Op-Ed

Here’s what keeps one police officer going during bad times

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” These words were written over a century ago, but lately, I often think of them because of what is happening around the country. I am in law enforcement. I wear blue. What you are about to read is from me, not my department, although I don’t believe I am alone in wanting to express some of these thoughts.

I chose this profession 24 years ago because I wanted to make a difference. It has been a great ride but with what’s been happening around the country lately, combined with when I’m tired, beaten down and feeling alone, I sometimes wonder if I would make the choice again. It seems easier not to care when we’re understaffed, overworked, vilified by many media sources, and targeted.

But then something happens and I’m reminded of why I made this choice. I’m reminded of why my brothers and sisters and I in law enforcement find the energy to take the high road and keep going. When I look in the eyes of two sweet young girls whose lives were forever changed by a sexual predator in a van, I’m saddened that I couldn’t protect them, but I’m energized by being a small part in the team that came together and worked tirelessly to find this animal to make sure he never does it again. I’m equally invigorated by a co-worker who took the extra energy to track down stolen musical instruments for a victim who didn’t know where else to turn, and of the many others I work with who do the same.

I could go on but my purpose is not to tell you about me (or us). My purpose is to thank those in our community who have come forward to show support and to let me (us) know that you care. You have no idea how important this is. So this is my thank-you letter to all of you.

To Jessica R., who sent kind words to the department via Facebook 15 months ago, I still keep a copy of your letter and read it when I need a lift.

To everyone, including the homeless, who put money on “The Card” down at Boulevard Park.

To the fellow who recently insisted on picking up the tab for a new officer and myself.

To all who have brought flowers, food, cards and letters, and other goodies to the department, especially the group of little girls who brought M&M’s earlier this week. Although I didn’t get to meet you, your note brought a smile to my face.

To the little kids and everyone else who still wave at us when we pass by.

To the Rotary Club, the plaque is nice.

And to the many others I have not mentioned who reached out in their own way.

I’m not a social media guy and hope my thanks find a way to all of you.

Dickens’ words might have been written long ago and were the introduction for a different story line, but to me, even though this may be among the worst of times for law enforcement, all of you show it is also among the best of times.

Thank you.

Michael de Ruiter is the Bellingham Police Department Evidence and ID officer and bomb squad commander.

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