‘Twas the night before Christmas and public safety doesn’t stop
It’s Christmas Eve. While you and your family celebrate the holidays together at home with relatives, we are patrolling your neighborhood tonight – checking your property, your yard, your streets, looking for anything or anyone out of place. We are the ones that venture into the dark, not knowing what if anything awaits us, often to protect many of you we have never even met.
You spend the evening with your family warm and safe indoors, many enjoying a few drinks in front of a warm fireplace. We’re outside trying to stay warm, dealing with the winter elements - freezing rain, snow, sometimes dangerous road conditions, or maybe even a blizzard. We’re out there waiting for our 911 dispatchers to advise us when someone else in the county needs our help.
You’ve got your kids with you, maybe grandkids, also grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. The whole family is together for this joyous occasion. Our families are spending another holiday without us. This was our year to work. Hopefully we make the rotation next year so we can take time off for them. They understand we make these sacrifices to help keep our communities safe, to help people in need, and to do our little part to make our communities a better place for them to live in. They understand our sacrifices are also their sacrifices.
Your Christmas Eve dinner is ready. All the family has pitched in to make a huge holiday feast for everyone there. The smell of turkey, ham, and warm pie fill the air, those smells that make us think of Christmas’s past. The house also smells of fresh pine from the real Christmas tree in the living room. We’ve been busy tonight so we haven’t had a chance to get much for a meal - chips and a pop at the local gas station, maybe a piece of pizza or pre-made sandwich. Later we’ll stop in to check on our gas station attendants who are also sacrificing on Christmas. We’ll refill our coffee cups and continue our patrols through the night.
You’ve finally got the kids to settle down for the night, all excited about presents and that visit from Santa overnight. Everyone’s tucked in for a warm night’s sleep. If we are lucky enough to live in the zone we work in, we’ll try and stop by to say goodnight to the kids. If we’re too busy, we’ll just have to call when we can. We’ll wish them Merry Christmas over the phone and say goodnight to the kids. Hopefully we can call before they go to bed.
Your kids are in bed and now its adult time - you sit and play cards, games, and visit with family and loved ones reminiscing about the night you just had and memories of Christmas past. We’re patrolling your neighborhoods while thinking about a crash we worked a few months ago where we pulled two kids from the wreckage, two that didn’t make it. It’s hard to forget that reaction we get when we have to tell parents their kids are gone – or the emotional feeling of just wanting to go home and hug our kids and tell them that we love them. We worry about those parents tonight. We hope and pray we don’t get another crash like that tonight on Christmas.
Your kids wake you up early, all excited about opening Santa’s presents and celebrating Christmas Day. You’re rested and ready to share this amazing day with your family. We’ve been asleep for an hour or two before our kids are waking us up excited about opening Santa’s presents and celebrating Christmas Day. We finally finished our shift a few hours earlier after a busy evening and quietly sneaked into our homes around 5 a.m. We took off our uniforms, grabbed a quick snack from last night’s big meal, and headed to bed trying not to wake up the kids or our spouse. We’ll go downstairs now and see the kids open their gifts, while trying not to think about some of the things that we saw last night. Then it’s back to bed for a better part of Christmas Day. We’ll go back to work at 6 p.m. and do it all over again.
Inspite all of the sacrifices many of us will make this Christmas, and the anti-law enforcement rhetoric we endure from the main stream media and other radical groups, we remain very proud of this profession that we love. We’re proud of our uniform, we’re proud of our badge, and we’re extremely proud of our flag. We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Helping you is our calling, it’s our passion, and it’s truly what motivates us.
The intent of this column is not to make you feel sorry for law enforcement. It’s simply to remind you of some of the sacrifices these men and women make for our communities. Hopefully it also makes you think about the sacrifices made by all our public safety partners serving our communities over the holidays – our 911 dispatchers working to keep everyone safe, our local ambulance and fire department members (many who are volunteers) working side by side with us on emergency calls, and the medical professionals saving lives at our area hospitals. Don’t forget our local tow companies who are also out there helping us day and night.
This Christmas, if you see your local law enforcement or public safety professionals out working the streets, take a minute to thank them for their service and sacrifice. Your “thank you” means a lot to all of them, especially during the holidays.
Scott Rose has been the sheriff of Dodge County for two years. His column appears in this newspaper monthly and is also available on the sheriff’s website.