|"Those people are the reason I do this job"|
The officers who attended this funeral, I thought, were not there representing their faith, their race or their gender. Though they wore many different uniforms, they were not really there representing their various jurisdictions either.The officers attending Bob Stanze’s funeral were not black, white, Asian, or Hispanic. They were not Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Buddhist, Moslem, or Jewish. They were not male or female. For this short span of time, none of these characteristics mattered.They were cops. They were family. And that was all that mattered.The majority of those officers in attendance probably did not know Officer Stanze personally; I didn’t either. What I knew of him, I read in the newspaper accounts of his death, and learned from the touching eulogies given at the funeral. That we didn’t know him well before this tragedy also didn’t matter; he was still family.
An event such as Officer Stanze’s murder makes us all think about the very real possibility of death in this profession. This possibility can bring on feelings of cynicism and despair. Who among us hasn’t thought at one time or another during our careers, "Why am I doing this? What good does it do? Who really cares?"
As I drove in the procession from the cathedral to the cemetery that Friday, probably thousands of people stood at the curb. Many no doubt were just curious onlookers awed at the sight of hundreds of police cars with their lights flashing passing by. Some were probably perturbed at the traffic delay the procession was causing. Those weren’t the people I noticed, though. On Chippewa Avenue near Kingshighway, a young girl stood at the curb, proudly holding an American flag as we passed. Employees at a couple of the auto dealerships along Kings Highway – sales, clerical, and service personnel – stood in ranks. Utility and construction workers stood, hard hats held over their hearts. People all along the route, of all ages, races, faiths, and callings, stood in reverence as the procession passed. Some saluted, some just removed their hats. Some held signs, saying "God Bless You" or "We’re Praying For You." Some had noticeable tears in their eyes. And after the graveside service was completed and the multitude of police cars left the cemetery, one man stood at the exit holding high a hand-lettered sign which read, "Police Officers Are Heroes – God Bless You All."
I don’t know about you, but those people, and the good people just like them are the reason I do this job.
Be very, very careful out there.
Russ Craven is president of the Missouri Union of Law Enforcement AFL-CIO-IUPA Local 57.