Blue

Blue

Blue                                                                 May 2019

Near my home there is a postal drop box. It stands about 4 feet high, and a label announces the days and times when the letters deposited in it will be picked up. It is painted a deep rich blue. This box is new though the old one had been there for decades. It has a flaw. Occasionally the hinged gate will push a letter into a seam that did not get a weld at the factory. It jams there and jams hard. The postal workers who gather the mail from the big, blue box can’t see that stuck letter when they open the collection door. One day I made a point to find the carriers and tell them. Now they look.

There is another in blue that sits faithfully at the corners of our neighborhoods – the police officer on duty. Each one may have been there for decades or may be new to that spot. What condition are they in after seeing all the trauma, the horrible trauma, that is a part of their daily world? Do they have something within them that has become less solid.

I recently had the privilege of seeing a movie, along with the “brass” of most of the first responder organizations in our county, city police chiefs, the sheriff, border patrol captains, and federal agents. The film, Keeping the Peace*, is about the visions that sometimes get stuck under the skin of the blue veneer.   One of the people in the film called it “stuck in the on position“ referring to being unable to let go of the sounds, sites, and smell of incidents which would traumatize any normal human. Yet, their “corner“ must be staffed again the next day, too.

In recent days, the media has cast negative eyes on these servants. It is an eye that sees only the stuck ones and implies they are all flawed. There is great danger to our society which can come from this. As I trust the postal box, so must the citizens of a city be able to trust their cops. I know from personal experience that 99% of them or more are solid and true. They represent what is right, what is lawful, what is serving, what is consistent, and what is good. Like that postal box, they stand in the rain of human tragedy. The mud of every incident gets splashed onto them. Underneath the visible strength, they are just as human as you or I. The splashed mud stains their uniforms. It is still mud.  Yet, they still stand.

The problem is they take the beating without complaint. “Talking it out“ has not been available to them because there has been a stigma attached to that “weakness.“ Their training and culture have been “get over it and get back to your post.“ The pummeling their psyche takes today is bad enough, but to that must be added the specter of seeing the same thing tomorrow and every day in the future. As well, the incident does not get rid of the mud. The mud of human hatred never goes away. They feel the pain. Still they stand.

Keeping the Peace was produced to help these loyal servants with broken hearts to seek help when the mud gets too deep. You may not know, but more officers are lost to suicide than are lost on the job. Those lost on the job include death by assault, death by vehicle collision, and death by accident during an activity. Chief Jeff Davis of El Cajon, California, posed this question, “Why do we spend so much money and time on training threats from outside the officer, when more die from the threats from within?“

The film gives the officers permission to be weak behind closed doors and to find counseling and help so they can cathartically wash off yesterday’s mud while still going out to wade through it again tomorrow. When the stress at home rises, when sleep won’t come, or when it does arrive with nightmares, they can be given the tools which can help them deal with that stress. Their families can be given coaching on how to live in a “not-normal” lifestyle with its daily fears and concerns.

When you scratch a millimeter below the strong top veneer of these servants, you find a heart that cares. Imagine a job where you cleaned up the mud and yet tomorrow it reappeared. Imagine a 7,305 day career where for 7,304 nights you knew that the mud was going to be there again the next day. There would never be a finished oil painting, no completed software program, no car built on the assembly line, no perfect plate cooked or served from the chefs kitchen; nothing ever finished and done. Just more mud, yet they stand.

When a society supports media, whose stories turn all the authorities into villains, and all the villains into victims, that society has turned a corner and gone down a very dark street. They have created a shift away from the understanding that the police are right and that the police do good in our communities. We can only hope that there is a blue presence on the corners beyond that turn, and there on the day when we need them. Still they stand.

So when you see these public servants, give them the respect they deserve for battling against the mud on your behalf. If you know them personally, encourage them to talk and to get help when they need it. Promote providing resources for the chaplains, counselors and wellness coaches. Tomorrow the mud will be there again and so will they because no matter what, they stand.

 

 

 

*Keeping the Peace – Legacy Productions, Jim Ellis Producer

Link for more information about this film:

http://legacyproductions.org/keeping-the-peace-for-the-peace-keepers/

Additional project services available by Jim Ellis at LegacyProductions.org

 

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