With election season in its final, desperate death throws, I thought it would be worth sharing how special events, public rallies, and protest/counter-protest (AKA “modern political dialogue”) look from our perspective. I’ve had the distinct honor of working more than my share of these events and I can tell you that it almost doesn’t matter what the event is, there are few cops that enjoy working them.
In the spirit of the upcoming midterms, let’s say that we’re just talking about a campaign rally for a mere senator. Not even gonna start getting into the problems with a Presidential visit. Even though the campaigns, officials, and their staffs rarely give us more than a few days’ notice this time of year, these things normally take weeks to effectively plan and coordinate. Let’s say that you got a call from Staffer So-and-So because Senator Selfish McMeFirst would love the opportunity to visit you at your home, hold a campaign rally in your backyard, and give a speech to her 1,000 closest friends, and would like you to host all that. Cool, you say. What next?
Look around your house right now. What would you need to do in the next forty-eight before McMeFirst and all the television cameras and national news reporters walk through your door? I’ll give you the rundown on MY list before I could comfortably entertain America:
–repair creaky step
–trim and mow front yard landscaping
–fake-grass the back yard (no time for sod)
–send dogs away
–clean carpets, twice
–paint living room
–sew couch cushions together
–replace broken floor tiles
–paint exterior (maybe just the front?)
–send kids away
–burn this hellhole down to the ground because it can’t be ready in time
–buy new house
–fill with new possessions
–send myself away in a straight jacket
Now, even if you get that done, campaign reps, local cops, state troopers, maybe even Secret Service, and a LOT of other folks are gonna be in your living room. Public Works wants to know the plan for street closures and barricades. Office of Emergency Management wants to know the designated landing zone for med choppers and the preferred Level One trauma center for this location. The city’s Public Information Officer wants a statement about civic participation and support for the election process. The local investigative reporter wants ten minutes to grill you about how you can still support McMeFirst in light of her (insert fun college pastime here) that happened one time in a foreign nation several decades ago. Local cops wanna know where to store arrestees before they’re transported to jail. State cops wanna know multiple routing options to escort McMeFirst. Reporters and PIOs want front-row access, the cops want them in a van three miles away. Secret Service or the local detectives will wanna know about loudmouths, political dissidents, and known threats against you, the candidate, and the election process, along with your plan to deal with them. Didn’t that old grizzled guy up the street say a couple years back the he hoped McMeFirst died in a fiery crash? Better put a surveillance team on him, stat. Oh, yeah, and somebody with a badge and an ego will want the nearby rail lines to re-route everything scheduled to ship through the area the day before, the day of, and the day after the event. The railroad officials will laugh aloud and tell them to pound sand. Chaos ensues.
While all that goes on, some nameless jerk staffer goes over and messes with that step you tried to fix. And it breaks. Again. Now that your staircase is a lawsuit and political crisis waiting to happen, McMeFirst’s Chief of Staff will want to have the Green Room upstairs.
Away from all the horse trading, debates, shouting matches, and Doomsday Predictions that make up these kinda planning committees, there’s the poor bastard in uniform to consider. These events always happen on his days’ off, because the uniforms scheduled to work that day are already committed to a patrol beat and calls for service. The guys that wanna enjoy their limited time away from work? Those are the ones forced to come in. Mandated, volun-told, whatever you wanna call it. Can’t get out of working these events without your own toe-tag. The uniforms rarely wanna be there, and if there’s even the slightest chance of the event making news, NO ONE wants to be there. Cops don’t wanna be featured in the Film At Eleven, especially in the current hate-filled meatgrinder that is our substitute for political discourse.
I’ve worked these events for candidates of all leanings and I only actually enjoyed one. The others varied between tolerable misery and abject torture. I’ve had folks shake my hand like I just cured cancer, while others shielded their children when I smiled and waved at them. Amazing how different our neighbors can be when we judge each other by our own prejudices and assumptions.
Should you find yourself at a large enough public gathering that requires off-duty cops to leave their families, I ask that you offer them a mere “thank you.” If they just got an earful from someone else just for showing up to work that day, your small act of kindness could help them maintain their calm to endure the next earful. It means more to us than you know.
Be safe out there.