Thursday, September 13, 2012

Random Thoughts...

Today I had the honor and privilege of attending the funeral service for California Highway Patrol Officer Kenyon Youngstrom.  This was my seventh law enforcement funeral in eleven years.  During the time leading up to, during and after the service my mind was in high gear with many things running through and some pausing for a bit of contemplation.  Many of today's ruminations were inconsequential, but many were not.  I know you're asking "But what, besides the light passing through from ear to ear, could possibly be going through that empty head of yours, Smith?"  Well, let me give you a bit of insight...

As I was preparing my Class A uniform, shining my brass and boots, and cleaning up the motor this morning, I began thinking about some of the similarities and coincidences between myself and Officer Youngstrom.  A couple of examples are we were born about three weeks apart, and were hired as police officers within a week of each other.  I've never met the guy, but for some reason those facts stuck with me for the rest of the day.

As we were riding up to Vacaville with the Smithville PD contingent, I was reminded of a very important fact.  Cops can't drive at a steady speed in a procession.  We ran up and down between five and ninety-five miles per hour all the way up, and never at a steady speed.  Next time, I'm leading.

While we were waiting in line to park, I saw a driver rolling by in the opposite direction.  The three lane road was full of police cars facing southbound in all three lanes.  Northbound traffic was confined to driving on the paved shoulder.  As the driver approached where I was waiting he got a disgusted look on his face and shook his head as if to say he was perturbed at the inconvenience of having to slightly adjust his route.  His face and his body language communicated his thoughts very clearly.  "All this for a dead cop?"

During the service, I noticed how apparent it is which officers have prior military service and which do not.  You can tell by the way we carry ourselves, by the appearance of our uniforms and mostly by how we salute.  I saw several officers who "present arms" with their hand flat across their brow like they were shading their eyes from a bright light.  Others had their hand to the side of their head with the palm facing outward, Brit style.  I did not, fortunately, see any boy scout salutes.

After the service, which was well done by the way, I returned to my motor and was talking with Motorcop about our respective reasons for attending today's service.  I don't go to these funerals because I have to.  I don't even go because I want to.  I go out of a sense of duty to my fellow public servants, and I go to honor the life and sacrifice of my fallen brother.  I go because I know that if (God forbid) we were to trade places, they would go for me.

To those who have never worked in a public safety or military occupation, all of this may seem rather silly.  Brother?  Puh-leeze.  You didn't even know the guy.  Some folks simply cannot comprehend that we as police officers consider each other as brothers and sisters.  They just don't get that I would trust any of these people to cover my ass in a firefight, just as they would trust me, all simply because of the uniform they wear.  I have the utmost respect and honor for all who wear this uniform, whether it be blue, tan, green or any other color.

It goes even deeper when you consider the people I immediately work with.  These are the people who go to battle with me on a daily basis.  I place my safety squarely in their hands.  I consider every one of these people to be family.  I welcome them into my home.  I will share anything I have with them.  I look out for them and they look out for me.

People who don't understand this are people who do not place their own life on the line every day to protect the lives of others.  These people don't face the possibility that there is someone waiting in the driver seat of the next car they stop who is willing to do them harm simply because of the job they have chosen to do.  This is a fact we face every day, many times per day.  Any traffic stop could be our last, just as the morning of September 4th was the last for Officer Youngstrom.

So then the topic changed to retirement.  So many people are up in arms calling for "reform" of public retirement systems.  They think we are allowed to retire too early and make too much money in retirement.  The bill recently signed into law by our Governor changes the retirement age from 50 to 57, and changes the retirement formula from 3% per year to 2.7% per year.

Under our current 3% at 50 system, an officer can retire at 50 years old after working for 30 years and draw 90% of their highest year salary.  After 30 years, you're basically working for the fun of it because you are no longer increasing your retirement, having maxed out at 90%.  Under the new 2.7% at 57 system, an officer hired at the age of 21 would max out at the age of 54.3 years, but would not be allowed to retire for another three years. 

If an officer is fortunate enough to make it to thirty years, that officer deserves to be able to retire at any age.  The policymakers who create these laws have no clue what it means to be a public servant.  They are "self servants".

So, yeah.  I guess you could say my mind has been everywhere today.  It was good to meet Motorcop again though.  But dammit man, we have to stop meeting only at funerals.

Be good to each other, and take care of yourselves...


14 comments:

Aaron de Bruyn said...

Two people dear to me passed away in recent years.

One was a police officer. Similar to what you mentioned, the full force of the state was out to shut down traffic, break the law, waste fuel, and show the power and superiority of the state...


The other was my father. No roads closed, no huge parades of tax-feeding thugs with flashing lights breaking traffic laws to show that he was more powerful or better than anyone else, just a simple 3-person service.

Can you see the difference between the two events?

Officer "Smith" said...

I can see that you seem to be a very bitter individual.

Aaron de Bruyn said...

Weird. I never knew that pointing out how the government treats "its own" differently that it treats "the little people" was bitter.

Kid Cop said...

Looks like Aaron used the bitching, griping, complaining and bellyaching part of your comment section correctly. Apparently those who put their life on the line every day are 'thugs'. Who knew?

Too bad he feels that way. It's quite unfortunate, really. I only hope that he can find some peace within himself.

Cinderella911 said...

Wow, just wow.

Law Enforcement officers risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe. There are those AND their families that pay the ultimate sacrifice to do so. I'm sure Officer Smith remembers hearing about two young police officers in a South Dakota community that were killed in the line of duty in August 2011. There was overwhelming support and RESPECT from the community as we mourned the loss of them.

