I was originally going to make this only a Facebook post on New Year’s Day, but after a million and one distractions, I’ve finally been able to sit down and really think about my experience, and figured this website would be as good a forum as any.
I had tears in my eyes on New Year’s day. No, I wasn’t crying over the gorgeous floats less than a block from my home in Pasadena. Wow, I’m so blessed. I live in such a beautiful place, and can experience something up close and in person that millions of people can only dream about or watch on TV. But I digress.
As my little family and I watched the Rose Parade, a street vendor with a cart full of bright shiny toys decided he would stop right in the eye-line of my not-quite 2 year old Benjamin. Of course, he started with his usual “What’s that!?” in his cute little baby voice, pointing and smiling, and doing all he could to get us to get it for him. He’s so hard to resist and he knows it! But on this day, Hubby Chavel and I looked and decided that funds were a little too tight after Christmas to indulge the little curly-topped toddler. So we told him, “No, Benjamin, not this time,” and turned back to the floats.
We had no idea that our conversation was overheard by two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies with their police dog, standing in front of their sheriff’s vehicle. A minute or two later, the tallest deputy I’ve ever seen came over to us with the little Spongebob Squarepants paddle and ball and asked if it would be alright if he gave the toy to Benjamin. We said yes, and watched the baby’s big brown eyes light up as he gripped the new gift tightly.
Chavel hugged me as I wept quietly over the enormity of that act of kindness. The act itself was deserving of my tears, but Deputy Eric did more than just give a toddler a gift that day. He also gave me a gift. His gift to me was a sigh of relief that what I’ve always known and that what I think most sane people know is absolutely true. That not all cops are bad!
These days cops are getting a bad rap. There are people out there who will literally say “all cops are bad!” I have a friend who I really enjoy talking to. He is normally pretty sane. But I have to wonder about his sanity when he vehemently says to me, “Tami, ALL cops are bad!”
“But how can you paint a whole group of people with such a broad brush, Steve?”
“Because the supposed good cops always know when bad cops do something wrong, and they won’t say a word. They will always protect the brotherhood.”
I’ve always rejected that line of thinking. And besides wasn’t Serpico about a good cop who ratted out the bad cops? It’s based on a true story. So come on, you’re just wrong on that one Steve!
But now as I face the New Year, I have evidence collected from personal experience. This cop gave selflessly, after hearing that our funds were tight. Now don’t get me wrong. We are blessed beyond measure. We are not rich by any means, but the Lord supplies our needs when we ask Him, and we have never lacked anything that we really needed for our children or for ourselves. We don’t always get what we want…. but we always have what we need. So to see this law enforcement officer provide a smile for our child that we weren’t going to be able to provide that day was truly uplifting.
I’d like to think that if we were in a completely different setting and he had pulled me over, and I got mouthy, disrespectful or, heaven forbid, reached for something, that this is the cop who would keep his cool. This is the cop who would not shoot first and ask questions later during an incident with a Black person. Because you see, despite my upbringing where I was taught to respect police officers (Mom hates it when we call them cops), despite the fact that I know never to talk disrespectfully to police, despite the fact that I know to always keep both my hands in plain sight when dealing with police who carry loaded weapons, I admit that some of the stories over the last few years have gotten to me. Provoked or unprovoked, there’s plenty of video evidence out there of cops shooting Black people. Often it looks like for no real good reason. I admit that I’ve been getting more nervous than usual when I see a police car in my rear-view mirror. I’m a 41 year old, heavier-than-I’d-like-to-admit Black woman who isn’t as beautiful as I was when I was 20. While I know I deserve respect regardless, I’m also a realist. The world judges us on the outside, and that might include some prejudiced cops. I’d like to think that Deputy Eric would be the cop who wasn’t prejudiced or racist, the one who treats me well despite society’s views about my weight, my skin color, or natural loss of beauty.
This isn’t an isolated incident. There are all kinds of stories out there about good cops. Cops in uniform who go hang out with the neighborhood kids, cops who buy the homeless meals, cops who help kids carry laundry and more. Deputy Eric belongs on that list. He is proof that not all cops are bad. I hope the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department commends him for his actions on that day. He helped start the New Year off right.