By Pat Remick
At what age is a child too old to be ordered home by his mother?
That question has been nagging me since a recent conversation with No. 1 Son, now just a few months shy of Police Academy graduation. (Again, I blame myself for this. If I had let him have a toy gun as a child, we might not be having discussions that make me incredibly grateful for my hairdresser and the miracles of hair dye.)
Intellectually, I know he is at the academy to learn how to become a big city police officer. But my stomach ache first began when he announced he couldn't train on the street until he got his bulletproof vest, which had to be custom made. I told myself: That’s good. They’re going to make sure he’s safe. In the meantime, no one is shooting at him and he’s getting paid.
The Kevlar vest arrived. He now wears it as part of his daily uniform so it will become as comfortable and routine as wearing underwear. It's also led to training opportunities outside the academy. One of the first calls he observed was a domestic incident and when someone smelled PCP, dozens of squad cars and a helicopter descended on the scene. Very exciting. And, no one was shooting at him.
Recently he was issued his gun, a Glock, that’s “mine until I leave the force or shoot someone.”
Shoot someone? My days in the Land of Denial (LOD is a very happy place, by the way) did not include the possibility that he might actually have to shoot someone ELSE to “stop a threat” (they don't say "shoot to kill"). I had briefly considered that people might shoot at HIM, but then I thought about that specially made protective vest and all the money that's being spent on training to keep him safe. All was well in the LOD -- until the “shoot someone” comment.
I gulped. “Well, I hope that never happens.” It was time to change the subject. “So, what comes next in your training?” High-speed driving, he replied. Hmm. That shouldn’t be much of a problem given his driving record with the State of New Hampshire. OK, I can deal with that.
“But we still have to get hit with the asp, be tasered and go in the gas chamber.”
Asp and taser I'd heard before. But gas chamber? Double gulps. Big-time stomach pain. When I found my voice again, I said, “Get in the car and come home.” He laughed. Then I asked why he had to go into a gas chamber.
“We have to be pepper-sprayed.”
The barricades around the LOD were crumbling. “Why?”
“We have to be pepper-sprayed, tasered and hit with the asp so we know what it’s like and we’ll be less likely to use them unless we really have to.”
“Pack up your stuff. I’m coming to get you. I can be there by morning.”
He laughed again. But I wasn't joking. Then I thought about it. I suppose any policeman risking encounters with armed gang-bangers, psychotic criminals or trigger-happy idiots isn’t afraid of a little pepper spray. It’ll be just a little, right?
Land of Denial, here I come – and this time, I think I’ll stay a while.