Tuesday, February 23, 2010

an opportunity defended

“Now I see my future clearly now. I was lost, and now I know what I want. I’m gonna start school again and make a better life for myself. Now I won’t have to worry about causing myself or my family pain. I can walk around with my head held up high and take it day by day. I wish there were more programs out there like the program [name redacted]. We need programs that show results, and I’m one of them. I’m a happier and healthier person as a result of this program.”*

He was just on his way to the clinic where the program activities are held. A good kid with a troubled past, he had been working hard on turning his life around in the past few months. He’s been sober for 90 days—and liking it. He felt so much better about everything—his health, his family, his future. He was even thinking of finally going to college and studying art or business. Heck! Why not both?

The sky’s the limit.

So when an unmarked vehicle pulled out of the alley and shined his lights on him, he didn’t think anything of it. That is until the cops came out to have a chat. What are you doing here? What’s your name? What’s your business in this neighborhood?

“Dude, I was just walking,” he would explain to me later. “I don’t know why they stopped me and they didn’t tell me. Damn.”

His case manager and I ran out to find these cops. I was livid. He seemed pretty shaken up. I’m very protective of the people in my program. You see, sobriety is a very delicate thing. People in recovery are ALWAYS in recovery for the rest of their lives. Anything can be a trigger to drink or use. And this kid was doing so well. The last thing he needed was to be stopped by cops for no reason. Yeah, a long time ago he was not so law abiding. But he paid for his crime and was working on improving his life now.

I ran into a cop in uniform who was definitely not one of the cops who stopped my client. I explained the situation to him and he smirked and said, “Yeah, I know who you’re talking about but they left.” Uh huh. I responded, “Look, this kid is a patient and he was coming to the clinic for services. The last thing I want is for cops to stop my law-abiding patients just a few feet from the clinic door. They shouldn’t feel afraid of coming here.”

He said, “Yeah, I get it. It’s just that the guy fit the description of this gang member we’re looking for.”

I replied, “Let me guess. Hispanic, 5’7”, mid to late 20s, dark short hair, baggy pants? If your pants weren’t cop uniform pants, I would say you fit the description too.”

I gave him my card and asked him to pass it along to his cop friends (no response, unfortunately). I get that they have a job to do and my brother’s a cop so I kget where they are coming from. They deal with criminals every day. 

But where they see ‘gang member’, ‘crime’, and ‘punishment’, I see a cry for help, an opportunity, a second chance. I have a job to do too.

*actual client testimony from client in the post.  used with permission.

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