Here he comes, Police Officer Del Pearson, rolling out of the hospital in a wheelchair on Tuesday, into a sunny day. He wears his badge on a sling that cradles his arm.
Twenty cops or more stand at attention. How they waited for this. How they prayed for this.
How they told his wife, “Del’s gonna be OK,” though they did not know.
How they told his two children, “Your dad’s a good cop,” which they did know.
Now here he comes, released from the hospital just eight days after a bullet ripped through a major artery, leaving him close to death. On the night he was shot, more than 100 police officers stood vigil in the dark outside the hospital, nobody going home until their brother in blue was out of surgery.
As a nurse rolls him out the door, a line of police officers salute him.
“Way to go, Del!” one calls out.
“You’re the man,” another cries.
Officer Pearson says nothing, but his face says much. He is choked up. He is moved.
This is how – and this is why – cops stick together.
Because they do a dangerous job and nobody knows that better than another cop.
And because sticking together is how they stay alive.
Man in an alley with a gun? Call for backup.
Shots fired at a three-flat? Call for backup.
An officer shot in the chest, as Pearson was, as he chases a suspect across a yard? Sweep him into your squad car and get him to the hospital. He is bleeding profusely. There is no time to wait for an ambulance.
He would do the same for you.
“I wasn’t going to let my friend and my co-worker lie there and possibly bleed to death while we stood around and waited,” said Sgt. Christopher Kapa, who along with Officer Kirsten Lund rushed Pearson to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. “I saw the massive amounts of blood and said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
We – the public and the media and the politicians – get tough on cops a lot, especially when we think they’re sticking together just a little too much. We don’t like it when they fail to call out, or even dare to defend, the cop who pummels a barmaid or tortures a suspect or trumps up a charge.
But the good cops – and that, of course, would be most of them – despise the rogues, too.
We have to remember that.
And when a police officer is on the job, sticking together is the first law of survival.
One Chicago police officer, Clifton Lewis, was killed last year. Six more officers have been shot in the last nine months.
When a cop is shot, we should all be standing vigil outside the hospital in the night.