“I just want to have two days off where no one expects anything from me.” She said heading out the door to go camping over the holiday weekend.
My fantasy restaurant name would be Attente. French for “expectation.” I, along with others, believe that we need to raise our expectations and set our sights higher, here in Vallejo. That should be our way forward.
In relationships, if expectations are not met then disappointment ensues leading to hurtful thoughts and words often accompanied by loud voices. Voices full of fear. Fear of loss. Loss of the relationship.
Just this last week the Vallejo Police Department announced that two if its officers, Corporal Aspegren and Officer Estrada, jumped into the pool to save a man’s life and something happened; the citizens of Vallejo celebrated them. The normal cadre of critic’s voices were heard . . . congratulating the officers and VPD. The VPD Facebook post was alight with heart and hand clapping emojis. Over six hundred people expressed their appreciation and gratitude.
Then it hit me. We expect a great deal from our police department. We imbue them with an awesome power and even greater, and growing, responsibility. The pressure that each officer carries must be tremendous. The level of expectation that we have for their behaviors cannot be compared to any other profession. We expect them to be the safe haven for lost children and our personal warrior clan all at the same time. We ask them to be polite and respectful then turn around and beg them not to quit fighting when someone’s life is on the line. To say that we expect much is an understatement, we expect everything from them.
My mother was a nurse back in the days when nurses wore white dresses to work. One day she came home with blood sprayed all over her uniform. I was a young child and my eyes must have been as saucers as I ran to her, wrapped my arms around her and asked if she was OK. She laughed, said yes and added, “We had a bleeder today.” Just as casually and you and I might speak of our current spate of warm weather. This was my first introduction to dark humor. My mother explained its significance over dinner. She explained, “That in stressful jobs, especially those that involve life and death, most people adopt dark humor as a way to relieve that stress.” We have come to realize, as a society, that dark humor is not enough to relieve all of the stress. Some remains as PTSD, in all of us.
When I read about how Corporal Aspegren and Officer Estrada jumped into the pool to save that poor man’s life it came to me, we are in a relationship with our police department. We love them. We love knowing that they are there just around the corner in their black and white SUV’s patrolling the neighborhood. We love the protection that they provide us. We love the memory of mom saying, “If you ever get lost, go up to a policeman and they will help you.” One could argue, that they have taken over where mom and dad have left off. The arbiter of unreasonable behavior.
Lately, many of us have, myself included, have had something to say about certain behaviors and actions of the Vallejo Police Department. Many voices have been loud and filled with fear. Mom and dad cannot protect us anymore. So who do we call if we are afraid of our police? This is a very tough question to ask, let alone answer. If we do not like a doctor, we find another doctor. If we do not like our attorney we find another attorney, if we do not like a politician we find and elect a different one. But what do we do about our police force? We are in a relationship. We are married to each other and divorce is not an option. So what do you do when you cannot quit?
My mother told me once that if you want a relationship you both need to fight to keep it going. Sometimes that means raising your voices. Other times it means having tough conversations over morning coffee. Mostly it means that both sides must accept the new, ever evolving, circumstances and make changes. Our police officers are amazing men and women. But they are also human. We ask so very much of them and sometimes we fail to recognize that they are giving us what we asked for, protection, and in return carry a weighty load.
My mother used to discipline us with a belt. Parents should not do that anymore. There are other ways to influence behavior. This type of corporal discipline, parent to child, has been accepted for millennia. It is direct and expeditious. Many of us baby boomers know of it well. Our justice system is based on it. Do something wrong, we take away your freedom. Negative reinforcement. Jonas Salk did something incredible so many years ago. He invented a vaccine for polio and changed not only medicine, but the world as well. Parenting has changed too, since I was a boy. The belt, for discipline, is no longer an option, Thank goodness.
To the Vallejo Police Department and the Vallejo Police Officers Association: Your job is incredibly difficult and demanding. Please know that we know this. But like medicine and parenting, as we gain new knowledge, and new perspectives, policing must change as well. Jonas Salk tried many things before discovering a vaccine for polio and eventually almost rid the world of it. I am proud of the amount of training that our officers take each year but I am asking each and every one of them openly to please reach out to other experts, other police departments and ask what changes they have made. For us and our relationship, please find the Jonas Salks of policing and openly embrace their new techniques for tactical public engagement.
Remember, we love you as we love our City of Vallejo. We are so very proud of you and thankful for the work you do. But as you drink your coffee and read this please know that we need to work through this together and both make changes with calm voices.
Thanks for following along with me.
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Until next time,