Bravely Forward: Officer Jesse’s Story

Growing up, Jesse was taught by his parents to respect the local Police Officers they’d pass by on the street.  That respect grew to admiration as TV shows like SWAT and Adam 12 enhanced his perception of the officers protecting his city.  “That’s what I wanted,” Jesse explained, “and that’s what the majority of cops want as they enter the force: to do good, to be the heros we grew up thinking so highly of.”

Jesse and his wife sat down with the video crew from Eastside Christian Church, for what resulted in quite an emotionally jarring interview as they opened up about their personal experience of being a part of the Police Force.

What Jesse began to witness over the years of his career was the amount of respect issued to cops drop drastically since his childhood, explaining that “people say things with the intention of hurting us, saying we’re low educated or make a low salary. Things that are just plain hurtful.” It was an honor to accept his badge, Jesse described with tears in his eyes, “getting that badge pinned on was a great privilege, so when people say you’re a bad person, you don’t care about people, it hurts.”

Jesse’s experience with these hurtful interactions started at the beginning of his career as an officer for Los Angeles city while the riots were underway.  “It wasn’t just typical objects that were thrown at us, it was human feces, human urine that was being flung in our direction.  I was spat on for the first time.  Having someone spit in your face, there’s nothing more vile than that.” Jesse seemed to recount the traumatic interaction as if the memory was yesterday.

The attention was turned to Jesse’s wife at this time when she was asked to delve into what it was like to be married to a Police Officer; to which she responded simply at first, “hard,” she said with a meek smile.  With pride in her voice she continued: “Just to see what he sacrifices each day to offer his help to people that may or may not understand that sacrifice, it’s hard.”  As Jesse works evenings and is out protecting his city, what comes with that, his wife vocalized, is bouts of loneliness. Jesse interjected to say that those nights away also mean not getting to be her protector.

Despite the immense pride Jesse’s wife and family feel towards his career, she did recount one such memory that painted a picture of the danger her husband was in simply for choosing this vocational path. She expounded that the Dry Cleaners used to wrap his clean uniform in a black bag, so it wouldn’t be recognizable while hanging in his car’s back seat.  This confused her at first, but made all the sense in the world when terrible news reached their door one day of an officer shooting in a nearby city.  He was simply sitting in his idle car when an enraged man murdered him.  Fear of deathly situations like this anecdote are the reason the family tends to keep Jesse’s occupation off limits in casual conversation.

When asked about Jesse’s role on serving the homeless community in his jurisdiction, he responded with mixed emotions.  As a man after God, he truly has compassion on the folks experiencing homelessness that he sees day in and day out, but when pastors or organizations ask what they can do to help the growing population, an answer is hard to come up with for Jesse. “I’m torn, because as an officer, we don’t make the law, it’s just our responsibility to enforce it.”  That responsibility includes helping the business owner who’s complaining of having to clean up human feces from their property left daily by people without homes, or ensuring that homeless individuals aren’t staying in the public parks overnight, or worse, using drugs in these areas.

Jesse revealed that open and used needles have been found on park jungle gyms where kids often play, diseases like HIV or Hepatitis becoming a risk if one such instrument accidentally penetrated the skin of a child while playing.  It’s real-life dangers like this that complicate the matter of how to best help the homeless population for officers like Jesse.  For material gifts of food or money that are extended to the homeless population have the tendency to keep them satisfied with a life on the street, Jesse explained.  Actions like this are done with well-intentions, but tend to keeps the endless cycle alive for officers like Jesse having work tirelessly to keep the law intact and its citizens safe.

Jesse did offer encouragement to the local churches in saying to not give up the efforts of loving on the people walking through homelessness, however. Although he sees many that have no eagerness to change their lifestyle for the better, there are few who do.  And just as God seeks fervently after the one lost sheep, we are instructed to do the same, and it’s with this mindset that Jesse has witnessed real transformation in the lives he comes into contact with daily.

After explaining excerpts of his life as an officer, Jesse and his wife made what seemed a simple, but powerful request: to pray, to cover them and the officers we see in prayer.  Jesse said that each time he’s in the car with his girls and a Police or Fire unit drives by on their way to a call, they lift those brave responders up in prayer.  Barely able to speak with the emotion penetrating his voice, Jesse said, “Please, just pray.  The lives of those responding are at risk, and to me at least, they matter.”

There are men and women out and about our cities at this very moment who have taken an oath of courage with hearts full of bravery and sacrifice to protect our cities and do good wherever possible.  To support them with a wave of hello, to encourage our kids to approach an officer when they’re spotted and chat for a moment, to offer a simple thank you or smile, “these gestures go a long way,” says Jesse.  These simple offerings of human kindness can encourage officers like Jesse to continue taking brave strides for the good of our community.