One day, a small town farm girl from Minnesota, mother of a small baby and three year old, a woman with a demanding job, was told that her husband had quit his job as a successful property manager to pursue dreams of becoming a police officer. Up and quit. She was told he would paint houses while he was in the Police Academy and that he would make things work. She said, “I’ll worry when you worry.”
Sounds like a movie.
Well, that was my mom’s life about 18 years ago.
This morning, I came home while my mom was getting up and ready for work and considering she is not only my mother, but one of my closest friends, I decided to hang out with her instead of go back to sleep. We made breakfast, drank our morning coffee together and chatted about various happenings in the Vajgrt household. Next thing I knew, we were yelling at each other while she did her make up about police brutality and recent Black Lives Matter protests. I saw my mom in a state she normally never gets to. She was scared.
I took the liberty to do some research before I wrote this post. Well, I did a lot of research. I looked at numbers and statistics and looked at proportions and rates of all kinds. I will let you do your own research, but I have added the link to The Washington Post’s official database on its investigation on police shootings for some quick numbers. I urge you to take a quick look, educate yourselves.
Police brutality across the United States exists. It does. There is no doubt that some officers have crossed the line. Men and women who we, as Americans, have put our trust in to protect us. Some of them have made terrible decisions, reacted to situations with inappropriate actions, jumped to unfair conclusions, and have taken lives that could have been spared. It makes me sick. It isn’t right, and I fully believe officers who make these mistakes, who do not fulfill their duties as police officers to ‘Protect and Serve’ should be held accountable for their actions. Police brutality happens among all colors of skin. Police brutality is something that must end. Period.
I’ve been lucky. My dad, Officer Curt Vajgrt of the Urbandale Police Department, he’s one of the good guys. He was up for Officer of the Year this year. He was an patrolman on the street my entire childhood, a superhero in my eyes. My dad made sure to give out temporary tattoos and official Urbandale Police Officer trading cards to all my friends, and I felt really cool for the little shout-out I got on the back; “Curt enjoys his time off with his wife and two daughters.” My sister and I got to see him almost every night when he would come home, park the patrol car in the driveway and have dinner with us. After dinner, he would sit in his chair and Madelyn and I would climb on top of him, mess with his radio, twirl his hair-sprayed crew-cut, and ask to see his prayer cards he kept in his front pocket, just behind his badge. He would pull them out, St. Michael prayers and medals, and we would learn them together. After his hour break was over, he would kiss us all goodbye, get back into his car and drive off into the night.
As I got older, although I was still blind to many of the world’s problems, I began to worry about my dad. I can remember sitting in my calculus class junior year, imagining what I would do if the principal were to come down to my classroom, pull me out and tell me something terrible had happened to my dad. It wasn’t the first time the scenario had gone through my mind but it was around the time my dad had gotten a few death threats, and these anxious thoughts seemed to distract me more and more. Although my dad is a police officer in Des Moines, Iowa, a fairly safe city with a relatively low crime rate, I have first-hand seen the effect this job has. Though, my dad still wears a badge every day. He still puts on the uniform and the responsibilities that every other police officer in the United States puts on each day. He still leaves his family to ‘Protect and Serve’ yours.
So here’s your takeaway:
I have read articles and blog posts written from both sides, but being pro-police and pro-black are not two mutually exclusive ideas. They are ideas that can and should co-exist. They have to. Black men and women should not fear leaving their house, or driving their cars, or partaking in any other freedom any other American does not fear. Police officers should not fear patrolling inner-city neighborhoods, or downright refuse to patrol them, they should not fear what is on the other side of the car window. These groups of people are afraid of each other. These groups of people’s families are scared. Petrified.
Mr. Obama likes to use the term “broad brush.” He used the words in a speech on national security in 2009, at his U.N. speech in 2014 and again this past week when speaking about the recent shootings in Dallas. He is right. In order for the United States to fix many of its problems, we need to stop painting groups of people with these broad brushes. Islamic terrorists are not the same as Islamists. Criminals are not the same as people with black skin, and murderers are not the same thing as police officers.
A few days ago, mothers, who may or may not have known of their husband’s dream of becoming a police officer before marrying them, are now mothers of 7 children who experienced my calculus nightmare.