Saturday, February 24, 2018

Liz Kearney

Sometimes a police blotter reveals the best of ourselves

Guest column
It’s my job to put together that Friday afternoon bit of wit, the police call log. It’s where we chuckle over the misfortunes and foibles of our neighbors. Personally, it’s not my favorite part of the paper. I can laugh at people as nastily as anyone, but I don’t like to kick people when they’re down. 
 
But sometimes there are funny ones. I remember the one where a county employee called in to report he’d be working on his roof, and he didn’t want the neighbors to think he was a burglar. A long time ago, there was a short and sweet one: “Someone flagged down an officer just to say ‘hi.’” I love that one. 
 
There are sad things. There’s an event called a “civil standby,” where someone needs an officer to stand by and keep the peace while an individual moves their stuff out of their now-former home. Sometimes it’s a roommate situation gone bad, but often it’s a marriage. In our dark newsroom humor, the joke is “You might think you’re in love, but someday it’s all gonna end in a civil standby.” Sounds like the start to a sad country song, doesn’t it?
 
The ones involving children are horrifying, of course, and there are too many calls involving substance abuse and/or mental health issues. I hate to run those out of concern that someone already suffering badly, even with the vaguest suggestion of the address, might recognize themselves. I don’t want to be even partially responsible for adding to anyone’s burden. I won’t traffic in those calls. 
 
There was one this week that broke my heart, and as I type this, there are tears in my eyes. It went like this: “Jan. 26, 6:58 p.m. – A caller in the area of West Front Street at North Fifth reported a man walking down the middle of the railroad tracks and expressed concern for his safety. Officers located the man, who said he ‘felt like he was going to do something stupid,’ and the officers took him to Livingston HealthCare for a mental health evaluation.” 
 
That’s a Good Samaritan, who saw something and said something. Thank you. And thank you to the officers who helped. 
 
I wish I could send the man on the railroad tracks a card that says “You are safe and you are loved, even if it doesn’t feel like it right this minute.” But there’s no way to find that person. Even if he was still in the hospital, privacy laws would prohibit staff from even saying if someone matching this description had come in. I doubt that even a card left for an anonymous patient could be delivered.
 
So, railroad-track-walking-man and everyone else who has ever had thoughts of doing “something stupid,” I am glad you did not. People care about you and want to help. Let them help.
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