The holiday season can be rough on a lot of people. It's rough on people who have lost loved ones. It's rough on people who are deployed with the military or have loved ones deployed. It's rough on people who are alone and have no family.
But it's particularly rough on people who have to work the holidays, people like hospital professionals, firefighters, EMTs, 911 dispatchers, and of course law enforcement officers. Working the holidays sucks, but it's particularly bad when you are a cop and not only have to work but have to work in the cold and the wet with the added possibility of being shot by someone.
Since cops have to work the holidays while everybody else is out celebrating, you would think they would be bitter about it. But police nationwide seem to be of better cheer during the season than the population. What many officers have learned is that the true secret for holiday happiness is to help others.
Each year we have run a number of news items on policemag.com about how officers have come to the rescue of people in trouble during the holidays. Here are some examples from recent years:
• Hopkins, MN: When a family was victimized by a holiday burglary and most of their presents were stolen, officers from the local police department delivered gifts to them.
• White Plains, NY: After a thief literally tried to play the Grinch by stealing all the gifts meant for seven kids, officers passed the hat to collect donations for the family and the union matched their generosity. The officers were able to provide these children with more than $1,500 in gifts and a happier Christmas.
• Phoenix: Ten days before Christmas, officers answered a call to a home where a mother reportedly stabbed her children. The 12-year-old girl and the 13-year-old boy did not have any family to care for them, so they were scheduled to be put in Child Protective Services. Phoenix officers did what they could to brighten the holiday for these poor kids who were hospitalized by the attack. They took them gifts and stayed with them to help cheer them up.
• Marysville, CA: When Police Chief Aaron Easton learned that a struggling family's car had died, he went home and spoke with his kids about the situation. They agreed to donate money from their Christmas fund to help the family buy an old car. What made the story even more poignant is that Easton's family had also experienced some rough times that year. His wife had died three months earlier. The Eastons' donation to that struggling family helped them buy a used car so their kids, who were 7 and 8 at the time, didn't have to walk more than two miles to school anymore.
• Los Angeles: Dispatched to a welfare check in Venice Beach the week before Christmas, LAPD officers Natali Nunez and Abel Torres found a 94-year-old World War II veteran living alone in an apartment. They learned the man had very few guests. Then they decided to do something to bring him some Christmas joy. They went to a Christmas tree lot and got the owner to donate a tree, lights, and candy. The officers also bought gifts for the man and went back to his apartment to decorate it and cheer him up.
• New York City: An off-duty NYPD officer was out Christmas shopping with his family when he saw a man rush up a mall escalator and heard him muttering about killing himself. Officer Christian Campoverde charged up the escalator after the man and caught up with him near the third-floor railing. He grabbed the man by the waistband, identified himself, and asked if they could talk. Then remembering what he had learned in crisis intervention training, Campoverde asked the man if he wanted a hug. The man said, "Yes." Campoverde hugged him and got him some help, likely saving the man's life.
These are just some of the many kind things officers have done for others during the holiday season. They are the police actions that don't get covered by a national media that is too obsessed with vilifying law enforcement, and they are in the finest tradition of a profession dedicated to serve and protect, even when that service means being on the job during the holidays.