Cops, Mother Nature, and You

By Stephen Owsinski

No matter where one lives, the chances of Mother Nature throwing a curveball or two here and there are inescapable. With her hands on the joysticks, inclement weather consisting of icy snow or unstoppable hurricanes or intense heat causing consternation for Smokey the Bear…Mother Nature’s elemental pedigree and planetary diversity poses often life-threatening contentions. Folks may need saving, pronto!

Despite whatever weather conditions are outdoors, cops are suited, relatively equipped (or improvise on-the-fly), and, in the thick of it, respond to citizens in distress.

Up late Wednesday night with Hurricane Eta pushing at my door (literally), I spent sleep-time layering and gathering sopping wet towels and blankets, eventually mopping up residual water deposits left by Eta’s tsunami of an attitude. I can attest that the waiting/praying period hoping Nature veers elsewhere, preferably out to sea. Wasted wish! Didn’t turn out in my favor; not entirely. Eta threw a curveball and basically shaved the west coast of Florida (where I sat through the pummeling, punctuated by four tornado warnings). Pros/cons of where we choose to live, I suppose.

Having worked many hurricanes as a street cop in Florida, being out in such conditions affords zero safe-haven. Knew that going in. I found it to be strangely exhilarating as well as thought-provoking (tons of what-ifs, but cops are used to that, prepping well before the potential floor dropping out). During such hazardous conditions, what remains indelible are the myriad pleading faces of citizens in distress…and how their expressions altered—relieved upon the sight of law enforcement officials coming to their aid.

As the winter months hasten and perhaps thicken snow with inherent frigid temps to make your teeth chatter, crack, and fall free like peppermint Chiclets, cops are already deployed (as depicted in our cover photo, compliments of the New Mexico State Police).

NMSP Officer Kymbra Espinosa is seen in the snow-drenched terrain depicted above, recorded during the first of several winter storms that area expected last week, which the National Weather Service predicted the “first storm [would] bring high winds and some northern mountain snow and blowing snow”…while the second one would bring “more coverage of snow and higher snow amounts with cooler temperatures.” How unappetizing….unless you’re a polar bear seeking frolic.

You’d think that was enough of a fair warning for motorists to just park it but, like Mother Nature’s curveballs, human nature can be a crapshoot as well. Folks just go about life and chance matters despite the picture of doom right outside their windows. Nevertheless, despite the dangers to themselves, cops are fashioned to respond to all maydays and expend efforts to chalk up saves while nature runs its course.

The polar extreme of all that white cold stuff is the hovering orange atomic fireball melting us like candles in a full-on pizza oven. Even by merely sitting in the sun, next to a wheelchair-bound citizen waiting on a city bus and inherent anxiety born of getting himself up the ramp to a stationary area, a cop noticed and invested the time, listening ears, and a friendly gesture to ensure a disabled gentleman’s day is relatable and smooth.

I can tell you the worst part of being a law enforcement officer working in the intensely hot summer months is wearing a ballistic vest in hellishly hot conditions (one of the reasons I always preferred midnight shift). The self-contained sauna (vest) worn while saving lives and preserving one’s own is made more challenging and often unbearable. Some police cohorts invested in specially designed cooling systems made for cops out on patrol, baking under the massive atomic ball in the sky while it unforgivingly melts things on the planet’s surface—cops not exempted.

A certain device was invented: a flexible resin tube interfaced with the police cruiser’s A/C unit hooks on to the top of the police officer’s vest and blows cool air down the ballistic barrel. Although seemingly nifty in thought and theory, I opted away, seeing it as a potential officer-safety concern (tethered by any instrument is not where I’d like to find myself if/when life goes awry and milliseconds of fast-acting response is essential).

So, the majority of cops out there, baking on the beat, endure as best possible…with citizens’ needs at the fore. Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven (Slurpies).

Regarding the burn from the sun (besides man-made conflagrations), California and surrounding states comes to mind. Brush fires can course through extra-dry terrain and, with seemingly unstoppable fury, reduce to ashes thousands of homes in cities and towns. Although our firefighter brothers and sisters handle the brunt, police personnel are on scene providing escorts for fire apparatus, conducting evacuations, performing traffic control, boarding/saving animals, delivering babies (yes, watch the following video montage), and involving themselves in all manner of supplemental efforts to help control these massive blazes and/or preserve lives/property.

If only the skies opened up when we wanted/needed them to. Wildfires lick at everything in their path. Firefighters try to read fires much like cops attempt to read natural disaster conditions and potential criminality, hoping to preempt as much carnage as possible while placing themselves in utter peril.

Given the recent hurricane mentioned above, Eta came in as any other hurricane: with vigor, unpredictability, sly maneuvering, schizophrenic spaghetti modeling, and enough rainfall to make another big ocean.

Eyeing the horrific storm and sizing up resources and myriad life-saving allocations, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) stowed away their bike patrol units and deployed their big guns.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Pinellas deputies “started preparing high-water cars, boats, and other rescue tools” as Eta veered and neared the coastal county. Humvees were among their storm-fighting, life-saving arsenal…you know, the same Humvees some find too militaristic, offensive, and unnecessary for law enforcement. I’m fairly certain folks trapped in flood zones or in any way threatened by hurricane-force elements see it differently. Only those with time to judge (wrongly) in the comforts of an easy chair in a dry environment may blast such absurd anti-police messaging.

As Times reporter Romy Ellenbogen wrote, “In low-lying beach areas in Pinellas County, deputies rescued at least 33 people —and some animals— from homes and cars. Nine deputies worked on the rescue, with others available if needed, said Sgt. Matthew Thornton,” who added, “We wouldn’t have been able to get there with any of our standard vehicles.”

(Photo screenshot courtesy of CBS This Morning via YouTube.)

Hence the big machines were in service well in advance. What do you think of them apples, Mr. Obama?

Deputy Jason Finneran told the press, “We had to get to the citizens that were calling for us to help them out [literally and figuratively]. There were only so many of us.” And that last part talks to the issue of some across the country inexplicably in favor of downsizing (or outright abolishing) the police institution –shortsightedly ill-considering natural disasters– while touting social workers who can only counsel those survived due to the salvation feats performed by cops going all in to liberate people from the clutches of nature’s fury.

As the adage ordinarily goes for the US Postal Service: “Neither sleet nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Well, that perfectly applies to all of America’s cops too…though they do not get to enjoy holidays off.

And if defunders of police have their way, the sometimes wrathful outdoor elements would mean salvageable situations (you in distress) would be forfeited…in the name of “nature’s way” and the rampant ridiculous whims of the powers that be.

Defund police…defund politicians. Save money. Save us from nonsense. Save us from anarchy. Save more lives by beefing up law enforcement roles…lives depend on it/them.

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