Just after this roof incident, as the other officers walked the suspect to the patrol cars, I saw the sister put her arm around her crying mother. Years ago, I wouldn't have stopped, needing to get back out on the street to arrest the next bad guy. During the last few years I had gone through a life-altering experience. My own son, using methamphetamine, had been living out on the streets, kicked out of our house at eighteen years old, turned in to the cops by a devastated dad. Now my son had been sober for only a few months with a newborn baby as his inspiration to stay clean. I walked back to that mother and sister and spent several minutes with them, explaining what methamphetamine does to families, where to get help for them and their son and/brother. I showed--no, I actually felt genuine compassion for this family, having shed those same tears. They thanked me as I left and I never saw or talked to them again, although I am sure we think of each other now and then on different levels. I wondered if they actually knew the names of the police officers that killed their son.
The reason I bring these separate-but-related incidents to light is the payback. The family of the drugged-out kidnapper we had to shoot never filed a lawsuit against the police department or the city. Why? I can only guess, but it is curious to me why in this day's litigious society why they wouldn't. My guess is the time spent by a concerned patrol sergeant trying to console a crying mother and daughter months before, was never forgotten. They knew their son created his own death, and the police were doing what they had to. I could be wrong about why they didn't sue, but it really doesn't matter. What I did during that first contact was right. It felt right, and I walked away knowing I had given something to that family--hope and some knowledge of how to help themselves and their son. I had no idea how that compassion would be returned to me.
When an off duty officer needs the police, especially calling a different agency than the one they work for and not identifying themselves as an officer, they know what it is like being on the other side of the phone call, waiting for what seems like a long time for the cops to show up. They then have to explain the situation to a uniformed officer who may or may not think that your crime is important enough to interrupt their coffee break. Having to deal with these situations from the "other side of the badge" will forever make you a better and more compassionate peace officer.