Sara Beth Times

Sara Beth Wald

Protect and serve


I wasn’t particularly surprised when my four-year-old announced he was going to be a police officer for Halloween.

He’s been obsessed with all things sirens and emergency since he could talk.

Before he’d even announced his choice, I could have guessed he would choose a police officer, a firefighter or an ambulance driver.

I purchased his costume several months ago knowing that he’d love wearing it around. I figured as long as he didn’t destroy it, we might as well get some use out of it.

Our older son put a lot more thought into his costume choice. There’s the superhero option, but he felt he was getting a little old for that (a statement that both charmed and saddened me).

And there’s always Star Wars characters.

But ultimately he surprised me with a somewhat unique, less commercial choice. He wanted to be a SWAT officer.

I’d already put together half the costume before it occurred to me that I didn’t even know what SWAT actually stands for.

Special Weapons and Tactics officers are highly trained police responsible for protecting the public during riots or other disturbances that threaten the general population.

It was an easy costume. I bought him all black sweats and a paintball vest. They sell plastic SWAT helmets online, and a rectangle of black foam board can quickly be turned into a SWAT shield with a little duct tape.

Several years ago, when our older son started having nightmares after hearing about a terrorist attack, we stopped watching the news with our kids.

If we stumble upon a scary movie on TV, we can explain that it is not real and there is nothing to fear.

Dismissing fears fed by the news, however, is a task that challenges many of us, including adults.

And so it is mostly a coincidence that both my boys chose to be police officers this Halloween at a time when police are one of the most hotly debated issues of this contentious election year.

Or maybe it’s not. Maybe my husband and I have been a little extra positive about the police over the past few months. Maybe our boys are subconsciously picking up on that.

At our house, we love the police. We respect the police. We are proud of those who risk their lives to protect us, who make the streets safe for our son to ride his bike to school.

We recognize that any human-created institution, including law enforcement, has the potential for corruption and error.

But imagine for a moment what life would be like without police:

Parks would not be a safe place for your children to run and play. Drugs and prostitution would be on every corner. Someone could punch you in the face and steal your wallet with no consequence.

Who would you call if someone broke into your house in the middle of the night? Ghostbusters?

My sons have no idea that their Halloween costumes are a political statement, and I’m glad for that. I’m not a fan of burdening children with heavy adult issues over which they have no control.

But I’m proud that somewhere along the way, my kids have learned that police officers are heroes worthy of admiration and respect.




Sara Wald lives and writes in Lewistown, Montana.





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