Lately, police officers have been in the news for any number of reasons.
Too often, the news is not good. On July 8, Ballwin officer Mike Flamion was shot and wounded during a routine traffic stop. Last month, he was flown from his hospital room in Creve Coeur to a rehabilitation center in Colorado. He remains on a ventilator, in critical condition, paralyzed from the neck down.
While he survived the shooting, he will need long-term care for the rest of his life.
On Aug. 6, the Granite City Police Department quietly made great news. First responders are always first to the aid of a fallen comrade. In this case, Granite City Police Lt. Ray Takmajian, along with Sgt. Lori Gibbons, led the way in a promotional push that included the department’s Facebook page.
Any fears I had about this event slipping under the radar, so to speak, were banished when I saw the crowds in front of the police station. In fact, I wondered where everyone was going to park. Between the post office parking lot next door and the Granite City First Assembly of God parking lot across the street, there was no problem at all.
The flashing lights of a black-and-white Explorer attracted dozens of young children (and more than a few adults) who wanted to see a police cruiser up close and personal. Every so often, the raucous “blat” of the Explorer’s clear-the-way horn drowned out the chatter of the crowd. As loud as that horn was, I’m glad no one hit the siren switch.
Equally irresistible? The prospect of being in the back seat of a police car without an arrest warrant. The Explorer’s hard plastic seat, with Plexiglas in front of you and steel bars covering the door window, is no place for the claustrophobic. As I told the lieutenant who let me into the back seat, then closed the door (which cannot be opened from the inside), “I hope I’m never in the back of one of these things again.”
There’s not much room up front, either. With radios, radar and computer screens alongside the officer, the lieutenant compared the driver’s seat to the cockpit of an airliner. When computers were added to police cars in the 1980s, when he became a cop, they often slid off the seat during high-speed maneuvers.
Many people were walking around with blue light bulbs, which the department offered for donations of any amount. At the donation table, a 5-gallon glass water bottle was almost full to capacity with ones, fives, tens and twenties, barely an hour into the program.
I know many Granite City residents helped “back the blue” Saturday afternoon.
There weren’t too many of those bulbs left. One of them is now in my porch light.