Collateral Tragedies?

As I listened to the latest news on the national and local government response to the coronavirus invasion, old times came to mind. Unless you have been totally off the grid with no access to media of any kind, you know what is happening.

What caught my attention and started my flashbacks was the discussion of family quarantines. By that, I mean the powers that be are demanding anyone living in a household with someone testing positive for COVID-19 self-quarantine, along with the victim.  That would mean everyone, father, mother, kids, and anyone else living in that residence, stay in quarantine until everyone is cleared. That could become a scary situation for all involved, including the community.

The directive took me back to early in my law enforcement career. As I learned very quickly in my street cop days, some families spending more or less forced “quality” time together do not do well.  That is why holidays are not always the happiest time of the year.

Yes, most people get together on holidays by choice. They are not forced or coerced to spend time together by the government.  Yet, even when holidays start out well, they can end in tragedy.  For instance, there was a horrible Christmas tragedy in Grapevine, Texas. A family of six came together as usual. They all ended up dead.

Admittedly, the Grapevine incident was, in some ways, the exception, not the rule.  Mass killings on holidays are not a periodic occurrence in Texas or anywhere else, as far as I know. Still, holidays often bring about the conditions leading to family violence.

As a street cop in a smaller Texas town in the 70s, you saw a bit of everything. Thankfully, small-town crime and serious incidents do not come as quickly as in larger communities.  Still, they come, and the results are not pretty. The exceptions, in some ways, are holidays. Either that or our little town was exceptional. All I know is no one looked forward to working holidays, and not because we were separated from our families.

One holiday particularly worried cops in our little bit of the North Texas plains. Christmas!  Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of the year. As the Grapevine case attests, that is not always true.  In our experience, some crimes and harmful behaviors do not recognize holidays.  In fact, some such activity seems to show up at a higher rate.

For instance, those of us working Christmas day dreaded 1400, or 2:00 pm.  That was the witching hour, so to speak.  Gifts opened, some toys broken, and, depending on the weather, kids were coming down with a bad case of cabin fever.  Worse, some of the adults were beginning to reach their maximum quotient of “family time.” From the early afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning, cops knew a family violence call was always hanging over their heads.

Yes, even the closest family can have trouble with extended family time. Add in a little eggnog or a few other adult beverages, and the number of people earning coal in their stockings for next Christmas begins to climb. Most of the time, such calls could be handled relatively easily. Still, domestics are some of the most dangerous reponses an officer can make.

A domestic or family violence complainant can demand the “No good SOB” be hauled off to jail one minute. The next, that same complainant is on your back, screaming, “Get your hands off of him (or her)!” Then the officers have two people to deal with unless the rest of the family joins in the fun.

As this is being written, Christmas is 280 days away.  Yet the Christmas like cabin fever may be staring police officers in the face much sooner.  The nature of the current pandemic means businesses are closed, people cannot gather together in many social settings, and a night out with the guys, or girls, is verboten.

In the homes with confirmed coronavirus patients, residents are to self-quarantine. This means, everyone occupying the home, is stuck there until it is certain no one in the house has or is carrying the virus. The self-quarantine could last for weeks!

Mandated self-quarantining may be necessary to defeat this virus.  Sadly, it is also a recipe for disaster in some households.  Throw in lost income, a few drinks, a bad mood, someone saying the wrong thing, and you have a 9-1-1 call in the making. The call may be for an ambulance, a fire truck, the police, or all three. For this and other reasons, I am asking that if you haven’t started praying, do so!

Pray for those with the virus. Pray for the health care workers, firefighters, ambulance personnel, and others dealing directly with people who may or do carry the virus. Pray for those losing money because of closures, quarantines, and social distancing.   Pray for your family’s sanity, including yourself.  Pray for our nation.

Finally, pray for the police patrolling our streets!  They will be risking exposure to the virus, as well as the threat of violence against them daily, possibly multiple times a day. Whenever they make contact with someone, walk into a house to investigate a complaint, work an accident, or stop to check on a stranded motorist, they are placing themselves at risk.

© oneoldcop – 2020

About S. Eric Jackson

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