When the Day Comes for End of Watch
March 9, 2016
The call came.
With a gun.
Shooting in a park.
Like others, a park on a pleasant spring-like day where kids gleefully played kickball, where young mothers happily pushed their babies in strollers, where the elderly went for restful, restorative, leisurely walks.
So, when the call came, he went.
Went to the park in the city of some 55,000, the city where he signed on as a police officer a couple of years ago.
The city where he felt safer, much safer, than the one of more than eight million he had worked in for some five years, the one where his assignment was in an especially tough, rough area where trying to keep the peace is particularly challenging, demanding.
But in this new place, life was good, promising, blessed.
Soon, he would wed the love of his life, the one who made his heart proud, made it pound. The one who lovingly called him “my man in blue.”
He had come not simply to protect but to – as they put it, in one way or another — give those here what collectively amounted to a hug.
And, one by one as he moved about the community doing his job, following his calling, they hugged him back, literally and figuratively.
He was caring, thoughtful, compassionate, generous, empathetic.
One with a “pure heart.”
And a disarming, endearing sense of humor to boot.
One you would like your kids to meet, get to know.
Maybe even grow up to be like.
He was oft-commended. Officially. Unofficially.
When he came, he brought with him a smile.
A ready, genuine, caring, good-to-know-you smile.
A smile of the face, yes.
But a smile, too, from deep in the heart, deep in the soul – where love lives.
He made the sun shine.
In this special way, that special way.
Day after day.
So on that day, that fateful day at the park, the call came.
So he went.
Quickly came the ambush.
Oh, so quickly.
And the young man who proudly wore Badge 554 was at End of Watch.
Another time, another place – this one not a dozen miles away:
A young policewoman was shot and killed after going to an apartment to get a report on a domestic dispute.
The male subject had left. The police officer was taking a report from a female victim. Unexpectedly, the male subject returned.
The man opened fire. The officer shielded the woman’s young daughter, saved her. But the officer was fatally wounded. The man murdered the woman and killed himself.
The officer had finished her field training only a couple of weeks before she came to End of Watch, just days after Christmas.
At 24, and only months into the job she had worked so long and so hard and so enthusiastically to earn, she was gone.
Other times, other places, just miles away:
One police officer is stabbed to death.
One dies in an aircraft accident.
One is killed in a vehicular assault.
One dies in an aircraft accident.
One is killed by a drunken driver.
One . . .
Other times and in other places, police officers, though they survive, are stabbed, beaten, cursed, scalded, kicked, kneed, spat upon, bitten, disarmed, scratched, pounded, hammered, slammed.
Some are hospitalized. Injured for weeks, months. For lifetimes. Confined to wheelchairs, bed. Suffer intense pain. Debilitating depression. Haunting uncertainty.
Wounded in ways that readily show.
And ways that don’t.
Still, the calls come in.
Still, they go.
Going along with them surely is the ever-present awareness that End of Watch might be accompanying them.
And about every three days it is.
Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author.