Monday, 2 May 2011

SIDS: The burden the police carry

Lauren Hooker 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Officer Andy Hilton said as he clasped the hand of the father who had just lost his infant son.
Those five words are simple, but they bear the burden of something much deeper: a loved one is gone.
Life can be long, or it can be cut short. It can expire peacefully, or it can end abruptly in a bad car crash. For Hilton, who has been part of the Boise Police Department for five and a half years, attending to these tragedies is part of his duty.
“Tragic moments like these happen once in their lifetime,” he said. “But it’s everyday on the job for us.”
Humans are emotional creatures, and cops are no different. In order to deal with the potential psychological side effects from traumatic events, officers often emotionally detach themselves from the situation.
It begins with a call; Hilton, a part of the Crime Scene Investigation specialty unit, must then take photos, fingerprints and physical evidence are part of the job.
Concerning the tragic case of this reporter’s first few minutes shadowing a Boise police officer, Hilton had to first photograph the deceased infant at the hospital.
The child’s grandfather sat outside the pediatric trauma room, the lines around his salt-and-pepper mustache firm. As people filed in and out, he quietly buried his head in his arms.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is unexpected and silent. It occurs in infants less than one year old and yields no symptoms. By law, police and other officials on hand, such as a coroner and detectives, are required to determine the cause of death.
After photographs are taken, the next step is to examine the scene to make sure there is nothing suspicious.
Physical evidence such as medicine, blankets and baby bottles, were bagged, labeled and examined.
The house was warm, and smelled like cinnamon. The baby’s room was decorated with baseball memorabilia, and the infant’s mother sobbed quietly in the room next door as law enforcement gathered several items of evidence.
Intruding on such personal moments is routine; officers moved about with an air of solemnity and respect.
“Sir? We’re done,” Hilton said to the father with one blue-gloved hand on the door.
“Officer? Thank you for your help,” said the man, shoulders slumped.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.”
Because news outlets only cover a few cases, this is the side of the BPD that people don’t often see. SIDS, suicides and abuse happen more often than many people think.
And contrary to popular belief, not all police are on a mission to issue the most speeding tickets or bust a ton of college parties.
“College kids are probably the lowest on our radar,” said Hilton, who also noted that most parties are called in by neighbors. “But loud parties disturb people, and we can’t just ignore it.”
According to Hilton, there are worse offenses in our community than underage drinking. As far as job satisfaction goes, citing a couple consumption tickets is nothing compared to arresting a child molester or burglar.

No comments:

Post a Comment