My brother. The cop.

My brother retired a few years ago from being a cop.  He served the Colorado Springs community, his hometown, for 30 years.

I learned a little about police work watching my brother.  He worked the bar detail for awhile checking places like The Wagon Wheel on (what was then) the east part of town and then he’d drive over to The Cotton Club in downtown Colorado Springs.  Bar owners liked him.  He was fair with them.  Wanted to protect their business, their livelihood. He worked his way up through the ranks becoming a sergeant and then working undercover on drug detail.  He once described police work as hours of routine and monotony interrupted by very intense, life or death, adrenaline-pumping action.  Arriving on the scene of a bar fight, or busting through a door with a suspected meth dealer, armed, on the other side gets your attention.

As a cop, his interactions with the public were almost always in high stress, unpredictable situations.  You don’t roll up on the scene where humanity is showcasing its finest behavior.  You get a tainted view of humanity, I suspect,  because you constantly view its underbelly.  It’s the nature of the job.  And it takes its toll.

My brother was a good cop.  And by that, I mean he was skilled at what he did; he was respected by his peers and by cops who served under him in his sergeant command.  And he was a good cop, an ethical one.  He lives by a strong moral compass.

And this writing is not some unexamined, younger-brother-admiration of his older brother.  We argue.  We don’t see eye-to-eye.  My brother, 15 years older, is a product of the 1950’s.  He is on the conservative end of the spectrum.  My liberal leanings are fodder for an argument in which he always seems ready and willing to engage.  I both admire his conviction to his beliefs and wince sometimes at his unwavering adherence to them.  I suppose it is true with all of us — “conviction to” borders on inflexibility. ”Seek to understand” sometimes doesn’t exist.

I have thought a lot about him over the last several months.  I have thought a lot about cops.  I have thought a lot about community. About humanity.

I have thought a lot about Eric Garner and Michael Brown.  I don’t understand … I’ll just leave it at that.  I don’t understand.  How they both died, unarmed, by the hands of  cops for apparently pretty minor crimes.  How their resistance to whatever the cops were asking them to do escalated so quickly that they were dead within minutes of the interaction.  And I have thought about Tamir Rice who, at 12 years old, was shot within seconds of cops arriving at the park where Rice was brandishing an Airsoft pellet gun.  Or playing with.  His naiveté and kid-innocence tiptoed up to adult realities he could not really know.

Three black males — 12, 18, 43 — dead on the street.

And I have thought about cops being shot at lunch, like the two in Las Vegas over the summer, and, more recently, the two in their cruiser on a Brooklyn street.  I don’t understand.

Our view is skewed by the color of our fellow man’s skin or the hue of his uniform.  Are we all becoming profilers — racial, ethnic, religious, gender, occupation?  Our reactions toward and interactions with others are based on perceived and preconceived roles rather than relationships.  Perception is reality.  The cop in blue or the black man in a hoodie.  The cop.  The black man. Threat.

We see an icon, an image, a caricature.  We have lost touch with our humanity.  We become transfixed with seeing images of a black kid hugging a white cop not only because of racial implications in the photo, but maybe because of the touch.  Arms around each other.  Body to body.  The humanness. When are we ever this close to another human being, particularly those we may see as a threat?

The creation of more dialogue to build understanding and relationship won’t guarantee a fix.  But the absence of dialogue, the lack of effort to build understanding, surely guarantees no progress. The human voice touches.  Art touches.  Literature touches.

The cop.

My brother.

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