Sometimes the most memorable news stories are the ones you stumble upon accidently, the ones that catch your eye as you’re looking for something else or just mindlessly surfing the internet.
I’m pretty sure I was doing the latter last week, when story about a Michigan police officer caught my attention. I clicked on it, and was rewarded with a video that was truly remarkable. The footage, recorded by the dash cam in Officer Cameron Maciejewski’s patrol car, showed the young deputy arriving at a residence in response to a call concerning a three-week-old girl who had stopped breathing.
As the video shows, the officer is immediately met by the child’s frantic parents, who thrust a tiny, motionless body into his arms. The mother screams, pleading over and over for her daughter’s life, as others pace in and out of the frame, clearly distraught.
We all hope if we were ever in a situation like the one Officer Maciejewski faced on that dark street we would keep our cool and do what needed to be done, but his actions offered a master class in both composure and compassion.
Taking the baby from her mother, he quickly determined the child had something caught in her airway and then deftly performed a lifesaving maneuver to clear the obstruction.
A quick note here: Officer Maciejewski was alone when he arrived on the call, and quickly surrounded by a crowd of very agitated people who were crying out in a language he may not have understood. And yet not for one moment did he appear to consider his own personal safety.
For many in the law enforcement community, Officer Maciejewski’s actions will probably bring to mind similar incidents from their own careers, moments when their training — and a cool head — allowed them to help avert a tragedy. I’ve had the privilege on several locations over the years to write stories about just such events — stories in which the officer being interviewed was never quite comfortable being labeled a hero.
Just as Cameron Maciejewski said when he was interviewed, they all say the same thing: “I was just doing my job.”
As no one needs to be reminded, the past few months have been a tense time for law enforcement, as millions across the country have called for reforms to a system they see as unjust and discriminatory.
It would be wrong to brush aside the fact that police brutality exists, and where it does it should be rooted out and punished. But it is also a grave mistake to let the sins of a few cause us to forget how many truly dedicated, brave, compassionate individuals put on the uniform every single day.
They may not wear capes — and they may be “just doing their job” — but they remain superheroes to many of us just the same.