Friday, August 10, 2007

A Man in Uniform

I’d intended to blog about my experiences as a member of the GRPD Citizen Police Academy, but recent, tragic events have changed the focus. Later this month, I'll blog about my ride along, taking bites from a couple police dogs and handling who knows how many millions of dollars worth of drugs but for now I’d like to talk a bit about a man in uniform.

Now, I know there are some women out there who really have a thing for a man in uniform, but I've never been that girl. Really. Always went for the artists or musicians. That being said, I'd like to say that I've discovered that I actually do have a thing for a man in uniform. And a woman in uniform.

No, I haven't suddenly become a cop or firefighter groupie - but believe me those women are out there. I enrolled in the Grand Rapids Police Department's Citizen Police Academy and let me tell you, I learned a lot. I can see those of you who know me shaking your heads or outright pointing and laughing at me. I'll admit, I'm not the likeliest candidate for this sort of thing, but I'm so glad I did it. I had taken the course for research purposes, but I came away with so much more.

The course was designed to educate the public about how our local law enforcement operates. I’ve never met a more dedicated group of men and women – officers who love what they do. To Serve and Protect isn’t just a catchy phrase to these men and women. It’s a way of life – a code of honor if you will.

You might be thinking, but Bronwyn, I’ve met/heard about police officers who were real jerks. Well, I’ve met some of those officers, too – more than once. (NOT at the GRPD I’d like to point out.) The truth is there are asshats in every profession - lawyers, doctors, writers, actors, computer programmers – well you get the idea. But after meeting and talking with so many of these people I’m here to tell you that these officers genuinely love what they do and they do it because they want to make a difference.

These are people who have families and friends who love them. They have spouses and significant others with whom they argue and make up. They have kids who want to see them come home. They are people who get cranky, who like a good joke, who get frustrated about the price of gas, who worry about how their kids are doing in school, who are planning weddings and taking care of aging parents - people who are human - just like the rest of us. But they’re also people who are held to a higher standard and people who will risk their lives for you – whether they know you or not.

In a lot of ways, I think being a cop can be a rather thankless job. They break up parties, write tickets and occasionally piss people off – people generally aren’t thrilled to be stopped by a cop or have one show up at their house. However, when these same people need assistance, they want an officer five minutes ago. These men and women risk their lives every time they take a call. They never know what they’re going to find when they reach a scene or pull over a car.

Recently, in Indiana, a state trooper was murdered by a man he’d pulled over for a routine traffic stop. Even more recently, here in Grand Rapids, Officer Bobby Kozminski was ambushed and murdered while securing the perimeter at a domestic disturbance call. I didn’t know Officer Kozminski, but my heart aches for his family, friends and colleagues.

In very real sense, he died protecting every single citizen of this city. Race, creed, orientation - none of those things mattered. A family needed help so he responded. The officers of the GRPD will respond no matter the risk to themselves. Sadly, Officer Kozminski made the ultimate sacrifice.

When it comes to law enforcement, so often the media focuses on only the negative. Let’s face it, there are some situations that have gotten horribly out of control – Rodney King, anyone? But the positive things officers do every single day are overlooked unless there’s a newsworthy tragedy attached. I encourage you to get to know your local law enforcement – if they have a program like the citizen’s police academy, take it. You’ll be amazed by the things you’ll learn. At least take the time to tell them thanks.

I’d like to publicly thank Lt. Mark Ostapowicz and Sgt. John Dorer for taking the time to run such a wonderful class. I’d also like to thank Field Training Officer Gretchen Galloway for patiently putting up with me and all my questions for a whole twelve hour shift as well as Police Chief Harry Dolan for running an awesome department. And a final thank you to Officer Bobby Kozminski who gave his life to help others.

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