(This column was published in the North Shore News on June 20, 2001)


Million mile march most difficult for cops

By Leo Knight

SOMETIMES I get pounded (well, metaphorically speaking, albeit there is the odd lawyer or politician I suspect who would like it to be rather more figuratively) by some who feel I take a defensive role about those who might criticize the police.  


To those charges I would, and quite happily I might add, plead guilty.  


There would be, of course, a reason for that. Even though it has been over a decade since I carried a badge and a gun in service of this country, there are some things you never forget. Things that forever alter your perception of the world and the varying examples of humanity who inhabit it.  


One of the ramifications of that is the inherent ability to call a spade a shovel. All of the hand-wringing social architects aside, working the streets and enforcing the laws given us by a suspect group of politicians gives one a unique perspective.


It is from this perspective that the publishers of this paper bring you the thoughts, viewpoints and occasionally, outrageous opinions, of yours truly.  


One cannot help but be changed by the experiences one encounters as a cop. It doesn't matter who you are. Tough or soft, liberal or conservative, you will be moved by the things you see, touch, smell and feel as a cop.  


For example, on the last three shifts I worked on the streets of Vancouver, I had the occasion to try and hold the very life in the wounded bodies of stabbing victims while careening through streets of the Downtown Eastside at something just shy of the speed of sound in the back of an ambulance. Or at least, that's how fast it seemed as I tried to maintain pressure on arteries punctured without so much as a how-do-you-do. Three in a row on my last three shifts.  


Being the first officer on the scene of another drug deal gone bad; over-exuberant foreplay by coupling examples of why cousins should not breed; these necessitate some rather "hands-on" actions by the cops involved.  


Having said all of that, I want to help you to understand why all of this is what it is.  


Regular readers of this space will recall the piece I did entitled, "A Christmas miracle for one cop." That column generated a large volume of messages; most saying how moved they were by the story told by my friend, Tennessee State Trooper Allan Brenneis.  


Recently, Allan was responding, in his own loquacious and eloquent way, to a radio talk show on the merits of seat-belt legislation.  


Amid the varying opinions about a government mandating that we should or shouldn't do this or that, came Allan's steady voice of impeccable common sense and use of the penetrating ability of an experienced police officer to call 'em as he sees 'em.  


He started off describing the less than responsible ways we all behave as youngsters. He referred to the "COD" turn (Come On Darlin'). It involves a hard right turn and the young lady not wearing her seat belt. And, well, you get the drift. He went on to identify the right of the general public to not have to pay for the stupidity of others.  


That argument is a valid part of the "wear a seat-belt" legislation, helmet laws or even the more recent and "oh-so-politically-correct" no smoking bans everywhere but your own bathroom and only if you have the exhaust fan on.  


Words are words and they can be fun or hurtful. But for Allan, they are poignant. He ended his argument for seat-belt laws in this way:  


"Finally, the seat belt law is there to protect me.  


"You see, there is something police call the million mile march. It is that march from the door of your patrol car to the door of the house, where you will tell someone that their loved one is never coming home again.  


"No matter how close you get that car to the house, it is always a million miles.  


"Your shoes are made of concrete and your arms are lead. You can feel every single beat of your heart as it rises into your throat.  


"You look into a set of eyes that you know will never see the world in the same way again. Your mouth says words that you can't bear to listen to. You see a look of disbelief, then pure, total, complete rage. And, if you're lucky, and I mean really lucky, you will find yourself in an embrace that is pleading for you to take it back. Begging for it not to be.  


"On my body I carry many scars. Some are from mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives. These have healed over time.  


"But, on my soul I carry scars that will never heal and will live with me all my days.  


"So, you see, the seat-belt law is also there to protect me."






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