Detective Benjamin Marconi was shot to death, a tragic example of the dangers of police work. It is hard to describe the life of a police officer in a few words. It’s more about the day to day, or the family you leave behind, or the brother or sister you stand beside.
To describe the life of a police officer begins with what he or she leaves behind when putting on the uniform and heading to work. The life of a police officer is a tale of two families. There is the family you leave at home. The wife or husband, the mother and father, the children. That tale is one of ultimate sacrifice.
Then there is the family who wears the uniform — a family earned through mutual sacrifice and danger. It’s a family born out of the struggle to do the job and protect each other.
For every officer, the goal is to serve and get home alive. With the ambush and murder of one of our own, Detective Ben Marconi, that goal seems just a little bit harder than usual. So, describing the life begins at home.
When I was on patrol, walking out the door from the family I wanted to protect to the community I swore to protect was tough.
Often, the family would watch me get ready, almost like a ritual. The same steps, the same lines. The same “Do your job and get home” speech. It was that way for years. Just imagine sending your spouse or loved one to work and worrying if he or she would make it out of the team meeting, classroom or office alive.
It’s hours of constant worry for the family of a police officer. Watching the television. Listening to the radio. Praying.
What gets lost in all the anti-police rhetoric is the family left at home while an officer serves. A spouse or loved one suffers, oftentimes, more so than the officer, because they are helpless to do the job or defend their loved one. If I had to stand on one key point to describe just how tough this life is, I would ask you to think of the family at home. They suffer in silence, but their service is no less difficult.
We call our law enforcement brothers and sisters our “Blue family.” And when we use the word “family,” we mean it. I have bled for the officer next to me. I would have made the ultimate sacrifice of my life for the officer who stood with me in the face of danger. It wouldn’t have required the slightest hesitation. And in my heart, I knew the officer next to me would do the same.
If I wanted to tell you just how tough this job is, think of an officer willing to give their life for a fellow badge, knowing they would never make it home again to see their loved ones. If that doesn’t tell you how much police officers love each other, I don’t know what would.
We live in times when every move a police officer makes is scrutinized, videotaped, debated and investigated. And that’s on our best days. I could say the job is thankless, but honestly, we don’t do the job for thanks or congratulations. We do it because we love. We love our noble profession. We love our brother and sister officers. We love our community. And when danger comes calling or a family is in need, we are ready to answer out of a deep respect for service, safety, and law and order.
If not us, then who steps up and takes that call?
A police officer usually doesn’t encounter residents on their best days. In fact, if a police officer is interacting with you, chances are something has happened that is dangerous or life-threatening.
Police officers see humanity in the toughest and darkest times of their lives. That takes a toll. It’s tough to describe walking into danger and the level of uncertainty facing an officer. I have seen horrible car accidents, murder, drug overdoses, family violence and just about any other crime you can imagine over the last 27 years of my career. It is cataloged in my mind. It is something that isn’t erased or forgotten. It’s the same for every officer.
Remember the tale of two families I mentioned earlier? Imagine again walking into the sanctity of your home, where your family and children sleep, having left the scene of a violent crime or having engaged in the arrest of a dangerous felon.
I have sat in the driveway, car running, bringing my emotions into check. Knowing I cannot tell my wife exactly what happened because it would hurt her more than the scars or punches I may have received during a difficult arrest. I often sat outside my home, getting it all under control, before I walked back in and hugged my kids.
That’s when the two families merge. My loved ones and my Blue family. It was that way, every day. For years. This isn’t just a job. It’s a way of life.
There is a parable of sorts about a sheepdog. It’s often used to describe police officers. The sheepdog protects the sheep who are prey of the wolves. But the sheep are leery of the sheepdog. The sheepdog reminds them that danger is nearby. The wolf sits on the edges, just beyond sight, lurking, ready to attack the sheep. The wolves hate the sheepdog. But the sheepdog stands its ground, protecting the flock, ready to give its life if needed.
That’s a police officer. That was our brother Ben Marconi.
In the middle. Danger ever present. The line between good and evil. He was the best of us.
Sadly, there will be more in the future who will make the same ultimate sacrifice. We will mourn them, we will miss them, but we will never waver in honoring our commitment to the flock we have sworn to protect.
That is our solemn promise to this community, to our families and to our profession.
Det. Michael Helle, President San Antonio Police Officers Association.