Each work day begins with a fairly rigid routine. Everything is done in order, the same time. Every time. Mess with the routine and something will be forgotten, or if it’s not forgotten, it will just seem strange.
A shower, shave, undergarments pulled into place, all set to the tune of whatever music fits my mood at the time. Aftershave and lotion, not done in order to smell good to anyone else, but so that when I enter a particularly horrible smelling place, I can raise my arm near my face and have a reprieve.
Next comes the ballistic vest, complete with a rifle plate that adds about ten pounds to the front of my chest but may actually stop a large caliber round fired in my direction. My uniform shirt gets zipped up or buttoned up, depending on the uniform of the day. I check my shirt pockets to make sure my notebook and ink pen are in place and put my cellphone in its pocket to serve as my connection with my family and my coworkers during the shift. The rubberized shirt-stay belt comes next, if not, I fight a constant battle to keep the damn thing tucked into place. Pants are next, complete with a pocket knife, tourniquet, and my wallet. Boots follow, taking care that the pant legs are returned to a position to cover them correctly.
My backup gun in it’s pocket holster finds it’s way into it’s resting place to stand at the ready if needed. The duty belt is added, making sure that the buckle is properly aligned with the seam of my shirt and seam of my pants. Four belt keepers get snapped into place, starting from the front and working clockwise around my waist, in order to keep me from looking like Barney Fife with my holster dragging my belt down. Portable radio, pistol, Taser, and body camera then find their homes for the next several hours.
Now that I am properly dressed and prepared, I make sure to tell the sugar donuts and Mrs. Donut that I love them, and if I’m lucky I not only deliver, but receive kisses and hugs from each of them before I head out the door. Mrs. Donut always offers the helpful reminder to “be careful” right as I step out, just in case I forget.
I grab my MDT (mobile data terminal) and have a seat in my car, ever mindful of anyone who is out in the area. With my police car now running, I power all of the equipment up and log on duty via the computer, ready to begin the shift and encounter anything that is thrown my way.
I’m not sure if anyone I work with shares the same routine. To be honest, it’s never been a topic of conversation, but I think we all have some manner of a routine to get ready for work. It serves as a transition, from father and husband into policeman. It prepares me, not only physically but mentally, for what I may have to do during my shift. It also makes me feel as though I have some measure of control over what may happen next, although I don’t always get the opportunity to do so. I walk out the door knowing that I’ve told the ones that matter most that I love them at the very least, just in case I never have the opportunity to do it again.
Although he was a plainclothes detective assigned to a narcotics task force, I’m certain that Officer Jacai Colson of the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland had a routine to prepare himself for work. When he left his home on Sunday, March 13, 2016, he probably had a list of things he wanted to do when he returned home. His birthday was approaching and he would be 29 years old within the week. He had been a policeman for four years, and by all accounts he was a great officer.
At about 4:30 pm, two men fired shots at the police station and drew Colson and others outside. Officer Colson and the other officers there rose to the occasion and ran toward the sound of gunfire. Unfortunately, Officer Colson was mortally wounded in the exchange and would not survive his injuries.
Both suspects were taken into custody alive. Both will undoubtedly face a large number of criminal charges for their parts in an unprovoked attack on a police station that resulted in the senseless death of an officer.
As of now it is unknown why these men carried out the attack. I have no doubt that there are folks somewhere that are celebrating them as heroes. I know that an entire agency and profession are mourning the loss of one of our brothers. I only hope that Officer Jacai Colson had the opportunity to tell the people who mattered most in his life that he loved them before he parted ways with them for the last time.
Officer Colson is the 20th officer to die in the line of duty in 2016. The unfortunate reality is that he will not be the last. I can only imagine the pain and anguish his family, friends, and coworkers are going through today. My only hope is that I don’t have to experience it firsthand in my little Donut county.
Don’t worry Mrs. Donut, I’ll be careful, but it’s time to go patrol the Donut.