Those two words have essentially taken the place of “goodbye” for me these past few years.
In this profession I’m in, I say “stay safe” to any of my buddies when we are parting ways, and they say it to me. If I had a nickel for every time we say “stay safe” to each other, we would all be able to retire.
When I write about work, I’m usually talking about a specific call, or specific co-workers on the road with me. I feel I’ve left out an often overlooked member of my work family.
It dawned on me the other night when I was leaving the jail, just how important my jail staff family is to me.
That night, I keyed up my in car radio and advised dispatch I was on the way to the jail with a backseat passenger. In the background, dispatch could hear my in car companion screaming what was probably a lot of words not meant for a family newspaper.
Dispatch let me know, over the radio, that they had alerted the jail staff to meet me in the booking parking lot, to help me assist this person out of my car and into the next phase of their stay with us.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the booking staff cavalry already outside waiting for me. That’s a huge sigh of relief for me.
I’ve temporarily taken their freedom and placed them under arrest. Me being able to open my back door and letting that person see someone other than me usually works as an immediate de-escalation step. The last person my rider wants to look at or deal with is me. I understand that.
Being able to pass a person upset with me onto someone else is best for everyone. Me, the person and the staff who is now tasked with dealing with that person.
They have an uncanny ability to talk an upset person down, usually. I value them.
On the road, on a bad day, 50 percent of the people I deal with either like me or respect me, at least a little. I would venture to say the jail staff is usually dealing with much closer to 100 percent of their encounters being with people who don’t care none too much for them.
They get called every name in the book. They are told on a nightly basis how they are going to lose their jobs “when I get through with you.”
Even with that being the case, they meet me, or any one of us at the back door, ready to take over the processing of whoever we have in our car.
And without fail, the last thing I hear from all of them, when all is said and done and I am walking out the back door back on the road, is “stay safe.”
“Stay safe” in public safety jargon means “I love you.” That’s what I think. I hope the jail staff I am lucky enough to call family knows how much I “stay safe” them, too.
Toby Nix is a local writer, guitarist and deputy sheriff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org