On a very late night, or very early morning in the summer of 1991, I was awakened suddenly by the sound of screaming and shouting.
The sound was coming from down the street. About a dozen or so kids, approximately between 18 and 21, were apparently being chased by other kids riding in a pickup truck. The kids being chased were running and screaming for help and stopping at every house, presumably seeking shelter from the other kids threatening their lives.
I was 23, married with two children at the time. My daughter was 2 years old, and my son was a few months old. They were both innocently asleep in their beds. Safe from the outside world, or so I hoped.
That was the night and the moment I decided to move out of Los Angeles and to Santa Barbara. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and yet at that moment, I couldn’t get out of L.A. fast enough. We moved to Carpinteria six months later.
Rewind a couple of years from that night, and often, late at night on a weekend, I would be awakened by a house party where I could hear kids, presumably college age, yelling, cursing, throwing bottles, revving their engines before tearing off to drunken and disorderly cheers.
My daughter was about a year old. And as my first child, nothing stood in my way of protecting her from every imaginable threat. And so I would regularly do what I assumed every responsible father regularly did. I would dial 911 to ask the police to send a patrol car to my neighbor’s house to get the situation under control.
I can still recall sitting alone and listening carefully in a dark apartment …waiting for the first audible signs of that police unit arriving on the scene to restore law and order. To restore peace. My personal version of nirvana.
So the scary experience of hearing those terrified kids, down my street, a couple of years later, was the last straw for me. My top priority in life was always the protection of my family. And short of going out and arming myself like some sort of survivalist, I’d stop at nothing to do that. And so for me, that meant doing something I wouldn’t have predicted a few years earlier, when I was in my late teens, unmarried and with no children, I established an alliance with my local police department. After all, they had the resources that I lacked.
I was sort of a rascal when I was in high school. I was even sort of a rascal in college. I drank a lot of beer, I stayed out late almost every night and I had a good time. I was the kind of guy that I myself would come to view very suspiciously only a few short years later. But such is life.
The Apostle Paul said when he was a child, he talked like a child, he thought like a child, he reasoned like a child. And then when he became a man, he put the ways of childhood behind him. Now as much as I’d like to say I succeeded in following Paul’s example; well, some of you know me and so you know I didn’t.
All of us are living life while busy making other plans. John Lennon said that. He said a lot of interesting things. I interpret his words this way; today’s wealthy retiree was once a starving laborer. Today’s passbook saver is tomorrow’s stock market investor. And today’s oblivious ruffian is tomorrow’s protective father with the local police on speed dial.
My alliance with law enforcement started the day I became a father, and it has never ended even though my kids are now grown and living on their own.
My appreciation, my reliance, my support, indeed my admiration for our police has only grown. And I have no doubts that the overwhelming majority of those who are out there demonstrating, protesting, rioting and even looting because of their outrage over this or that act of police brutality, they too, despite their anti-social behavior today, will one day come to understand the importance and the value of the blue lives who risk their lives for us whenever we call them to investigate a faraway scream, a loud bang, or the sound of a gate opening and closing in the middle of the night.
What a relief it is when we see that uniformed officers’ flashlight, or the flashing red and blue lights — and the calm and collected demeanor and confident voice of a perfect stranger who showed up to protect and serve.
And here’s what I believe. Actually, here is what I know. On any given day in America, our police protect and save more lives than all of the rogue cops have destroyed throughout our nation’s history combined. So to that, I need to say thank you and God speed to our brave men and women in blue.