Usually I read the Opinion Section, we talk about it and I move on … but I can not stay publicly quiet this time.
I’m writing in response to James C. Morris Sr.’s recent opinion in the Press. First let me say that I am not a police officer, as I did not receive that calling. It is not a job; it is a calling to serve and protect. But let me be clear and also state that my husband is an officer and I would like to respond from my perspective.
I was laid off last June and my family is experiencing firsthand the economic squeeze just like so many other families. Everyone is looking to point a finger for the reason most cities are having economic troubles. I do not think it is the wages or pension of the people in uniform that work hard in this city or any other city. They deserve a fair wage and pension like all other hardworking people. Let’s be real: the tax base has been hit hard due to the housing and economic crash.
I am sick of people thinking that a pay cut or pension reduction to fire and police is the answer. My family lives in a middle-income neighborhood; we drive 2002 and 2005 vehicles; no boats, no camper; no retirement home, no college funds and no golf course membership. We are middle class, everyday people in the same situation as most of our neighbors.
So erase the fantasy that we live the good life and have money pouring out of our ears. We don’t and neither do any of the police families that we know. In fact, we were better off when he worked for an overnight freight company. He made good money, had great health benefits; they had a great retirement plan and company match program. We could travel at a discount and the risk of death or injury was a lot lower.
But he always had the calling to be a police officer, and 10 years ago pursued his dream to protect and serve.
This choice has come with a high price to our family. He works most holidays for a three-year period until we luck out and one of them is on his day off. It averages every three to four years of missing dad at the holiday. He has missed most of our daughters’ birthdays, missed most school functions, missed one middle school and one high school graduation. He also has missed family and friends weddings, and the list goes on.
Now let’s move on to the fun stuff. He has been exposed to TB, HIV, hepatitis, bacterial meningitis – and those are the ones we got official notification of. When he is exposed, it sometimes affects our family as well.
Being a police officer requires you to sacrifice your own safety and put yourself at risk of death daily for the safety of others. To protect and serve is not some desk job that you get to clock out and go home … leave it at work. Even with all the missed holidays, safety issues both at work and off duty, risk of disease and injury, he loves his job and would sacrifice his life to save yours!
Have you gone on a ride-along on a Friday or Saturday night? Don’t pick the one easy beat; go on a real ride-along and stay all night. I bet you won’t want to get out of the police car. You have no idea what the men and women that serve go through on a daily basis. It is a job well deserving of a pension, and in my opinion, the pay will never be high enough for the price.
According to the Officer Down Memorial stats, 170 officers died in the line of duty in 2011. I won’t even go into divorce, heart attack or injury statistics. Try saying “thank you” to those who serve and get involved in public service. I want to say to every police officer, fire and rescue, military member and their families: “Thank you for all you do and for the sacrifices you make. I pray for the safety of those who serve.”
If you think cutting pay and pension to those who serve will save the city, I believe you are naïve. Also, good luck recruiting and hiring. Think what you like, but the reality is clear.
Debra Marlow, Brentwood