On Christopher Dorner, and Straddling The Thin Blue Line
By Mama By The Bay on February 19, 2013
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I read every sentence of Christopher Dorner's manifesto.
Beginning to end.
I read it, and I sat with it, and my stomach turned with anxiety for all of the men and women who had to fear him.
I read it, and I said to myself....."Yep. Pretty much sums it up."
I used to work for one of the most urban police departments in the country. Dorner may have been an angry psychopath, but I have no doubt that the secrets that he decided to share with our country last week were true.
I was raised to respect the police. I am white, upper middle-class, and frequently fearful of doing something wrong. Of getting "in trouble". I will never forget being seven years old and yelling from the backseat of our car "Look Mom....the pigs are driving by!". My mom stopped our old volvo in the middle of the road, and swung around in her seat. "We do NOT use that word in our family." she said. I had never seen her eyes so angry. "The police are here to protect us. We do NOT disrespect them that way." It was a mistake that I never made again.
In my early 20's, my desire to "help people" led me to a tiny community that housed a shelter for women and children who had been abused. I performed "curbside social work", meeting moms on the playground, helping them find food banks and free healthcare. hey taught me about the power of motherhood, and how it was possible to raise a child with nothing but love to sustain them. The 20-something me worked from noon to 10 pm, all alone in the dark night, with only foolish pride and cheerful naivete standing between me and a steady infiltration of drugs, gangs, and predators. I learned more about socioeconomics, white privilege, feminism, and change-making from my strong, spirited clients, then in any college classroom. I loved every minute of that job. I was never afraid. But I also knew that I had back-up. There was a police officer who had been assigned to the small rows of apartment buildings where my clients lived, and he was "neighborhood policing" at its finest.
I had never met a police officer like this man. I had never met a man like this police officer. Kind. Soft-spoken. Gentle with my littlest clients, and with a dark sense of humor that disarmed my most angry grown-up clients. He wrote condolence notes to citizens who had lost loved ones in car accidents. He showed up. Every night. He was fair, and he was thorough, and he didn't flinch when the "naked lady" upstairs overdosed one too many times, and we had to walk into her smoke-filled room to make sure she wasn't dead.
So when I was offered a position with a neighboring police force, I jumped at the opportunity. I already had tremendous respect for what the police did. For the sacrifices they made for us. For the power that accompanied a shiny badge and confident gait. I said yes. I knew that it was an old boys club. And I was ready for an adventure. I was a "change-maker". Over-confident, and blessed with a naive blend of courage and stupidity.
What I saw in that urban police department would change my life. It would change my life, and end my career, all in one divisive swoop. Not all police officers were like the one who stood next to me in that tiny apartment. Heroes are not always the men that you expect them to be.
I was young. I was pretty. I was a civilian employee, brought into the Special Victims Unit to do "social work". On the totem pole of police officers, I was hanging out at the very bottom....in 4-inch heels. I was on the secret side of the thin blue line, but I hadn't earned my stripes yet.
What I saw in one short year, was nothing short of extraordinary. Men (and they were mostly men), tasked with keeping the rest of us safe. Not just the pretty girls. But the drug dealers. The 19-year-old gangsters. The women who called 911 to report domestic violence, only to try to beat the shit out of the police officers who arrived. I saw mothers lose their children, and children bury their mothers, and through it all these officers jumped in their patrol cars every.damn.day and drove off to save their souls. It has been said that firefighters get all the glory. When they drive down the street, sirens blaring, people are always thrilled to see them. But when cops come rushing to the scene, everyone runs the other direction.
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