(CHICAGO) -- Will you make it home from work tonight? Will you be fortunate enough to enter your house and hug your children? Or will tonight be the night you don't come home?
In a police officer's job description there's always this warning: You might not make it home alive. Every 54 hours, a cop is killed in the United States, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
To be honest, I didn't plan to begin today's column with the two paragraphs above.
I'd intended to write about the negative encounters people have with police. Maybe it was the speeding ticket we didn't think we deserved. Or the high-handed way a cop dealt with us on a domestic call. I also intended to share my own recent experience with pushy police officers.
At this year's Zazz Bash, four off-duty Chicago officers flashed their badges and asked to enter the party free. Our volunteer ticket sellers explained that the $ 30 admission price benefited the Sun-Times Charity Trust. The cops still insisted on a free pass. Our volunteers finally told them, "OK, we'll let you in for $ 20 each." While three of the cops were paying their $ 20, a volunteer slipped entry wristbands on all four of them. Because his wristband was already on, the fourth cop decided not to pay, and just walked in holding his wrist in the air in victory. What an offensive sense of entitlement!
I wish we'd gotten his badge number so I could have called his superior and printed his name in the paper. He and his pals fit all the bad stereotypes of cops on the take.
But then my dad sent me a 2001 calendar he'd received in the mail. Published by the Officers Memorial Fund, it pays tribute to those killed in the line of duty.
My dad pointed out that journalists often focus on bad cops. He suggested I use my column to remind people about police officers who put their lives on the line every day.
In the calendar, each month is devoted to "a fallen hero." February honors Christy Hamilton of the Los Angeles Police Department. She was on the job just four days when she was shot. The bullet entered the armhole of her bullet-resistant vest. The killer was a teen drug user who'd murdered his dad, then waited to ambush the arriving officers. She left behind two children.
May honors Dale Claxton, who was following a stolen truck when the occupants fired 19 rounds through his windshield.
June honors Idaho State Trooper Linda Huff, a 33-year-old mother of three, who was shot by a man on a bike for no apparent reason. She returned fire, and "as she lay on the ground bleeding, her gun empty, her attacker walked over and shot her in the head." Her funeral procession stretched for 12 miles.
Writing this column over the years, I've heard from police officers' spouses, who say they feel overwhelmed with fear. Their marriages suffer because they can't take the strain. Outsiders can never really know what that's like.
I could have written a whole column about those bozo cops who tried to scam their way into Zazz Bash, but my father's sobering package changed the way I chose to frame this story.
Sure, there are bad cops. But we can't forget about the good cops who risk their lives to keep our lives safer. We can't forget about their families, waiting for them to come home each day.
For details on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, visit www.nleomf.com.
Write Zazz, Box 3455, Chicago 60654. Or e-mail: Zazz @suntimes.com. Or call Zazz's hotline, (312) 321-2003.
(iSyndicate; Chicago Sun-Times; Nov. 09, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.