Editor’s note: This column by Bremerton Police Chief Steven D. Strachan was written prior to the shooting of two Bremerton police officers. Therefore, that incident is not addressed in this column.
During this holiday season, I want to share a couple of incidents that really illustrate what our people do every day.
You may have read as well about the incident in which officers and firefighters were dispatched to the Warren Avenue Bridge for a report of a female on the outside of the railing. Corporal Steven Polonsky was first on scene. The woman was crouched down on the junction box outside the railing; she was near the edge of the box and kept looking down at the water, and was wet, cold and shivering.
The medics were having no luck talking with her. Corporal Polonsky began the dialogue with her, and even offered her a cigarette. As they smoked together, the dialogue between the two grew to a point where she decided not to jump and stepped back to safety. She was transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.
On Thanksgiving Day, a man in an apartment complex had attempted to commit suicide with a handgun. After shooting himself, the man walked down a hallway to another apartment at the other end of the building.
After treating the patient and getting him transported to the hospital, officers on the scene realized they needed to help the people in this apartment who had been traumatized by this horrific event. First, they called staff from Kitsap Mental Health, who immediately responded to assist the witness and others, and spent their holiday at the apartment complex to help them through the emotional trauma they were experiencing.
Officers also realized that they needed to help clean up the tremendous amounts of blood in the apartment building and hallway. While it would be easy to say “that’s not our job,” each officer realized that even on Thanksgiving — and maybe especially on Thanksgiving — going the extra mile to help the occupants of the building get back to celebrating the holiday was the right thing to do.
Officer Jen Corn called the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office to ask if they had any ideas on how to get the scene cleaned up. Two deputy coroners immediately came to the apartment, armed with cleaning supplies and ready to help. Along with Officer Corn, they spent hours getting the hallways and other areas clean again. From Kitsap Mental Health, the Coroner’s Office, and from our officers, that is way above and beyond.
In another case, officers received a call of a child and adult sitting in the cold in front of the rescue mission. Officer Johnny Rivera located a man and his 6-year-old son. They had just arrived from California because the father had gotten a construction job locally but had not started yet, and an arrangement to stay with a family member had fallen through. They had no money so they were waiting for hours for the mission to open.
The man’s mother soon arrived, and as Officer Rivera spoke with them, volunteers from the Firehouse Church in downtown Bremerton arrived and gave them some cash to get by. A friend of Officer Rivera’s, who works nearby, stopped in and bought dinner at a local restaurant for the family. Officer Rivera made some calls and arranged to have the family stay at a motel for the night, also paid for by local volunteers. We also have a stack of blankets made by local clubs for just this sort of need, and the 6-year-old received a handmade blanket to take with him.
Officer Rivera made some extra calls to do all he could to help get them permanent housing as soon as possible, in conjunction with Kitsap Community Resources. The father assured Officer Rivera he would start his new job soon, and the officer noticed that the mother was in tears when the family was left at the motel for the night. We made sure they knew who to contact if more help was needed.
One of my frustrations with the current anti-police narrative is that it treats law enforcement officers as if they were the bully in school. In fact, cops are more like the kid who intercedes when he or she sees someone being bullied. When we complain about people’s behavior or express disappointment about the way people act, it’s because we see what crime does to victims and to people just trying to raise their family and earn a living. That’s why we do this job — to stand up for the victim and people just trying to get by.
Despite what social media wants you to believe, police officers are some of the most compassionate and humble people I have ever known.
Work hard, have fun, stay safe.
— Steven D. Strachan is chief of the Bremerton Police Department. Contact him at Steven.Strachan@ci.bremerton.wa.us.