Suzy Snapper
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Heart In Mouth

Tonight, I remember a little too clearly what it is to have a brother in the police force.

An officer - a brother in blue to my own brother - was shot tonight in a local suburb, the same one my brother works out of.

He will survive, thanks to the bullet proof vest he wore. The physical injuries are minor but the reverberations to his psyche, his family's, his colleagues and the families of his colleagues will take much longer.

I drove home blissfully unaware tonight. It's raining on the coast. I'd forgotten my cell phone at home, and decided to turn on the Christmas Carols and tune out the world. No conversations, no radio, just time to myself.

I get home to find 7 messages on the phone. All from my niece telling me to call her before I turn on the news.

My heart was in my mouth as I called her back.

"There was a shooting", she told me. I felt a deepening in my chest.

"Your Dad's at work today, right?", I asked, mentally calculating my brother's schedule. He's on the desk now. After 25 years on the beat, he took the front counter desk job after last year's heart attack. He is a beat cop, through and through. He loves the social atmosphere. Helping people. He'll tell you about taking a bad guy down a peg when needed, but his true stories are those about the children and the homeless people he's befriended over the years. His favourite show is Adam-12 and he often remarks that they should show it at the academy for training purposes.

"No, it's not him. We don't know who it is. But Dad's staying at work until things settle down."
I started rattling off names. Is it Red? Is it ... ? Listing off all the names of the friends who have graced my brother's couch during football season over the years. Is it...Oh, god, don't tell me it's Baby Cop!? A couple weeks ago, my niece and I took the kids down to the Santa Claus Parade. My brother was directing traffic with an officer who looked far too young to be doing the job. My niece yelled out to the guy. "My Aunt called you a Baby Cop!", she teased. He smiled broadly and stood proudly, "14 months on the job, ya know, but I'm doing what I've wanted to do all my life!" I couldn't help but grin.

That was the same day we met a homeless lady named Laura at the parade. She proudly introduced herself as my brother's friend. When we told her we were his family, she smiled a big toothy grin "Well, then you're my family too". She was in her late 50s, with ripped dirty clothes and a strong unwashed aura about her. We watched the parade with Laura, grabbing freebies from the vendors and giving them to her every chance we got. She told us how she always loved to run into my brother because he'd make sure she had a warm coffee and a snack.

"I honestly don't know, Auntie Sue", she said - bringing me back from the memory. "We only know it's not a veteran".

My reverie gone, I began to feel sick.

My brother's journey to driving a desk has been a rollercoaster. He's been shot at, he's been involved many precarious situations, and he's been in severe car accidents. But his career has been typical of every policeman out there. He's never once complained. Oh sure, he has his days when the world gets him down, but he's spent his life doing what he's always wanted to do and being surrounded by those who do too. Because of him, there are at least two boys who grew up to be police officers.

We were happy to hear he'd been transferred to desk duty. No more night shifts, no more scary nights when we knew anything could happen. But desk duty is not without it's dangers either. When I was 10, a police constable in my hometown was shot as he came around the corner to help someone who came in. That young constable left a wife and two young daughters.

It stuck with me from that tender age. My brother had just been through the academy at the time. I began to understand what it was like to be a police officer's sister even back then.

Police officer shootings in Canada has become all too common. Mayerthorpe alone last year cost us 4 of our finest. We have long prided ourselves on being the kinder, gentler nation in North America but we're no longer able to claim that.

A couple of weeks ago, 3 officers were shot in Winnipeg. That barely even hit the national news, yet 3 families suffered through that call we all most dread. I felt for those families, both blood and badge. I did a quick search to try and gain more knowledge into the event. The vitriol spewed forth infuriated me. "That poor man was only defending his home", one blogger vented. "The damned pigs must have scared him to death". Keeping in mind that those officers were there to serve a search warrant on a drug house. Scared to death? Well, maybe you should stop pushing drugs and ruining my country, then!

There was, however, an insightful article, "Police Shooting Hits Home" that struck a cord. Mike notes:

"Unfortunately, Thursday’s shooting has only reaffirmed a message that all
police officers learned a long time ago. When they put on the uniform,
they are also wearing a target. "

Sad world we live in.

Tonight, I wait for word on my brother's badge brother. I wish him a speedy recovery, both mentally and physically. He has good support.
I originally took this post down last night after hearing that this incident was the tragic result of friendly fire. During a takedown of a crack house, a fellow officer fired his weapon and hit his brother. There are many criticisms in the media these days about police officers, and I wasn't quite sure how to deal with this on my blog.
My first reaction was to circle the wagons. Take the post offline and hide. But that's not the right answer. I have however edited my post slightly so that it is not easily found by Google searches.
I often hear people slag police officers but I have learned, through the years, to disengage myself from it. Arguing inflames the situation, so staying quiet often difuses it. Even The Dude was very disrespectful towards the police, and it caused a great rift between us. One that made me lose a lot of respect for him.
When an officer fires a weapon, it is a split second decision. They are trained to react. But they are also human. My heart goes out to not only the officer shot this morning, but also the officer who fired his weapon.
I know them both, I know their families and I know how much everyone is hurting this morning. My heart weeps for all.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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