What price do we pay when one is sacrificed?
We don’t pay. We get fleeced, robbed of a human being who decided to make his life’s work protecting each one of us.
The fact that Officer Thor Soderberg, who was killed with his own weapon Wednesday during an apparent robbery outside a South Side police facility, died a hero is little consolation to his family and friends.
A police officer might become a hero when the oath to serve and protect is taken, but there is also another measure of their heroism.
It’s the evil, degradation and horror that they often witness.
And it has occurred to me that police officers begin to die the day they take the job.
No human being should have to see what a cop sees when he walks in on scenes choreographed in hell.
“What they see and smell and touch and taste, no human being should have to endure,” a Chicago Police chaplain told me.
â€¢Â To watch someone shoot and kill a 3-day-old baby.
â€¢Â To see an infant microwaved in an oven by a crackhead.
â€¢Â To walk into a house where a 92-year-old woman has been confined to bed for seven years in feces and toenails seven inches long.
â€¢Â To witness the physical and emotional damage done to children used for sex by drug addicts.
â€¢Â To stand over the body of a 5-year-old girl accidentally shot by a gang-banger while riding her big wheel down an alley.
Then, there’s the internal stuff: struggling for a fair and just system of testing and promoting.
And the feeling that the city is basically anti-police.
“I’ve watched my husband’s heart turn to stone over the past 30 years,” a cop’s wife once said.
“The heroic moment is when they take the oath of office, and the star is pinned on their chest,” said the police chaplain.
“Everything after that is just the line of duty. Officer Soderberg wasn’t just killed in the line of duty. He was murdered in the line of duty. It is nobody’s duty to be murdered.”
Police officers are good at compartmentalizing. Keeping all the corruption and depravity and hideousness in a watertight compartment.
One can’t be exposed eight hours a day without having an effect. I’ve often wondered how they keep their sanity.
“Cops live in a world of intense ambiguity eight hours a day,” a police source said.
“Nothing is real, and nothing is sacred. It’s like making a decision based on what one sees in a distorted funhouse mirror.
“It’s like going to work in a minefield every day.
“Many feel half the mines are planted by the enemy, while the other half are planted at work.”
It’s a tough time to be a cop. Some believe we are losing the streets and losing the city, that we are becoming Detroit.
On June 6, 1981, I lost a friend, first Deputy Police Supt. James Riordan, to an unruly customer he was escorting out of a Marina City tavern while off-duty. The guy had a hidden gun and used it.
I will never forget the grief I felt graveside and the comfort I got from a police chaplain.
Every time a police officer is killed in Chicago, I am reminded of that day.
The life of Officer Thor Soderberg, who became a hero when he joined the force, was snuffed out by a man with a gun.
“The devil walks this earth like a natural man,” a female victim of a crime once told a friend of mine.
Imagine living in that minefield every day.