Do you have an Effe?
Halloween just ended, and Thanksgiving will soon be upon us. That means that Christmas will follow soon afterward. Unlike most of the civilian population who get to spend the holidays with family and loved ones, most of you will have to put on your uniform, strap on your guns and Kevlar and go out into the cold.
You’ll be responding to the domestic disturbance over the last drumstick or piece of the pie. Most people would laugh at that thought but I’ve been there and seen that fight. You’ll pull over Uncle Phil who had too much good cheer and shouldn’t be driving if he wants to see the next holiday. You’ll redirect traffic around the house fire that started when some candles were left burning after everyone went to bed.
Hopefully, your spouse and kids will have a good time without you. Perhaps your in-laws are having everyone over and you’ll barely be missed. Since it is a holiday most restaurants will be closed, you either bring a sandwich from home or go without. Pickings can be slim.
Hopefully, your department, district, precinct, or unit has something planned. Here in Chicago, I’ve had some of my favorite holiday meals while at work. Most units that are working plan something. Well perhaps the units don’t but the officers do. I have seen it range from people bringing some cakes and pies to full-fledged meals.
There’s a woman who lives on the northwest side of Chicago. Her name is Effe, and she’s adopted the local district. She prepares a full meal for the officers. Then she calls the district desk and tells them to come get it and they send a car to her home to pick up the food and bring it into the 16th district. Finally, she follows and then serves it to everyone. They love Effe in 16.
When I was a new sergeant the district watch I was on collected from everyone and hired a caterer to make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for us. Everyone also brought family favorites and when it came time to eat we all snuck into the community meeting room and gathered around the large conference table. We passed the potatoes and stuffing and turkey and gravy. Our watch commander said grace and we ate. It would have been nice to be able to sit around after the meal and just chat over coffee, but we had to get back to work.
When I was the C/O of a unit I stopped in on Thanksgiving to wish everyone working a happy holiday. We had about twenty-five people at work that day. One of the older officers who was off that day but had no family to share the day with had brought in enough turkey and trimmings from Boston Market for at least thirty officers. It was his gift to his work family.
I worked as the desk sergeant for a month in another district with a lot of very good restaurants. Since I was just filling in as the desk sergeant until the regular guy came back from vacation and there was a very good desk crew I had little to do. Turned out my job was to manage all the food sent to us by the local restaurants and to keep the buffet line moving.
When I was growing up, my uncle was a lieutenant in the district where we lived. On the holidays his wife would come over to our home (they never had any kids). My uncle would arrive later in uniform with his radio. He would sit and enjoy the meal, listen to the calls, and hope he wasn’t needed. It got so no one noticed until he was no longer with us. Then we missed the radio chatter in the background noise of the holidays.
I’m sure many departments handle holidays in a similar fashion. In some smaller communities with smaller departments, it might be very different. In many departments, you might be eating your baloney sandwich in your squad car between calls.
Today, in some communities the departments might actively object to this kind of thing. Today more than ever it seems the public objects to anything a police officer does including getting a cup of coffee or eating his lunch.
To improve community relations many towns and districts are now hosting “Coffee with a Cop” events. They hope you will come in and get to know your area police officers over a cup of coffee. If you see that an officer is a person like you then perhaps you might not be so afraid of them. I have no idea if it’s working but I’m sure it’ll take more than a cup of coffee to change the public’s perception.
So, what has your department or unit done in the past? Have you made plans for the upcoming holidays yet? Let us know. Share your plans here if you can. Perhaps some other unit might be able to do the same.
Most of all, stay safe and remember the true meaning of the holidays yet to come.
Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union and served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.