By Js Kendrick
I have noticed something different about my city this week. Many of the standard white porch lights have been replaced by blue porch lights.
I first noticed this on my drive home from work at night, one here, one there. At first I wasn’t exactly sure of the reason. I knew that a tragic event had happened involving a Police Officer, yet I knew nothing of the blue lights.
As far as I can find out, the concept of the blue porch light to honor fallen officers began in 1989. It was started by Mrs. Dolly Craig who had lost her son-in-law in the line of duty on June 5, 1986 and her daughter in a car accident in August of 1989. The couple had left behind six children that were now without parents. Mrs. Craig wrote to the organization Concerns of Police Survivors that she was going to put two blue candles in her window that holiday season to honor both her son-in-law and daughter.
The idea caught on and candles were replaced by blue porch lights.
Then in 2014 a Virginia man, Daniel Jessup, came up with the idea to create a Blue Light Week, beginning January 1st 2015 till January 7th. It became an idea to show support for Law Enforcement, which at that time period, had been experiencing negative media coverage for incidents involving police shootings.
When the Major of my city, Tom McNamara, had the lights over a bridge changed to blue. It started the movement in my city. Soon people were buying blue lights left and right. So much so that stores ran out of stock. He wanted to show respect for the fallen officer, asking people to put up blue lights, and ordered the flags in our city flown at half mast.
The sad reason for all this happened on November 5th, 2017 at 1 a.m. in the morning during a routine traffic stop.
Two men, who most likely had never met before, were to meet. And before too long both men would be dead. Leaving family and friends, and a city, grieving and wondering what had transpired to cause this tragedy.
Officer Jamie Cox, just 30 years old, a Veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard and who had previously worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, had joined the Rockford Police Department in 2016. He had been on the job as a police officer for just 11 months.
He had pulled over 49-year-old Eddie Patterson, a father and grandfather, a man who had for the last 14 years worked at a local event center in my city. He was driving a pick up truck with plates that didn’t match the truck.
What we do know at this time is very little. For reasons unknown Mr. Patterson decided to drive off. Officer Cox became entangled in Patterson’s truck and discharged his side arm killing Mr. Patterson whose truck crashed two blocks away from the original stop. Officer Cox was mortally wounded by the impact. He was able to call for assistance and was transported to a local hospital where he died a short time later.
There wasn’t a dash camera in the squad car, nor was Officer Cox wearing a body camera. As of this writing, no eye witnesses have come forward to give the police additional information. A Task Force has been assigned to determine exactly what transpired that night.
As the news and information came trickling out, many took to social media to ask how this could happen. Why did Mr. Patterson drive off? How did Officer Cox become entangled in Patterson’s truck? What caused this tragic event?
Unfortunately an added component to this tragedy is the factor of Race. Officer Cox was White. Mr. Patterson was Black. In an era of exacerbated racial tensions, this component wasn’t lost to those on social media. That Officer Cox shot Mr. Patterson, who to our knowledge was unarmed, and that Mr. Patterson drove off with Officer Cox attached, has the community asking questions. It also has the community taking sides.
Those on both sides of the argument who are rushing to judgement to lay blame are doing a grave disservice to the memories of both Officer Cox and Mr. Patterson. The only people who truly know what happened that night are them. And sadly, neither one can tell us their story.
There is a Task Force that is investigating this incident. Yet others are asking for the Federal Government to investigate this incident. Concerns that the Police department would not be forthcoming. Another sign of our times, trust is a rare commodity these days.
Personally, I feel the story will end with the simplest of reasons. Human error, on both sides. For some reason Mr. Patterson panicked, and Officer Cox tried to stop him from driving off. Sadly, this human element of our nature, will most likely be the root cause of this tragedy. Yet, this is just my opinion, and all the facts are not known yet. And everyone should do the oddest of things, we should wait. Be patient.
In this day and age of instant information, being patient has become a problem with our society. We rarely have to wait for anything anymore. The world is at our fingertips, and news cycles usually exceed the facts. Facts take time, they take patience. People have become unaccustomed to waiting for information. They want it now. Yet this is not reality. Investigations, especially of this sort, take time. Rushing to judgement only polarize communities and creates an air of distrust and cover-up. None of which seems to be the case in this incident. The police are taking time, keeping silent, and going over the facts in a painstaking way. Social Media doesn’t really care for that. They want to know, and know now.
Till we know the full story, let the investigations play out, blue lights will adorn the porches of my city, Rockford Illinois, for the month of November. To honor the fallen Officer. Yet in a larger sense, it should stand as a reminder that two men lost their lives that night. That try as we might to be perfect, and not to make mistakes, we are only human. And that waiting, is truly the hardest part of this process.