I have had many opportunities to speak and correspond with officers and detectives from Chicago, in the course of my job as a cop and through articles they have responded to with questions or comments, and found them unfailingly professional, respectful, and polite. On two occasions, while on traffic stops in my own beat, I have had unmarked CPD squads with plainclothes officers within pull up to back me. They did not need to - they were in my town working their own case some 30+ miles away from downtown Chicago - but did anyway because their instinct was to make sure another cop was safe while approaching dicey-looking cars.
I have had coworkers, from my department and the social service agency where Althea and I used to work, who have moved on to join the CPD ranks. Their selections reflect well on the department for choosing high-caliber individuals.
I have been in training classes with, and taught by, Chicago coppers that were information-rich learning experiences precisely because of their presence. What they brought to the table as instructors or fellow students added layers to the class that otherwise would have been missed.
Lately, and far too frequently, I have felt my stomach knot at the report of yet another Chicago police officer killed. It is then we get just a glimpse at the legacy of a life lived well as solid, stand up, community-service-oriented lives are revealed and honored in premature death.
The dedication to service and justice that has been recently, and repeatedly, lain bare in tragedy may never have been noticed by the larger world were it not for the legacy holder’s loss. The service to the community would have likely just continued quietly, with few knowing but for those directly touched by it or witness to it, with little or no celebration. And that has to be okay, because it reveals a truth: All across cities, towns, and wide open country spaces everywhere are police officers, deputies, and troopers, state and federal agents, park rangers and game wardens who are quietly building their own legacies of honor.
Next month we will conclude this series on Legacy with a closer look at a few built on dedication to honor and service, to celebrate those of us who have done and are doing it right, and with a challenge to all of us to examine the legacy we are building.