Thursday, March 23, 2006
The Mourning Badge
Yesterday was one of the worst days for a Law Enforcement Officer.
It had to be even worse for my counterpart in Bernalillo County. Early yesterday morning Sheriff Darren White had to go to the home of one of his deputies and tell his wife that her husband would never come home again. Deputy James McGrane Jr. Age 38 was killed on a traffic stop on NM 337 near the intersection of NM 333 in the East Mountains. As Officers we all sooner or later have to go to someone's home early in the morning and tell them their loved one has died. Once we become Sheriff or Chief we all pray that we never have to make that visit at the home of one of our own. I have had a couple of occurrences, a shooting, a stabbing and a couple of car accidents where I thanked god that things turned out ok and the deputy make it through the ordeal.
Yesterday I went through a ritual, a ritual that all officers go through when one of our own doesn't make it home. I went looking for my black little elastic band. Its a small symbol, kind of like the memorials that people create at death scenes. The difference here is that it is a cop thing. We all get this little black band or a piece of black tape and place it over our badge. The symbol of pride and authority becomes the symbol of mourning. We always have to make one, or go to the local cop shop and get another one. I was talking to one of my corporals in the morning and said "everytime this happens I have to get another one, I don't know why I don't save it" She had the perfect answer, " Its bad luck to save it, Its like your expecting or waiting for the next one." Do I unconsciously not keep it? In the back of my mind do I lose it or throw it as though I never expect to need it again?
Every May we have a memorial service for all officers ever killed in the line of duty in New Mexico. The large granite slabs list every name of every officer killed in the line of duty. Almost every year a name or two are added. The memorial sits in the courtyard of the Police Academy. All new officers in New Mexico go to this academy. The dormroom windows overlook the courtyard. For 21 weeks they see the memorial everyday. Its a constant reminder of why they must take everything they learn in the academy seriously. When you are young and new to the job your invincible. When you put on that badge, the gun, the bullet resistant vest, its like Superman putting on his cape. After a few years, maybe a car wreck, a close call or two you learn. You are just a man or a woman with a badge. Not a magic badge, not a shield of invincibility. All the training, all the hard work at being aware of your surroundings, and all the special tactics sometimes just don't matter. Sometimes your at the wrong place at the wrong time. The badge of invincibility becomes a target. At a simple traffic stop, where maybe you were just going to give someone a speeding ticket you unknowingly become a target. My guess is Deputy McGrane Jr. never knew what was coming. I dedicate this blog to Deputy McGrane, his family and all the officers left out there to carry on Deputy McGrane's mission. May God bless you all, Be Safe, May no more names be carved into the granite wall next year. At the end of Deputy McGranes funeral services I will throw away my little black band.
Deputy James McGrane Jr.
Killed in the line of duty.