A storm was coming, the wind was up, the sky was dark and he was wearing sunglasses. He looked young, excited, like an athlete before a game, perhaps only a few years older than my sons.
And now that five police officers have been assassinated and seven other officers shot by that
There's so much anger and hate out there, legitimate historical grievances and phony opportunistic shrieking and political betrayals and phony hashtag wars. And always there is the ugly, predictable politics of race, read from a script written long before most young officers were born.
So why be a cop?
I'd been standing with an older officer. We were telling each other stupid stories for laughs when the rookies walked up. They had on all their new gear and fresh Velcro, and one wore sunglasses. The older cop asked me if I had any advice to give them. And I just had to open my big mouth.
Lose the shades, I said.
"Why?" said the kid. "They're cool."
Yes they're cool. But on a dark day with the sky gray and black, shades do little but hide your eyes. It means you don't want people to see what's going on behind them.
So lose the sunglasses and grow cop's eyes, I said.
I think of that now, with police officers dead in
He'll grow cop eyes soon enough. They all do, as a perk of the job. And he'll grow them quickly, to look out into the world and see threats and liars standing between him and going home after his shift.
As I said, this was weeks ago, before that terrified cop in
The chief said the sniper wanted to kill white cops.
It's been coming on for some time now, long before that horrible Black Lives Matter protest in
What happened in
All that pressure made something such as this inevitable, so much anger and politics and cheap hashtag thinking. But there's also been the leveraging of legitimate grievances and rage. It could have happened in
"He said he was upset about the recent shootings,"
When he said it, I thought of editors cringing, along with every mayor and police chief of every big city. Anyone with a brain can see how fragile things are now, how quickly something such as that could explode and get worse.
But it was what it was. The monster took a blood price from
Video and stories out of
So why would that young kid with the shades ever want to be a cop?
He won't see people at their best. He'll see them often at their worst, and that alone may brutalize him. He won't trust politicians. But if he becomes isolated with only his blue tribe behind that blue line, he may become lost.
Some night, he might walk up a cold stairway in deep winter and see a plastic garbage bag on the open landing with something tiny and frozen inside, and he'll know what it was.
A political hashtag on Twitter won't help him deal with it, though #alllivesmatter, even newborns in bags, and he'll never tell his family.
So with all the angry racial politics and hate and stupidity out there, why ever think of becoming a cop?
Because they're needed, that's why. They know this. And they know what would happen if they weren't out there. And so do you.