They say that if you are a police officer long enough, you’ll lose a friend. This isn't particular to law enforcement, but the reminders are more regular. No one ever thinks it will actually happen to them, it’ll happen to “someone else.” Last night I became that someone else.
The messages starting coming in, the same way they always do when there’s an officer seriously hurt on the job and the news isn't releasing names, “Hey, heard what happened, you ok?” I assured friends and family I was ok, and then began to back channel any information I could gather. You do not want to be the person who puts out personally identifying information before you know what has actually happened or worse, before the family has been notified. I’ve rarely known the officer. The times I knew them it was in passing or I recognized them from the picture that is eventually shown once all the proper parties have been notified.
This was not one of those times. This was a friend of mine. I do not claim to be his best friend nor to know him the best. But I had the pleasure of working in the same squad as him for several months and occasionally partnering with him. The squad was a very tight knit one, they’d worked together for years and had a camaraderie found in units that have done dangerous work together.
This was a “proactive” street unit; the kind that purposely looks for shit to get into. We went out daily looking for warrants, guns, dope, etc. and that meant frequent foot chases, car chases, and hairy situations. You might expect the guys to be standoffish to the new guy, but I was welcomed. You also might expect the guys to be meat-heads, but this was a group of professionals with a wide array of interests and stories.
My friend might have been the most unique of the group. When I first met him, I saw his forest and nature ink, his hair, and his youth, my first thought was “when did hipsters become cops?” Apparently, I was not alone in that thought. The other guys ragged on him all the time but I never once saw him be anyone but himself. He didn’t mind if you gave him shit for the composting pile he had at his home (pun sort of intended) or that he was a coffee snob (I did not know I knew nothing about coffee until we had a conversation about cold press.) He was a remarkably intelligent man with a wide array of interests and he didn’t really care what you thought of him.
For as goofy his hobbies may have seemed, he was an exceptionally good cop. I don’t know all his stories and awards, but I know from experience that he never shied away from the streets or getting into some shit. Foot chases, car chases, weapons drawn, etc. he was there in the middle of it. Despite being older than him, I learned a lot from him. How to be a better, more tactically sound officer, but also, how to not let what anyone else thinks of you deter you from being who you are.
Both the small part of his life I was fortunate enough to share and his untimely and tragic death serve as poignant reminders that life is incredibly short. Do not trifle with how others perceive you. Do not waste your time.
If you’re on this planet long enough, you’ll lose friends. But if you push yourself and honestly pursue your passions, you might meet people that help make you a better person too. I know I did. Rest easy, bro, you Died Living.