About town

I live in a fairly small city. When I make my near-daily grocery trip I’m sure to run into at least two people I know. Strangely, my dentist is often in the mix. The folks I work with 9 to 5 are the very same friends I catch a Thursday night ballgame with in the summer. And when I’m making the morning commute, I am almost guaranteed to see that same black and white patrol car make a right turn onto Main Street as I continue on ahead.

And sometimes I still tap the brakes. It’s not because I’m speeding; I’m usually not. I think it’s just a conditioned response.

I wish fear were not so often the first response when one sees an officer around town. Men and women in law enforcement see it all—the good and the bad. Unfortunately at times negative impressions of flashing lights and duty belts seem to erode the good...at least that’s what countless news stories might have us believe.

But we all know that’s not reality. Take the story of 25-year-old NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo. While visiting New York City, Jennifer Foster snapped a picture of DePrimo bending down to offer brand new socks and boots (that he had just purchased) to a homeless man on the street. That picture went viral.

Unfortunately the feel-good stories like these are not shouted from the rooftops as they should be. Fortunately, big-city police officers and small, rural sheriff deputies alike continue to impact lives—not to seek publicity, but to help improve society.

In this month’s cover story Serving the children, Michelle Perin writes about two very special programs where officers interact with local children in a fun and positive way. Programs like the Kops and Kids Outdoor Adventure program in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana and Shop with a Cop, orchestrated by the Maryland State Police (Page 18), are great examples of two agencies that regularly give back. Take it from Maryland State Police Lieutenant Mark McGuire: “We need to get to [kids] earlier to prevent that negative view.”

That made me wonder: Where else are officers making it a point to “see and be seen” in towns around the country? Stop a minute and consider: how strong are your community ties?

Whenever I see a patrol car perched in the park or an ambulance spiraling towards the hospital, after that brief but hyper-alert sensation dies away I feel thankful to live in a place where good people are working around the clock, facing danger and tedium and everything in between, just to make sure everyone else’s life is a little bit safer.

It’s part of what makes a plain old city feel more like a cozy town.