Time To Put Two Cops In Every Squad Car

 As Rochester police Officer Denny Wright walked out of the rehab center, family on each side, guiding his steps, he stopped at the door to salute smartly, tall and straight and resolved. He walked through a cordon of officers and as he approached the car into which he would be guided he raised the cane high above his head in victory and exultation and declaration.

               It was red, with a white ball at the end.

               It, and the glasses, said what had not been spoken.

               That three weeks ago, when he was jumped and stabbed, by a repeat ex-con, that he lost his vision. By the wounds, it seems the guy tried to cut out his eye and cut off his head, to stab his face and slit his throat, but Denny stood strong.

               At least strong enough to live, as he fought alone against the sort of threat that American police officers face every day. Denny stumbled out the door of the house, hemorrhaging onto the steps and his uniform, passersby running to his aid.

               While they waited for another cop to arrive.

               While they waited for another cop to arrive.

               As his car pulled out of the rehab, a phalanx of motorcycle officers in front of it, a long and streaming line of squad cars behind it, the TV drone hovering overhead, it was one of those lump-in-the-throat demonstrations of brotherhood we see too much of lately.

               The kind that comes out when an officer is killed or maimed.

               We’re good at saluting hearses and putting stickers on our cars, we’ve become familiar with the sound of bagpipes and we know what “EOW” means.

               We’ve gotten good at burying cops. We’ve gotten good at showing the broken and torn ones that we care about them.

               Kind of, but not really.

               What we’ve gotten good at is the kind of show that turns someone else’s tragedy into our spectacle. We send men and women into a grinder and when one of them goes down it all becomes a somber show for us. We’ve taken the rituals of cop mourning and wrapped ourselves in them trying to carve for ourselves a part of a brotherhood and sisterhood most of us are incapable of joining.

               It’s nice, and it’s good, but it’s not good enough. Because instead of honoring the wounded and fallen, we should be demanding that more be done to protect them, to keep them from becoming casualties, martyrs to the cheapness of politicians.

               Here’s how: Put two cops in every car.

               All day, every day, every department.

               From the state police to the county sheriff to the city cops and their country cousins.

               None of us would dare to ride alone, and it is a crime against these officers that we expect them to.

               There is blood on the hands of any mayor, town supervisor, county executive or governor who doesn’t call for two cops in every car.

               Yes, that will mean more cops, and, yes, that will cost more money. Which makes the equation, how many more live cops are you willing to pay for in order to avoid a dead cop?

               Right now, the unspoken truth is that we’d rather pay less even if that means they have to bleed more.

               In order to squeeze the most bang out of the fewest bucks, the mayor and City Council of Rochester – like the political leaders of most municipalities, counties and the state – have accepted a heightened risk for police officers. The occasional maimed or dead cop is worth it to hold back on the police budget.

               Which seems immoral.

               And contrary to both the wishes of the public and the purpose of government.

               It is time for a serious discussion of this subject – it is time for a public demand that a change be made. Every chief or sheriff who sends officers out alone must explain why. Every city, town and county government with a police force must explain why it chooses to endanger its officers to prop up its budget. This is an issue that town and village board members, city council members and county legislators must address. They must explain why they are not willing to pay for this simple issue of officer safety.

               On TV, cops ride two in a car. On TV, police officers have partners.

               In Rochester and across upstate New York, most cops ride alone.

               And fight alone.  

And die alone.

               Because it’s a lot cheaper to put on a show of flashing lights and saluting first responders than it is to spend the money to give officers the partner necessary to have a fighting chance of coming home in one piece at the end of a shift.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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