Military and Police

Guys and Gals with Guns Give All Year…Every Year

Christmastime is a season emphasizing the giving spirit. We bestow upon loved ones, coworkers, neighbors, friends, and support networks that special something we think they deserve because of whatever joy and enrichment they have brought into our existence. It happens in all occupations; I know of the policing profession’s contributions.

Like every other cop, I felt drudgery when having to report for duty on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day; the vows we keep in earnest. But, having done so for many years as a lawman, I knew I’d come upon people who are scraping the base of the barrel, hanging on to the last few grains of dignity, while walking the streets they called home.

Although it pained me to leave my children at home while I foolhardily went off to save the world, again, I knew the experience would be a lasting legend from which my offspring would delve deeper into the dynamics of human existence and heed the dichotomies in life: how exuberant traditions for many are sadly hollow for some not-so-fortunate souls. I remember many consecutive years working the streets on Christmas. While parties were in full swing and twinkling lights made the night air magical, I always somehow stumbled upon the downtrodden who had no destination and zero objectives…other than making it to tomorrow. In a case like that, cops and folks whose compass was somehow crushed by life circumstances seem to garner magnetism and meet in the middle. Mere co-presence is a giving gesture. Your time. Your listening ear. A dry joke, whatever. We are surely a social species.

Some of these seemingly chance meetings are not necessarily by chance. Calls continually come in to police dispatch; Christmas is no exception. It is chronically a blue-mood time of year for people who lost/miss someone endearing. Some citizens are solitary and simply wish to talk to someone, and they know the police are a ubiquitous bunch of guys and gals around whom there is safety from whatever storm they are navigating. Counselors in cruisers show up 24/7/365. For me, those moments listening to someone’s loneliness on a day when most others are immersed in throngs of people sharing celebratory spirits…were enough to abate my own heartaches. I trust they saw it as mutual.

On the extreme side of the spectrum, some Christmases are not so holly and jolly for others. Without casting too much gloom, let’s just say I had some investigations on Christmas Eve and Day which involved waiting on the medical examiner. That is police work. No way around it. Yet other law enforcement duties evoke a cop’s vast store of resources and un-preplanned applications. In Florida, that is what a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s (PBSO) detective experienced recently.

Assigned to the PBSO Civil Service Unit —responsible for serving evictions and other court orders— Detective E. Smith tells the tale of arriving at an apartment door in order to officially serve an eviction notice endorsed by a judge. Det. Smith’s story perfectly encapsulates the purpose behind this article and, among other stories just like it, defines the title at the salutation above. In this highly emotional and touching exchange, you will witness cops/citizens discovering one another in usually awkward context, a family’s unimaginable dire straits, authentic humanitarianism which continued beyond the first meeting, and what I classify as humans in uniforms needing absolutely zero media coverage. Altruism requires no projection. Karma is on duty and situated for delivery of the goods, and that is how I found this gem; it simply appeared in my newsfeed:

PBSO comes together to help a family in need after eviction notice

A Civil Service Detective was mandated by the courts to evict a family from their home but after learning about their situation, we pulled together as a PBSO Family and helped.

Posted by PBSO – Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Friday, December 21, 2018

Yeah, about those tissues. What you just watched epitomizes the giving spirit among our nation’s law enforcers, especially when they recognize the indiscriminating system which accounts only for statutes, rules and deadlines, despite the crush of human souls born of affairs not of their own fault or choosing. Notice how “Darcy” described her devastating conditions and said “not having a person in the world to call…I am extremely blessed for you guys, [law enforcement officers], extremely blessed.”

As you saw, not only did Palm Beach lawmen and women size up the scene and equate this family’s dread and continuing plight, they did something about it. These deputies corralled themselves, discussed plans to help Darcy and children, pooled monetary and other resources, and bought more time to help reposition a family from behind the eight-ball. Sometimes it takes a village to raise a child. Other times it is a squad of deputies guiding a family along rocky road.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office page stated the following byline accompanying this video: “A Civil Service Detective was mandated by the courts to evict a family from their home but after learning about their situation, we pulled together as a PBSO Family and helped [emphasis added].” No, police officials do not always agree with the statutes, the enforcement of which they are responsible. Yet neglect of duty and contempt of court are realities cops confront during the course of their avowed duty. This appears to be a case of quick-thinking and mitigation of a court-mandated action parlayed into an equitable compromise (bought the family more time in their dwelling while addressing resolutions to include circumventing the eviction notice).

From first-hand experience as well as second-hand story-sharing among both current and retired police officers, such encounters happen far more often than the general public can imagine. There is an intriguing aspect among law enforcement officers (LEOs) which I came to recognize immediately in my police career: cops tend to prefer obscurity versus spotlighted attention. That says much about our guys and gals in law enforcement uniforms. (The irony nowadays has its dubious distinction: any attempts at performing police duties in obscurity is supplanted by all the need-to-know types armed with at-the-ready electronic gadgets accompanied by a seemingly insatiable appetite for what the cops are up to.)

Sometimes the giver is not armed with a firearm and a badge but, instead, a bell and a jingle…with gifts to bear for those who have seemingly surrendered any expectation other than the unquestioning and always available public bus bench or train terminal or wherever they are left alone:

Père Noël de l'année 🎅🎄

Posted by Manuela Macedo on Sunday, December 16, 2018

I am humbled by watching humans, costumed as Santa reaching deep in a red duffel, and doling out useable goods for folks who have only what is already on their backs. It is this season which reminds me that, among cops in particular, these transpirations occur during a 365-day span of time across many calendar years in geographies far and wide. Disabled man’s stolen bicycle, his only ride, was stolen and needed replacement? A St. Petersburg, FL cop made that happen. A cold, homeless man was observed shoeless on a frigid night in Manhattan? A NYPD cop bought boots for that individual and helped put them on a perfect stranger in need. An 85-year-old female senior citizen living a solitary life struggling and needing help with her lawnmower? A Green County deputy in full uniform shaved that earth to tip-top shape. Another senior citizen’s lawnmower stolen? A city cop brought one and mowed her grass. I bet he went back there afterwards.

These accounts are as abundant as plankton, and maybe just as small in certain context while gargantuan to the recipients of these good deeds. What matters is the enormity of the gesture from those who vowed to fill needs and abate problems. Speaking of my own personal/professional experiences, these humane things lend balance for all parties.

Heck, the very existence of and nature within the law enforcement institution is to give. Albeit unfortunate for those who make poor choices culminating in custodial arrangements made by police officers, taking someone into custody is giving justice to the victim(s). Arrestees may not care for that analogy, but it is factual and a component of due process and victims’ rights.

Ending on a good note: Know that your local cops are out there and looking to lend a hand wherever and whenever it is needed, seemingly highlighted during the Christmas season yet in actuality an everyday thing. As exhibited by Detective Smith, cops have crises of conscience. Clearly his colleagues shared his mindset, pitched as a team, and stayed within the confines of the law while doing so: It is a routine practice among LEOs.

Incidentally, the video depicting Darcy and PBSO deputies exceeded seven million views as of this writing, spreading good cheer far and wide. Thank you for reading and…Merry Christmas!

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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