Sometimes, I have a lot of faith in humanity. Other times, I have to take a minute to regroup and really search for the good where it’s hard to see. This past Thursday was one of those days.
In case you hadn’t heard, this past Thursday was “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” in Lewis County. If you’ve been out and about in town, you likely saw numerous posters and decals in business and office windows with the tell-tale thin blue line. Even the Board of County Commissioners marks the occasion at their weekly meeting.
We have close ties to law enforcement. My biological father and stepfather are both former officers. My mom was a juvenile probation officer for Lewis County. My grandmother was a superior court clerk in Judge Draper’s courtroom. Both myself and my brother-in-law, a Marine veteran, studied criminal justice.
People who work in and around law enforcement and the criminal justice system make continual sacrifices alongside their families — often ones that we don’t think about.
For instance, my stepfather worked in the undercover narcotics unit here in Lewis County when I was a little girl. UNET — the predecessor to JNET — was active in the early 1990s. Because my stepfather was undercover, our family relocated to east Lewis County for a period of time. My stepfather lived in fear that he’d run into a suspect while out with his family.
Even though our family went to the fair, it was difficult for my parents to enjoy. They both worked the fair in a law enforcement capacity arresting people with outstanding warrants and chasing kids violating their probation. It sucked a lot of joy from what should be joyful events and family experiences. Parades were often a no go for our family for the same reasons.
I think that working in law enforcement often forces not just officers, but their families, too, to align with the demands and concerns of the job. I mean, entire classes in my own criminal justice curriculum focused almost exclusively on how to be safe as a sworn, employed peace officer — whether in law enforcement, corrections, or the like — and how to protect your own families with best practices. So, now with a family of my own, it’s important to me to raise my own kids to be respectful and reverent of law enforcement who choose to meet that bar and wear the badge.
My youngest son and I went and purchased a dozen beautiful red roses on Thursday morning to leave at the law enforcement memorial at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in honor of the special day. We also have a special connection to the law enforcement memorial, “The Guardian.” My own great-uncle was the man that cast the iconic bronze statue atop the memorial.
As we approached the memorial, “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” posters adorned each door at the entrance of the Law and Justice Center. We carefully placed the roses atop the black stone slab on the left-hand side of the K9 statue and took a moment to talk about what it means to be a law enforcement officer. And, to remember the officers lost in Lewis County along the way. After that, we headed back into town to run errands.
As I was driving back by about an hour later, I glanced at the law enforcement memorial and realized that the roses were gone. Initially, I thought to myself: “Huh. Well, maybe someone took them inside.”
But, as I looked up, I saw a man in a red hat, puffy black jacket, and red and black shoes carrying the very bunch of roses — bundled, no plastic — down the street next to Jeremy’s.
I’ve seen a lot in my life, but I was a little shocked that someone would take roses from a memorial in a public space. Someone who had to walk by the very obvious “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” signage to do so.
I thought about confronting the man, but he wasn’t alone and I wasn’t sure getting in a verbal or physical altercation over a bouquet of flowers was a good idea. But it really bummed me out. I hope that he at least gave them to someone in his life who deserved them. I just can’t imagine a situation where I’d take flowers from a memorial.
I’m looking forward to sunnier days and new opportunities to thank officers.
Brittany Voie is a columnist for The Chronicle. She lives south of Chehalis with her husband and two young sons. She welcomes correspondence from the community at email@example.com.