Sacramento’s Law Enforcement Community Suffers Another Heartbreaking Loss

Thoughts on cops, and what it means to be one…from somebody who isn’t.

By kncitom on October 23, 2019

This isn’t meant to be a re-cap of this week’s terrible news. If you’ve been paying attention, you know the story: Deputy Brian Ishmael of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department was killed in the line of duty early Wednesday during what seemed to be a routine service call in rural El Dorado County. A ride-along passenger who was with him was injured, and two suspects are in custody.

It’s another in a string of law enforcement killings in our region, which seems to have suffered more than it’s share of such tragedy these past few years. And I’m compelled to put down some thoughts. I don’t even know if they’ll make all that much sense. 

That morning, I stopped at the Roseville Dutch Bros on my way to work. There were several Roseville police officers there, hanging out, getting coffee, talking. They were at the walk-up window. I was at the drive-thru. I asked the employee to please pay for two of their drinks, something I try to do now whenever I see a first responder at a coffee place–because of all the tragedy their community has faced in recent years. As I was sitting there, I watched them for a moment.

Law enforcement has been heavily criticized in our country recently, and, if I’m being honest, not always without merit. But, like anything else, you cannot just paint them all with the same broad brush. No single label works–not with law enforcement, not with anything. It’s something we seem to have forgotten in our country today, which is divided more than I’ve ever seen it, due in part to the terrible prevalence right now of pitting “them” against “us”…whoever “them” happens to be. For some, it simplifies things, makes it easier to explain away the things in the world they don’t like or understand. But it’s corrosive, and it’s wrong.

I sat there at that drive-thru, waiting for my coffee and watching these young officers–many of whom could be my son or daughter–standing there talking and I thought about the job they’re tasked with, and I thought about how they’re just people.

Like you and me.

Individually, they have their good qualities and not so good qualities, also just like you and me. You and me, we go to work and we can be pretty confident we will return home that night to our families in one piece. Them, not so much. Their families, not so much. Every day as a law enforcement officer could be the last. They know it going in…and yet they signed up anyway. And while I’m sure there are a few Captain Americas who sign on because they want to be the hero, most sign on for much more humble reasons: because of a sense of duty to their community, or because they feel called to serve, or, truthfully, maybe because it just looked like a good, dependable job with great benefits…as long as you can make it to retirement.

My niece’s husband is law enforcement, a cop in Lacey, Washington. Miguel is no superhero. He’s a guy who genuinely sees himself and his badge as a way to make where he lives a better place, a safer place. Some days, he’s able to do that. Some days, it’s just a job. Sometimes, rarely, it’s horrifying. Other than that, he’s just a guy: funny, a bit dorky, an unapologetic 49er fan in Seahawk country, and a man who has been an amazing husband to my niece and incredible stepfather to her daughter. I’m proud to call him family.

I never let myself even imagine a day where he doesn’t come through the door to my niece at the end of his shift. She, meanwhile, thinks about it all the time. That’s something I’m not even able to imagine.

I have nothing to offer up to our men and women who wear the badge other than a thank you, and an occasional cup of coffee at the random coffee shop. It isn’t nearly enough, I know. But despite that, I hope they (and their families) know how much they mean to not just me, but all of us–even those who don’t think they mean anything to them at all. 

Are police officers perfect? No. But do most of them try every day to be the best officer they can be anyway? I’ll bet the answer to that is a resounding yes, because that’s what all of us do, every day.

We’re all just people. 


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