Appreciation and respect for service

Gilroy Police Department Chaplain Malcolm MacPhail, right, looks

– Tragedy never follows a training manual and it never becomes
routine – even if it is your job.
GILROY – Tragedy never follows a training manual and it never becomes routine – even if it is your job.

That’s why spending more than 40 hours a week with criminals, their victims and innocent bystanders of misfortune often gives local fire and law officers a dark view of the world. But with today’s start of National Police Week, a handful of local religious leaders are making sure to recognize those officers for the light they shine throughout the rest of the community.

“(Police officers and firefighters) constantly get the negative, the blackness and the downside of life,” said Malcom MacPhail, the senior pastor at New Hope Community Church who has organized a dinner banquet Tuesday evening to recognize local fire and law officers’ contribution to the Gilroy community. “So more than anyone, they need something like this banquet to let them know they are making a difference. With all they go through and see on a daily basis, they need the encouragement and inspiration – they surely don’t get enough of it.”

MacPhail knows this from experience.

Ever since MacPhail became the GPD’s chaplain in 1996, he’s seen with his own eyes the types of nightmarish situations law enforcement is forced to deal with each day.

Whether it’s negotiating a hostage situation or notifying a mother of her son’s death, GPD officers constantly are undergoing tests of character – which they rarely fail to pass, MacPhail said, noting that county sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and Gilroy firefighters also deal with the same stresses.

But on top of all that, law and safety officers must worry about protecting their own lives – something that’s been reinforced with the recent on-duty murder of Pittsburg police detective Ray Giacomelli still on the minds of many law enforcement officers in Gilroy.

Local GPD, Sheriff’s, CHP and GFD members at the New Hope Community Church Tuesday will join MacPhail and members of his church at the Gilroy Senior Center to pay their respects to Giacomelli and every other California law enforcement officer killed in the line duty during the past year.

Bethany Community Church, 8095 Kelton Drive, also will be hosting a banquet in appreciation of local law enforcement and firefighters at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“Sometimes we assume they know we appreciate what they do, but we need to tell them too,” said Josi Bravo, the youth leader at Bethany Community Church who is helping organize the church’s first ever community service appreciation banquet. “We have several members of law enforcement agencies who are members of our church, and we know what they go through. It’s time for us to give back.”

Aside from the scheduled banquets, New Hope Community Church also will be promoting the nationwide “Fly The Blue” campaign that runs throughout National Police Week. Meant to represent the “thin blue line” between chaos and civility peace officers help maintain, the church will be distributing blue ribbons to show support of local law and fire officers.

“It’s always nice to feel appreciated,” said GPD Cpl. Ronnie Georges regarding the recognition events. “So much of this job has a negative tone – but when people do show appreciation like this it makes all the crap easier to deal with.”

The selected law enforcement officials who will be in attendance Tuesday will listen to a former New York City firefighter talk about his experience with the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy and how he and the rest of law enforcement in New York continue to deal with the ramifications.

They will also hear speeches from some of their local law enforcement leaders.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but more officers commit suicide each year than get killed in the line of duty,” MacPhail said. “The divorce rate for police officers is also one of the highest of any profession simply due to the strains of the job itself. It’s very hard at the end of the day to forget everything you’ve seen and not to take this job home.”

Indeed, lingering images of crime, tragedy and violence often embed in the minds of local peace officers, and balancing the negative with positive reinforcement by the community they protect has been essential in helping officers maintain perspective, Cpl. Georges said.

“There’s a lot that can get you down and you forget about the good,” she said. “But being recognized is always a good feeling you can take home with you.”

Throughout National Police Week, which runs through Sunday, blue ribbons honoring the families of peace officers killed in the line of duty can be picked up at New Hope Community Church, 7411 Hanna St.