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I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, going over a suspect interview, when my phone rang. My dad says “Well, did your pager go off yet?” He tells me that he’s been negotiating with a felon who won’t give himself up. My dad has talked him into giving himself up two or three times in the past, but this time the guy told him he wanted to wait for the SWAT team to show up so he could “show them what he’s made of.”

My dad’s been a cop most all my life, and I’d never heard him say anything like what he said next. “He’s a serious bad guy. Heavy weapons, no impulse control…” there was a long pause before he continued. “You be careful. Quick on the trigger.”

I told him I’d keep my head down.

My younger brother and I are on the entry team for our department’s Special Enforcement Detail, our version of SWAT, and Dad knew that we were gearing up to go in on this guy. We’ve been on homicide scenes together, autopsies, officer involved shootings, whatever, all three of us happy and slyly smiling as we went about our business. We’ve swapped war stories and compared injuries over countless beers and barbeques. As kids, my brother and I listened to the war stories and imagined doing all that cool shit, and now we are. It’s good, it’s a good thing.

But we also spent a lot of sleepless nights worried about him. Car wrecks, getting beat up, cut, shot at, etc. Both thrilling and sickening to experience vicariously as our hero Dad moved calmly through gunfire and evil and saved the day.

So this call was the first time I really bumped up against being on the other side of the equation- that is, him being worried about us. I could tell it was eating him up. I told him we’d been through it plenty of times before, we knew what we were doing, were well trained and good at the job, etc. No big deal.

“This guy…. he won’t give up. I feel… responsible.” Another long pause. “If something happens.”

I played it off, told him again we were the best in the business, then scribbled down the address and started to roll out to the scene.

And, as usual, he gave up before we could even get all set up. No harm, no foul.

But that call was one of those times when you feel the known and certain world shift a little under your feet. Small movement, but a sea change.

I called him back when we were all wrapped up and we joked around, easy and light.

So, a small moment of little import. But it works like a burr in my skin.

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