On a Tuesday morning this past February, two policemen responded to a typical traffic accident call in Whittier, California; but when they appeared on the scene they were faced with much more than that.  A man known to have gang affiliation had stolen the vehicle responsible for the crash that morning and opened fire on the officers as they approached him at the site of the collision.  What was supposed to be standard procedure, turned into a day filled with emotion as the gunman took the life of one of the officers and injured the other.

The fatality that day was 27-year Whittier Policeman, Keith Boyer, a father, husband and friend that had devoted his career to the safety of his city; the first death Whittier PD has had to grieve since 1979.  Since this recent tragedy and the honoring memorial services that occurred shortly after, intentionally supporting and thanking our men and women in blue only seemed to be all the more necessary at a time such as this.

Cheryl Timmons, Co-founder and President of the non-profit organization "Friends of the Anaheim K9 Association" that works closely with the K9 Unit of Anaheim PD, sought some insight from officers inquiring how civilians like us could communicate our gratitude for their diligence and courage. The results, were simply fascinating.

Cheryl questioned as to how the officers dealt with the stress of being so critically monitored by reporters looking for a story and a society looking for someone to blame. The officers replied that the pressure of being under the media microscope is felt on the daily, that with each high-risk decision made on the job, the stress to make the right one can be paramount and taxing.

Though the pressure to always make the “right” choices on the job may be strenuous, mentally processing through the heart wrenching calls these men and women experience takes a harder toll on them.  When Cheryl asked about how the officers cope with responding to horrifying calls involving children, whether the child is forced to witness a family member’s arrest, or is in the midst of an abusive situation, there were a few methods that aided in recovering from such traumatic scenes. 

Many officers explained that instead of heading home and processing with a spouse, they insist on keeping these painful events to themselves and sweating them out through a visit to the gym or long run.  As civilians, it’s all the more important to remember that no officer goes without carrying such burdens in their line of work, burdens they sign up to take on for our communities so we, gratefully, don’t need to.

In this raw interview, the officers mentioned a few ways in which we, as members of the community, can show our appreciation and support. They replied by asking us to offer up prayers of protection each time we hear sirens blaring through the streets, to offer a simple wave hello when passing by an officer on the road, and to understand that the depiction of the Police in Hollywood’s movies isn’t always accurate. These simple, conscientious actions make a world of difference to the men and women in blue, actions that offer a symbol of mutual humanity and rejuvenation in the midst of a society that seems to be more concerned at the present with offering opinions rather than encouragement.

This past Serve Day, Eastside partnered with members of our congregation and community to come alongside the Police Departments of La Habra, Anaheim and Park Rapids to offer gifts of our gratitude.  If you’d like to be a part of projects like this in the future, visit eastside.com/servelocally for more information.