Because my wife had not called me at eight o’clock as planned, to arrange for me to pick her up, I became concerned that I had misunderstood my orders. After 57 years of taking orders from SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) I had been known to misunderstand, forget or, more lately, claim I didn’t hear the orders. It was dark and I dreaded the thought of her standing outside in the cold waiting for me. I knew she had her cell phone with her, so I did the obvious thing ... prepared an excuse just in case it was my fault.
“Hey, what are you doing?” I asked. She answered, “Chasing criminals and I can’t talk now.” A beep informed me she had terminated the call. Immediately, a picture flashed through my mind. My 76 year-old, white-haired wife who just had a total knee replacement ... chasing criminals?
I wasn’t really worried. There probably wasn’t a safer place for her to be than in a Henry County Police car. But chasing criminals? Why should I be surprised, I thought. After all, that is part of what police officers do. Her ride in the police car was part an opportunity given to all Henry County citizens over age 21 who attend the Henry County Citizens Police Academy. SWMBO was in her twelth week of learning about how our law enforcement system works ... a view most of us seldom think about.
Two hours later I received a call from my wife that she was ready for me to pick her up in front of the South Precinct. I was surprised at the excitement I heard in her voice, being as she was already past her usual bedtime. At her age, bed-time comes earlier than it used to. My drive to the precinct was filled with questions. Was she really chasing criminals, I wondered? Having taken the HCCPA course myself, I knew she wasn’t chasing criminals but she was riding with an officer who was chasing criminals. The police department would never allow a citizen to be put in harm’s way as a part of their academy class.
As I got out of my car a police car pulled up beside me. My wife, almost giddy with excitement, exited the car and then introduced me to a female police officer who had been her teacher for the evening. I talked to the officer briefly and was again impressed with the quality of the individuals, many of whom have college educations, who have chosen to put their lives on the line to protect us. Any one of them could have probably made more money doing something else. Why do they do it? The answer was given to me a few weeks ago at the police firing range where SWMBO was, for the first time handling a weapon of any kind, as part of her class work. Firing a Glock 40 caliber weapon was, according to the smile on her face, an exhilerating experience.
Thinking about the price our police officers pay for doing the kind of work they do prompted me to ask the officer in charge of the firing range activity a question. “Considering the pay scale our police department is forced to operate with, why do you choose to do what you do?” I asked him. His reply was simple and two-fold. “The majority of us don’t do it for the money and we do it because we want to help our community.”
Tonight, SWMBO is again at the precinct for her weekly class. Next week she will graduate and receive a diploma from Chief of Police, Keith Nichols. Now my wife and I both better understand how law enforcement works in Henry County and how we can be a part of making it a safer place to live. It must be safer, my wife is chasing criminals.
The Henry County Police Academy is held twice a year. More information is available on the Henry County government web site at www.co.henry.ga.us /Police/
Ralph Thomas is a Locust Grove resident and the author of Doing Great, but Getting Better and Getting Old Can be Fun. firstname.lastname@example.org