Opinion: A life-changing experience | SierraSun.com

Opinion: A life-changing experience

Jim Hemig
Guest Column

This story doesn't have a happy ending. But I believe it has a timely message.

We frequently hear in the national media about issues with law enforcement. Whether it's a cop making a questionable shooting, general heavy-handedness, or the massive exposure Colin Kaepernick found protesting against police brutality — specifically against people of color — you can't seem to avoid reading about it in the national news.

But what about in our community?

I had the opportunity to ride along with one of the Truckee Police Department officers. Officer Randy Misch extended this invitation at the Truckee Big Truck Day. Like the kids crawling all over snow plows, firetrucks and police vehicles, I had my chance to learn more about the Truckee Police Department.

The following week, I found myself sitting in Officer Misch's Police SUV driving around Truckee. We cruised from the airport area through downtown, out to Donner Lake talking about outdoor activities, our favorite restaurants and what our own children are up to.

Not a care in the world. I wasn't surprised, as this is Truckee after all. Sure the cost of living is high here and housing for locals is an issue, but outside of that, we have it pretty darn good.

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Then breaking the pleasant Sunday drive, we hear over the police dispatch radio, "A man has stopped breathing."

That's when everything changed. Misch turned on the lights and siren, and raced across town to the location provided over the radio.

Most people driving ahead of us pulled over properly, some didn't. Some were slow to move over. One pulled over and kept driving in the shoulder. I thought everyone knew to pull over and stop. Apparently not.

When someone isn't breathing, every second counts. Not pulling over for a siren could mean life or death.

Misch's SUV was the first on the scene. He parked and ran into the house in what looked like one motion. I just stayed out of the way while he immediately started CPR on an older gentlemen in the house until the paramedics and fire department arrived.

Misch continued helping the paramedics while they tried to resuscitate the gentlemen for what seemed like forever. Misch was holding a bag of fluid and shining a flashlight for the medical staff.

Unfortunately and very sadly, they said the man had passed away. A woman in the house was visibly upset. It was a very sad moment. I could see it on the faces of the medics, but I could really tell Misch wanted to save this guy.

He was calm, professional and unwavering, but I could tell deeply unhappy about the outcome. He didn't know this guy, but that didn't seem to matter. He wanted him to live.

Not trying to be nosey, but trying to help where I could, which wasn't much aside from clearing a path in the garage from the medical team, I ended up with a view of the entire experience. The mood was very somber; there wasn't much talking aside from gathering information for police and paramedic reports when I noticed Misch placing a box of tissues next to the grieving woman.

He just slowly and quietly walked up, placed it by her and slowly moved away. With all the intensity around the effort to save this man's life, having the calm and thoughtfulness to think about this woman's place in the drama was impressive to witness.

With all the negative media attention around police activities, these types of stories don't seem to get any attention.

What I found contradicts much of what you hear. Some people think police just give tickets on one end of the spectrum to violent treatment of African Americans on the other.

This is one, of I'm sure many examples to the contrary. Misch ran into this house and started CPR so quickly it didn't matter the color of this gentlemen's skin. What I witnessed was one person helping another, with no chance or desire to hesitate for race, gender or anything else.

And this officer is a young guy, originally from law enforcement in the Los Angeles area, where you sometimes hear about issues in larger cities. So, this isn't just a Truckee police experience. He spent his formative years with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

The drive away from that house was much different than the ride around Truckee earlier. The mood was much more serious and reflective. My view of law enforcement is forever changed. The bad rap isn't completely deserved or fair.

The truth is the police do protect and serve. Sure they are only human, but this one example proves when the situation arises, who else with the training and experience will be there when you need them.

Don't believe me? Call the Truckee Police Department and request a ride along yourself. They offer these to community members regularly. Your opinion will likely be changed forever too.

Jim Hemig is a resident of Truckee