hours, it seemed that half of Warren showed up. The girlfriend arrived. She’s was out of control. Ron told me to put a lid on her and keep her calm. Done.
Turns out our “victim” couldn’t come up with the $210 needed to settle up with his local drug-dealer.
Back to Lt. McGrew: He was prophetic beyond his time.
Then comes one of THOSE calls. They only come now-and-then.
I’m at my home agency. ‘Bout 2100 on a very warm summer evening. Dispatch sends two units for a welfare check at the senior citizen high-rise.
OK, we were REALLY slow that night.
The four of us goons arrived; up to the ninth floor on the elevator. Down the hall, knock on the door. Nothing.
Time for the trusty MagLite pound. BOOM BOOM BOOM !!
Then, from inside, came a voice about as soft as the meow of a little kitten, “Help Me. Help Me, Please.”
A solid kick from one of us goons and the door was in pieces. In we went, searching for the source of that tiny voice.
I spotted her: she was about a thousand years old, badly wrinkled, frail, naked, lying in a tub of water in her bathroom.
Since I’m the bulked-up bodybuilder in the crew, I was all over her.
My partner grabbed a towel. I reached into the tub, arms around her and lift. I held her up, partner wrapped her up and we sat her on a chair in the bathroom.
The look in her eyes said it all. Yeah, she was embarrassed: naked in front of four male cops.
SHE WAS ALIVE. THANK GOD!
We got her to the couch in the living room, notified dispatch with a sigh of relief and FD was there in a flash.
They were ready to “practice” again. Thank God for the Hose-Draggers.
Once under control, names taken, case numbers assigned and all the other BS done, we cops retreated down the hall and back to our cars.
Czarnecki looked at me and said, “That is why I do this job.” Amen brother. Amen.
We learned later from FD that the old lady would probably only survived another half hour, or so.
Just in the nick of time, as they say.
Lt. McGrew wasn’t there that night – at least he wasn’t there PHYSICALLY.
But, he was there in my mind and heart.
THE NAYSAYERS CAN GO TO HELL
McGrew was right: we can only truly help the very young and old.
The mother of that infant at the Bridge probably wants to thank every cop she meets. And, she will for the rest of her life.
The family of the old lady never met any of us. But, they know who we are. Unlikely we will see any of them in a demonstrating berating me or my Brothers in Blue.
As for the rest of them: they had pretty well sealed their fate without any assistance from a cop. All we can do is try to moderate the pain along the way for those who they are hurting.
AND FOR YOU ??
I’ll bet that you have stories just like mine.
Chances are you have dramatically affected the lives of people. At the time, it seemed like “nothing.” You relied on your training you told yourself.
For those you’ve saved, I suspect they see it in a different light.
Of course, there are the dirtbags you’ve locked up – maybe even used deadly force to neutralize. For those events, look through the other end of the telescope. Please.
You have brought safety and peace of mind to the folks these assholes would have ultimately hurt – given the chance to carry out one of their nefarious deeds. The Good Folks are the ones whom you have affected.
We never know when a simple action on our part will have a life-long profound effect on the life of someone we encounter.
Trust your instincts.
Trust your experience.
Trust your training.
Remember: your gut is usually accurate.
Next time you are wondering if it’s all worth it, spend some time running through your catalog of memories.
Not so much for the idiots in the middle.
Think of the VERY YOUNG and the VERY OLD.
Face it: that’s what Lt. McGrew would tell you about helping others.
Lt. McGrew is one smart dude. I’m happy that I paid attention!
When it’s all said and done, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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