By each and every account, Commander Paul Bauer was an exemplary cop, husband, father, human being.
Last week, after 31 years of service on the Chicago Police Force, Bauer was killed in the line of duty while trying to apprehend a suspect.
As Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson so aptly put it, Bauer was a man who "ran toward danger, not away from it."
How many of us could that statement be said about? Certainly, not me.
I simply don't have words to adequately thank Commander Bauer and other dedicated cops who risk their lives every darn day to serve and protect.
Now good people all over Chicago and beyond are feeling the pain of Bauer's loss. In a city divided by race and economic disparity, we are, oddly enough, united, in our sorrow.
So I wonder, I hope, I pray that during this nano-second of respite when we are together-- almost as one, our shared grief will melt icy hearts, especially those frozen in their hatred.
If Bauer's tragic, horrifying, senseless death has taught us anything, it's that police men and women are not one nameless, faceless group. They are singular human beings.
Bauer was not only a cop's cop, he was a beloved family man, neighbor, member of his community and church.
According to Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens and friend of the Bauer family, he was a man who adored and was adored by his 13-year-old daughter Grace. He attended every one of Grace's debate team tournaments and cheerleading events at her school and planned the daddy-daughter dances there.
Grace will never again see her father's face beaming back at her during school activities. She will never again jitterbug or waltz with him at a daddy-daughter dance nor at her own wedding when the time comes.
That is not to say there aren't bad cops out there and racism doesn't exist. Some Chicago cops have committed questionable actions in the past (the Laquan McDonald case as well as numerous other examples of use of excessive force and racial bias, according to the Justice Department).
The sooner police misconduct is confronted and dealt with properly, the better. Still, good cops far, far outnumber the bad ones.
My wish is that Commander Bauer's death will be the catalyst for us all to become better people, to aspire to be, well, Paul Bauers.
If Bauer's heartbreaking death softens the divide, if it creates even a smidgen more empathy among us, then maybe I will believe Bauer will have not died completely in vain. Until then, tears will have to do.
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