Even though it's been five years since I was employed by the sheriff's department, I still feel a certain connection to the people and the agency. In fact, I feel a certain connection to all law enforcement agencies. I worked as civilian staff but I worked with the badge personnel and saw many things in my time with them.
The deaths of the four officers from the Oakland Police Department have hit me with such anger and sorrow. The connection tightened and pulled at me, reminding me of the people I worked with, the ones still out there who don the uniform, the horror of an officer who fell in the line of duty during my time there. You work with people long enough and you learn to accept them, to care about them, to detest them, to love them. Law enforcement is an unusual creature when you're not badge personnel. I knew these men and women but I didn't know what it was like for them to put on the uniform along with the weapons and knowledge that this day could be their last. You hear stories, you read reports, you listen. I consider myself an empathetic person, so I could imagine what it must be like, but I don't *know.*
I don't say this often, but I do miss working for the sheriff's department. I miss the people and the job. I miss the financial security of it. But I couldn't stay there and still stay the person I wanted to be. So I left. And I was glad. But that doesn't mean I don't still care and still worry. I do.
When the officers were shot and killed last Saturday, I felt sick. Oakland has seen volatile times of late and this was yet another sign of the crackling atmosphere of the city. We watched the news, waited for the facts and the reactions. I wondered if I had ever seen any of these officers when I worked for the sheriff's department. Did they pass through the halls of my work? Did I ever nod a hello to them? When I read that one of the officers was the husband of a former sheriff's deputy, it really hit me. And I knew that this tragedy was cutting into the heart of all the law enforcement agencies out there.
My anger stems from the reactions of some people who believe the killer to be some kind of martyr. While I understand, at the most basic level, that this person was a human being, his actions during his life stripped away decency, humanity, and goodness. His last actions, so violent and hateful, displayed his utter disregard of human life. Nothing can justify the last actions of this person. NOTHING. Yet people out there consider him some kind of misunderstood person, yet he was the one with a no-bail warrant for his arrest. He was the one with a weapon in his possession. He was the one who chose to shoot and kill the first two officers. He was the one who chose to run and hole himself up with an assault weapon in a closet. He was the one who chose to fire his weapon and take the lives of two more officers who wanted only to stop him from hurting anymore people.
And I'm sorry, people think donations and support should be sent to this killer's family? For what? HE KILLED FOUR PEOPLE. He was a murderer in his last moments. He took the lives of four men whose sole duty was to serve and protect. Why did he do that? We don't know. But we certainly can't celebrate it. We can only pity the people he left behind. And if they had any dignity or intelligence at all, they would fade back into their lives and hope that no one connects them to the heinous actions of this murderer.
Now I'm watching the memorial for the four officers. And I'm crying a lot, laughing a little. It's hard listening to the speakers who knew the officers. You can hear their pain and their sadness. They share their memories and the enormity of their loss hits them at certain moments. How can it be that these peace officers are gone? All the people who attended and all the people who watched know how these men touched the lives of those around them. They were loved. And the men loved their families, their job, and the community.
I hope that some of the feelings of hope sink in and drive people to do good. I hope that beyond giving their lives in the line of duty, the memories of these police officers remind us that there are those among us who do serve and protect for the greater good.
May hope be their lasting legacy.