About 700 miles from the funeral home, in the empty parking lot of an office building, they stood around the trunk of an Impala, eating Chipotle.
B Detail in the North District runs from 3 in the afternoon until after 1in the morning. Third Platoon in the Clinton Section runs from 3 in the afternoon until 11 at night. Different departments, different hours, same mission – keeping peace in the city at night.
One was from New York, and had taken the Rochester test, the others were from Illinois, Florida and South Africa. All wearing the Metro patch, all in their 20s, laughing and telling stories as they took their dinner break between calls.
There had already been one foot chase, on the second shoplifting call of the night from a Dollar General, with a lady with purple hair hiding behind a pillar at the Jack in a Box as the squad car pulled up, running for all her might as the officer stepped out. He had been the defensive player of the game at a state football championship a few years back and he paced behind her as he radioed out her description and direction of flight, bringing her down as soon as she left pavement and ran across grass.
The second foot chase of the shift was in the projects after a Code Three across the district where the complainant had scrape marks on one side of her Jeep and bullet holes on the other. As the officers sorted things out there was yelling and on the far side of a courtyard it was the alleged assailant and a dead sprint and the realization that he might be leading them into an ambush.
Through the shift there would also be two runaways, a couple of aggravated assaults, a domestic, three traffic stops, a man who wanted to kill himself, three people sleeping in cars, some warrants checked, a high-profile neighborhood patrol and, when things slowed down toward midnight, a search for stolen cars.
At the funeral home, hundreds passed through the calling hours, and scores more lined the route to the Public Safety Building. Older men in leather Patriot Guard vests, younger men and women in the uniforms of a dozen departments, a giant flag displayed downtown, the flashing light bars of a hundred emergency vehicles.
It was a procession of honor and a cortege of sorrow. Bag pipes and salutes and the delivery of a man and a department to the place of leave taking, the movement of the holy of holies, the defender brought to the heart of the city through the hearts of his neighbors.
Around the trunk of the Impala, the stories they told were full of joy and wonder. The questions they answered were about danger and fear. The truth they told was somewhere in between. There is danger, there is sometimes fear, there is also satisfaction and adventure and service, and a joy at being where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
And there is a camaraderie, a fellowship of arms, the brotherhood and sisterhood of knights in the service of society.
The one from New York finished eating and sat in his Police Interceptor to work on a report and video call a good night to a son going to bed before the first day of the second-grade. He said it was the same thing as when he was overseas. Protecting good from evil. Except overseas you came home after nine months. At home, it’s a combat deployment every shift.
The one from Illinois said he loved it, and he was good at it, but he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. You have to be called to it. It has to be your thing. There was a cross tattooed on his right forearm, and maybe that’s relevant and maybe it’s not.
The one from Florida spoke about his wife and about the importance of living now, of appreciating now. Of not wanting to die on the job having put everything off until golden years that might never come.
Four guys in uniform, at the family dinner table, on the B Detail, like thousands of others across the country, keeping watch on a Sunday night. One of their kind had been killed earlier that morning in Indiana, another would be buried the next day in New York, two in what might be another record year for violence against police and line of duty deaths.
One guardian has passed, one family mourns, a community is heartbroken.
That is replayed over and over and over, and today it stops in Rochester.
But the fight goes on. The blue line is thin, but it is also long, and it never breaks.
Because them that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And those who stand in our defense are on an errand from the Lord.