We work a thankless job and don't do it for the money (you cannot get rich in this business). We see things others don't and do things others won't. I love what I do and I couldn't have chosen a better career than Law Enforcement.

There is an unspoken love we have for each other. It's amazing and there is no other relationship out there like it.

Rest in Peace, Officer Youngstrom.

John 15:13

Officer "Smith" said...

Aaron,

Pointing out that we treat ours differently is not what I was referring to as bitter sounding.

"break the law, waste fuel, and show the power and superiority of the state..."

and

"tax-feeding thugs with flashing lights breaking traffic laws to show that he was more powerful or better than anyone else"

make you sound bitter.

Aaron de Bruyn said...

Good justification y'all.

So let's forget the fact that police fatalities have been going down consistently year after year and that 2012 is the safest year on record (http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/) even counting the 'other' category which includes having a heart attack sitting in your patrol car, choking on a doughnut, and making dumb decisions like flipping on your lights to pull over a speeder and pulling out in front of a tractor trailer without looking, etc...

...and let's pretend being a cop is actually dangerous.

Let's also pretend that cops actually prevent most crimes instead of arriving after the fact or are simply revenue generating machines for the state when 'the little people' get out of line--like 5 MPH over, or failing to notice a defective tail light within 30 seconds of it going out.

So throwing all that aside, and with your full knowledge of the risks involved, 'the little people' are suddenly supposed to throw parades in your honor, stop traffic, and fawn over you because you're somehow better than everyone else and 'deserve' special treatment?

It's a sad day when *any* good man dies, police or not.

Aaron de Bruyn said...

With all due respect, I don't see it as being 'bitter' when you describe an accurate situation.

If I were to get into my car and race my friend down the street, I'd be a 'punk', get a huge ticket, maybe have my car impounded, etc...

When a deputy does it, nothing happens. (http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/243310)

The State treats it's own very differently. Maybe not in ever case, but it quite a few.

Sir Robert Peel said a police officer is paid to do what is the duty of every citizen.

...so tell me, when can I start running down other drivers with flashing lights, a badge, and a gun and start demanding money with the threat of impounding their car, or restricting their freedom of movement?

Lastly, I am sorry about the loss of Officer Youngstrom--I know nothing about him, and my comments aren't directed at him, but rather the bureaucracy that surrounds police officers.

Officer "Smith" said...

Again, Aaron, you continue to (very colorfully) illustrate my point.

It is not what you say that makes me firmly believe you are a bitter and self centered individual. And you say an awful lot without really making any point yourself. My impetus for making the conclusions I've made about you is HOW YOU SAY IT. You turn what could be an innocent statement into a nasty and accusatory diatribe by inserting phrases such as "when can I start running down other drivers" and "choking on a donut".

It is quite obvious to me and many others that you are negative, bitter and vehemently anti-police.

I accept that and have no intention of censoring you to keep you from showing your true colors. Now, can we move on?

Aaron de Bruyn said...

Lol--I'm not 'anti police'. I'm 'anti' any group that gets set above the people that acts with impunity and lawlessness.

HonkingAntelope said...

"We ran up and down between five and ninety-five miles per hour all the way up, and never at a steady speed. Next time, I'm leading."

Be glad Tpr Donna Watts of FHP fame wasn't duty that day. Otherwise, ya'll would've been stopped, cuffed up, and sitting on the curb while every driver got ticketed for exceeding the pathetically low 65mph speed limit :)

Bernard Halton said...

I don't know why anyone here is actually giving Aaron the attention he so dearly craves. Negative attention is stil attention.

Aaron is obviously not going to change his mind so why bother trying to reason with someone that can't be reasoned with. I'm glad Aaron's father wasn't murdered in cold blood during the morning commute while doing his JOB as Officer Youngstrom was, I really am. But I do know this, had Aaron's father been tragically murdered while protecting the citizens of this fine state his father would have been afforded the respect and courtesy of being recognized fot the sacrifice he made.

Now let's leave Aaron to stew all by himself. There are plenty of Aaron's out there, I won't waste another second wondering why he just doesn't get it when in reality he chooses to not do so. In my opinion, it's not ok that officers being murdered or killed in the line of duty has gone down and 2012 has statistically been the safest year on record. I'll consider it "ok" when the number killed is ZERO. Until that time I'll continue to block the exits and delay people getting to their destination so my brother can be laid to rest with honor.
RIP Officer Youngstrom. You will never be forgotten.

And no Aaron, I won't be responding to your drivel. So say what you like, my silence will be my affirmation that I disagree with anything negative you might say about first responders. I wish you well.

RobG said...

Officer Smith,
As the son of a NYS Trooper and 30 year veteran of the US armed services I have to tell you, your post brought back some powerful memories. I attended the funerals for 2 Troopers as a teenager, one a family friend and Dad's co-worker and the other a Trooper from another barracks. The long line of cruisers, silently flashing all lights in respect is one of my most vivid memories as a teen.

Your comment of people in uniform being "brothers" and "family" is spot on. I would, and have done everything in my power to help my family, and they will do the same for me. I'm fortunate, even 6 years removed from active duty to work with a cadre of former servicemembers who to this day I consider family. The NYS Troopers were, and I imaigine are to this day, no different.

Oh yeah... While I applaude your "non-censorship" of Aarons posts, I wouldn't give him the time of day.

Thank you for all you do!

Rob

Officer "Smith" said...

Bernard,

Thanks for bringing me back to reality. Sometimes I take the bait, even though I probably shouldn't.