The holiday season is one of the busiest, most dangerous times for law enforcement officers on patrol across the country. The reason for this is simple: people with big problems see those problems as even bigger during the time of the year when they are “supposed to be happy because everyone else is.”
Officers respond to distraught, extremely depressed individuals who may be drunk, physically abusive to themselves or others, want to take their own lives or the lives of others, or commit violent acts in an attempt to recover from financial or emotional hardships. We as first responders have to deal with these often disturbed individuals that have now gone completely over the edge because it is Christmas Eve and they are alone, broke, or out of their drug of choice and can’t find (or afford) more.
Instead of carving the Christmas ham at home, these officers may be wrestling a dad to the ground that was supposed to carve a ham but decided to cut his wrist with the knife instead. They may be responding to an accident — or following that, notifying loved ones of a tragic fatality and loss of a family member.
Many officers may get to “swing by” their own houses and enjoy their lunch break with the family before getting back to business, if they’re lucky. Not to mention all the dispatchers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel that must work 24/7 as well and may not get to celebrate until the next day, when others are beginning to take down the tree and ornaments.
When I walk into a trailer on a disturbance call this Christmas, and there is a two-year-old with a diaper on that hasn't been changed in a day, roaches crawling up the walls, beer cans everywhere, all while mamma and boyfriend just beat the hell out of each other, I will be very thankful for what I have. I will, despite my own hardships, realize that I am still blessed compared to so many people, living in this country and other countries across the globe.
If there is one thing that I could get my civilian friends to realize this holiday season is not how blessed they are during the holidays but how really blessed they are during the holidays.
So when you find yourself sitting in front of the fire drinking eggnog — whether you get to do so on Christmas or some other day off — remember all those patrol officers out there protecting and serving behind the scenes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that the rest of the world will still think that there is peace on earth.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours...
Andrew G. Hawkes