You may have seen the photo a few years ago. In it, a Colorado officer is holding a two year-old little girl on his shoulder by the side of the road and pointing up to the heavens. He is also singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to her as he diverts her attention away from the horror going on behind them as first responders extricate her mom, dad, and siblings from a terrible crash. Mom and sis were airlifted to an area hospital. Two other children were removed by ambulance. Dad, however, didn’t make it.
Officer Nick Struck’s act of compassion via that photograph went viral and worldwide.
“When, uh, when I was out in the field, I was singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and pointing to the lights on the fire truck. And she put her arm around my shoulder, just like my daughter does. And that’s really when the emotion starts kicking in, in that moment, having that little girl in my arms. Yeah. She fit exactly like my daughter did. And you know, one of the things with my daughter is, uh, I always want to encourage her and uplift her and make sure that, uh, she’s always built up. And so for that little girl that I was holding, that’s really the goal because I want her to be protected as much as possible from what had just happened, this horrific accident. And so when I was talking to her, she wasn’t really responding back to me. So then I went to my singing skills, which are not the best and definitely not Barry White by any means, but I started singing it to her and you know, it just kept going on and on, and that seemed to work. So, you know, when it works, you just keep doing it.”
That photo and Officer Struck’s gesture really…STRUCK me, if you will. Then recently I chanced upon a photo of a veteran Virginia cop who was laying on his stomach on a sidewalk…playing dolls with a group of little girls on his beat. It was a WOW moment for me, the compassion and caring officer Brandon Fleming showed and I just had to hear more about this cop who is so popular with kids in his tiny town of South Hill. They flock to him the moment they see him driving by in his cruiser and they have taken to calling him…Batman.
“My wife calls me the biggest kid that she has. Uh, and so I’m sure I’m a lot to handle. So when I’m out on the street and I come across these young ones, I can connect immediately because I want to be, I’m just the biggest kid that I know. And so we instantly are able to connect.”
Our program featuring Officer Fleming is called the ‘Pied Piper of Police’ and will be available in the summer of 2021. Meantime, I became so intent on learning about other officer’s acts of compassion, I wanted to hear from our In the Line of Duty technical advisors, Randy Sutton, and Mark DiBona. Between them, they have nearly 70 years of policing. ..most of it on the street. Randy told me about a really crappy day he was having and how a moment of compassion for a little girl turned it all around.
“I was having, I remember I was having a really shitty day. I was having a bad calls. I was, I was miserable. I was, I think I was second guessing my choice of careers. There was, it just wasn’t, it was a bad day. And, and, and I just happened to drive by and see this little girl who couldn’t get, who was waiting to go across the street. I looked at her and go, wait a minute. That’s who I’m here for. And I, I just stopped the police car and I escorted her across the road. And, you know, she thanked me. And I guess she was probably, I don’t know, seven or eight years old, nine years old, something like that. And it felt good. You know, it was nothing. It was, we’re not talking about an earth shattering event here. It was, it was, it reminded me…and I think we all need that reminder every now and then that, you know what, WE are the good guys. And that, that one moment in time could, it could have changed the way that she viewed the police. And it certainly brightened my day. And if, if I can, if I can bring back, you know, the, and to be centered, we can, we can have, uh, you know, we can have so much stuff thrown at us on a, on a, on one single patrol day. You know, you can literally see death. You can, you can be dealing with the most horrendous situations one after another, after another. And sometimes you get to a point where it’s, you know, you feel like you’re, you’re going to break. And it’s it’s, it may be just one little moment like that, where you reminded that yeah, this is why I do it.”
Mark had quite a story about a death scene he responded to…and the amazing difference a couple of kind gestures made.
“I went to a natural death call shortly before I retired. I walk into the house. The wife is standing at the door of the bedroom. It wasn’t the bedroom, it was the doorframe. Family’s in the living room, they’re all crying four or five people in there. Um, I was the first, I was the first unit on scene. Fire Dept. was already there, they already pronounced him dead. So I walk, I walk over, she’s obviously upset and she’s crying. And I said, ma’am, you know, first of all, I’m very, very sorry for your loss. And I said, you know, we’re here. We have to do some things we just have to do. Uh, but you know, w help, help me help you work here a little bit. I said, um, and I looked over and I said, um, I’m, uh, I’m assuming this is your husband. She goes, it is. I said, what’s his name? She said Thomas. I said, okay. I said, once again, I’m very sorry for Thomas’ passing. And, and I said, um, would you like, would you like me to straighten Thomas out? And what I mean by that is he was laying in kind of like in a fetal position. So in my guess he probably died in some type of pain, uh, before he passed. So what I did was I said, if you give me a second or two, um, I said, I’ll, I’ll straighten him out. Know I’ll make Thomas more comfortable. And, uh, she said “You would do that for me?” I said, of course I would. Absolutely. So I went over, I straight out his body, put the blankets up to about here, put his hands, like, like this or over his heart and, uh, put his head under a pillow and tried to be, and I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. . .It just, it broke my heart. It really did. And, uh, so when she came back into bedroom, she started crying and we both, literally I looked at her and looked at, it was like the, the tears just started flowing right away. It was a good feeling. We gave each other a hug and, um, it, his way, here’s where God comes into your life for, for, for reasons. Um, so as she’s talking, I could hear him, I could hear a Boston accent. And, uh, and obviously I’m from Boston and I say are from Boston. She says “I am. We’re all from Boston. We moved down here about five years ago.” I said what part of Boston are you from? And we’re talking, we’re talking about Boston things. And I said, I know something. That’s going to make you very happy right now. And I’m going to do this for you. Another, another deputy came in on scene. When you grow up in Boston, Dunkin donuts is huge. Okay. Dunkin Donuts on every corner. That’s where you get your coffee donuts every morning and all that. So I said, let me take a ride over to Dunkin donuts. Let me get you guys some coffee and some donuts. So I said to the other deputy, uh, you know, I take care of things here. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes. And I got them those two big coffee things with a couple of dozen of donuts. And we’re just standing there talking. And, uh, you know, she’s making fun of you. I can’t believe you eat a doughnut in uniform. I said, Oh, I love donuts. You know? And, uh, but it was just, I made, I made a connection with her, not that she was from Boston, but I found a connection to, to help her ease her pain and ease the, the, uh, the passenger of her spouse. And, but she just said it was absolutely incredible that, um, you just, weren’t afraid to touch him and to move him or anything like that. And I said, well, you know, I, as wrong as it sounds, it was my pleasure to make you feel happier. And, uh, and I, I said, right now, Thomas he’s at peace right now.”
I was so impressed with so many things, Randy and Mark said regarding compassionate policing, I decided to do a two-part series called you guessed it ‘Compassionate Policing.’ Please be looking for parts one and two firstname.lastname@example.org this summer. You won’t regret it either. And I hope that they are a great learning experience for you. Compassionate policing parts, one and two exclusively from In the Line of Duty. To find out more about our online training, take advantage of the free two-week trial we offer. Go to lineofduty.com and just click on the big red tab marked ‘GET A FREE TRIAL’. You international law enforcement organizations are very welcome, too.
I’m Ron Barber and that’s Stuff You Never Ever Learned at the Academy.