Count to 10.
What would the worst 10 seconds of your life look like? I mean really think about it. Maybe it was something embarrassing you did in front of someone you thought highly of, or maybe you were just in front of strangers (equally terrifying). Perhaps your worst 10 seconds was the feeling you had when you found out you lost a loved one. That immediate shock and disbelief of how quick you can feel empty inside. Would that be your worst 10 seconds of your life? Maybe your worst 10 seconds was a brief moment of anger, directed at someone you care about. Maybe your child. Maybe a complete stranger. What would it look like, I mean, if it was caught on video? Just imagine that in those 10 seconds of shame, loss or anger someone was standing there filming you. And that very soon, your worst 10 seconds could be shown to a large amount of the world, in the palm of their hands.
The viewer would see your worst 10 seconds as a link on their normal social media website, watch it once, twice, fifteen times…just those 10 seconds…and pass their judgement on your reaction, why you were there in the first place, what they would have done different, or why this should have never happened. They might share it with their friends, add a few words of instajudgement. When I was a kid I would hear about everybody’s “15 minutes of fame.” Today the question is more about your “10 seconds of fame.”
As a police officer I am very routinely subjected to my behavior in segments of 10 seconds or less. For years of testimony in different trials, defense lawyers have questioned my actions out of context, and in very short segments of actions I took or observed. With the advent of lapel cameras becoming more and more common for police officers but no one else, the strain and stress of constantly trying to not have your worst 10 seconds can loom large. In the same week there are national headlines of an officer using what many are calling excessive force over a teenager in her classroom. To debate the right or wrong of the actions is impossible to do from 10 seconds of video. Every time someone tries to use 10 seconds of video to prove anything, I find them disingenuous.
Last Thursday night Officer Dan Webster was murdered. This was also caught on video. Many will probably want to watch his 10 seconds. I hope none of us have to.
Dan, I met you when I was your wife’s field training officer. Never once did I feel any arrogance or ignorance come off you as we spoke about work, personal lives or the latest call you or I were on. Over the past couple of years we would see one another downtown every so often. I am guessing you were coming or going to court most of the time. That’s what the hard workers do. They follow through. You were one of the hardest working cops I have ever met. You had already finished a long career in the military, retired and married your match, and begun a second career as a cop. No one would have faulted or judged you for just sitting back on duty, taking your calls and never being proactive towards a greater sense of justice for your community. But that wasn’t you man. You loved the job, not because of any perceived sense of “action” or “danger.” I know that because you went to court all the time. There is no action or danger in court. It is boring, slow and mostly apathetic to an officer’s time or schedule. But you knew that if you didn’t show up, things would just get worse in your community. So you went. When you were tired. When you had little or no sleep. When you had more important things to do, you went. You followed through. Most think cops go to court because we have to. It is shockingly easy to avoid court. Just don’t make any arrests. Don’t write tickets. Don’t care. Someone else will pick it up if it gets REALLY bad. Not you Dan, not you.
I am so angry and so sad about what has happened to you. But I believe truly, had you not intervened, someone else would have lost their life. If not that night, soon. Your actions that night, and during your entire career, saved lives. Your death, saved lives. Most of us will go through life not ever knowing if we have truly made a difference.
Dan, you made a difference. You are the difference. Without you brother, my kids wouldn’t be safe to play in my front yard. My wife couldn’t go get a last second grocery at 10 PM.
Thank you Dan for giving the ultimate sacrifice. I appreciate the over 8 million seconds you dedicated to your community as a police officer. I will never remember you for just 10 seconds. I will always think of all the good you have done for me and my family.
You can rest now buddy.
We will take it from here.